Investment in UK churches set to leave Festivals legacy
Years of hard work to prepare British churches to run Community Festivals during the 2012 Games is set to leave a lasting legacy. That’s the conviction of Marty Woods, who has spearheaded an initiative that is now seeing churches across the UK joining hands to reach out to their communities.
Marty, originally from Australia, leads the Festivals Team of More Than Gold, the agency set up by all the main denominations to help churches make the most of the 2012 Games. In doing so he has brought his more than twenty-five years of experience of equipping churches around the world to run attractive and contagious events for their communities.
Through More Than Gold, over the past two years, Marty and his team have trained over 700 people. This has involved everything from helping them see the strategic value of festivals to learning the skills needed – including face painting and juggling.
One who attended was Julie Davies from Purley, where the churches attracted almost 800 people of all ages to their Olympic Opening Night Festival. Julie says, ‘We could not have done this without the inspiration and training from Marty Woods and his team. It made all the difference.’
The Purley event was one of hundreds taking place during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Already the signs of success are high, as a result of all the time and effort that has been invested.
Over the past few days, Marty Woods has been visiting many of the festivals that have already been held and he speaks of being ‘amazed at what’s happening on the ground’ and impressed with ‘the legacy they are likely to leave.’
At the Big Weekend festival on London’s Isle of Dogs more than 3,000 people attended events in Millwall Park, the joint effort of six local churches. ‘The atmosphere was incredible,’ said Marty. ‘The local people were thrilled.’
For Phoebe Thompson, one of the Big Weekend’s organisers, the training and support received from Marty and the More Than Gold Festivals team has been invaluable. She said, ‘It’s the first time all the churches on the island have worked together on something like this and we’re all wondering why we haven’t done it before.’ ‘The festival has no agenda and is all completely free,’ Pheobe explained. ‘And the response from the community has been amazing. Marty has been hugely significant and we can’t thank him and his team enough for providing personal support and training, and helping us to understand the potential for more events in the future.’
Meanwhile, around 3,000 people enjoyed the Tooting Bec festival in South London where support was given by mission teams from Holland and the USA. While nearby, in Balham, a street party on Olympics Opening Night was followed by a weekend of fun running into a week’s Kids Club.
At Westbourne, near Paddington, a Brazilian Church put on a successful community event and in West Croydon hundreds turned out for the first day of the church’s Festival in the Park with the fun, music and community spirit continuing into Sunday.
Marty Woods insists it is not all down to him. He points to the contribution of his whole team from his organisation Fusion Youth and Community. And also their partnership with the UK agency Share Jesus International.
It was this partnership, working through More Than Gold that has led to festivals during the 2012 Games that together may attract over 500,000 people. Said Marty, ‘It was such a privilege to give input into so many churches. Over the past few days I’ve seen people putting what they learnt into action, and thousands of other volunteers get involved to create some fantastic events.
However, Marty believes it will not stop here. He has high hopes that, because of the success churches have experienced in engaging with their communities, many will keep doing so as a natural part of their ongoing mission.
Said Marty, ‘This is what it’s all about - stepping outside the church. It’s not about preaching but about just being out there. The Olympics has given us that opportunity but what we want is for all the hard work to continue. We’re hoping churches will keep using festivals to mark anniversaries, public events and significant church moments like Easter and Pentecost, with this kind of outreach becomes a natural part of our lives.’
Marty is so committed to the legacy of the 2012 Olympic festivals, he and his wife are remaining in the UK for the next two years to continue to encourage, work with and train churches to run big events.
To contact the More Than Gold Media Centre
Tel: +44 (0)207 316 1333 email@example.com
Marty Woods speaks at one of the Get Set training workshops link
Marty Woods leads a community festival at Crystal Palace link
Marty Woods leads a community festival in South Africa link
For more photographs of community festivals during the 2012 Games see link
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