How we welcomed the Tour de France
Lockwood Baptist Church in Huddersfield celebrates God's generosity in a party for all, writes Brian Davison
With the tour passing right past our door, and our elevated frontage, it was a prime opportunity to share generously the facilities we have and the love of our generous God.
Using the elevated position of our church front we provided free trackside seating for those who could not stand for hours in the crowd, including wheelchairs, where people had a clear view of the bikes, unlike many venues where wheelchairs were at a disadvantage.
Our other free facilities included toilets, refreshments, a bouncy castle for the children, a café area with a live feed of the race and build up and a large screen in the upstairs auditorium. There was also a display of cycle racing in the 1920s, and bikes for sale which had been built and restored by young people from “Happy Days” charity who work with young people and homeless. We also had full disabled facilities including a lift to the large screen upstairs, and disabled access from the car park at the end of Albert Street.
After the race was over we held a community “Songs of Praise” inviting people to request their favourites – especially those that bring back memories.
Everything but the bikes were free, and the proceeds of their sale was going to charity.
We worked with Kirklees Council throughout, and were one of the venues for the preparatory business and community roadshows, where Kirklees council presented their plans and all that businesses and residents needed to know. These took place in November and April. It took quite a bit of negotiation to get Albert Street opened to allow disabled access - it was originally on the closed list. Good standing with the council and good personal relationships with staff were the key.
The seats were all booked - front two rows for wheelchairs and those who would not be standing even when the bikes went by - the rest were for people to sit and watch the Caravanne (which was raised on lorries) then stand to see the bikes.
We had folks from the church, the lunch club, responses to our door to door invitations on the Walpole estate, and referrals from Kirklees Council.
One of the most delightful referrals was when a lady rang the council to ask for souvenirs, because her mum would be 82 on the Saturday, was a massive fan of the tour, but obviously would not be able to see it live, not in a big crowd.
Anne Marie Parker at Kirklees Council put her in touch with us because we were, in her mind, the best prepared disabled facility in the area, and this was exactly the kind of person our event was aimed at. She got a front row seat, and said it was her best birthday ever!
It was all part of sharing the joy of the day with all.
As well as being listed as a "disabled" venue we were also one of the Kirklees promoted "Cycle Friendly" Venues, there to help those travelling in by bike. We had puncture outfits, inner tubes of every possible size, a large range of tools, and a minister who had been building and repairing bikes since the early 70s (when he was 11 ). That particular service wasn't called for but it was good to be prepared.
Food was all prepared by members, and we catered expecting 150 people.
We had 40 seated guests, approx 50 more standing behind them, whilst others stayed indoors and watched on the big screen in the cafe area, or the big screen upstairs. (We set up a second big screen in the cafe area just to keep an eye on the race progress, but it proved as popular as the one upstairs. People watched intently upstairs, or whilst chatting and eating downstairs).
We also had visitors who had come because they had asked in town where was a good place to watch from and been directed to Lockwood Baptist. Overall there were up to 200 who came into the premises, and every last bit of food went. We also took food out to the "tour makers" and police who could not leave their posts.
Guests and local businesses were amazed everything was free - we simply told them that our God is a generous God, so we want to reflect that.
In contrast shops were putting up their prices five fold, a pub in Honley was charging £20 to come in and use their loos and stand in their frontage, and camp sites were charging up to £200 per pitch.
There was a wonderful atmosphere as guests mingled with church members and all had fun.
Many people stayed on for the community "Songs of Praise"; booked guests and those who had come in from the street. People shared why they chose the songs they did, with lovely stories of God's love, and some moving moments.
Overall we had chance to demonstrate God's generosity and to have fun together with the community. It helped break down barriers and stereotypes they may have of the church.
It was good to work with the council and be part of their strategy, yet free to be ourselves in sharing God's love. We look forward to doing more with Kirklees in the future.
It was hard work, but everybody pulled together, and it was worth it to see the joy on the faces of our guests.
One interesting spin off was that we found ourselves part of the centre spread in the Huddersfield Examiner's eight page souvenir pull-out
on Monday, and on Tuesday the Examiner was proudly displaying a photo of David Cameron reading the Huddersfield Examiner's
coverage at Number 10.
Brian Davison is the minister of Lockwood Baptist Church, Huddersfield