The first three stages of the Tour take place in the UK, beginning on Saturday with the “Grand Depart” in Leeds, and many Yorkshire Baptist Association churches have embraced one of the world’s iconic sporting events.
That first stage is a 120m route which takes in Ilkley and Skipton before ending in Harrogate, while the following day begins in York and ends in Sheffield. Monday is the final UK stage, with cyclists travelling from Cambridge to London.
Huddersfield is a Stage Two town, and Baptist churches there are busy.
Lockwood Baptist Church offers an ideal vantage point to watch the race, and is making the most of this with elevated viewing seats in front of the church. With spectators typically spending six hours by the roadside, the church is also offering facilities in its garden, including a bouncy castle, refreshments, and extra toilets. The race will shown be on a large screen inside, and after it has finished there will be a Songs of Praise in the upstairs sanctuary.
Also in Huddersfield is New North Road Baptist Church, which is running a French café to help get people in the mood, as well as offering respite from the busy town centre on Saturday morning.
Hebden Bridge is another Stage Two town, and Hope Baptist Church has organised a large number of events, including a coffee morning with bacon butties on Saturday, and a Taize service in the evening. On the Sunday, when the Tour comes through the town, the church will be open again, offering tea and its facilities.
The spa town of Harrogate, featuring in both stages, is already full of yellow bicycles and bunting. Harrogate Baptist Church in Victoria Avenue plans to be open throughout Saturday and has a special service planned for Sunday morning (9.30am).
‘Any Baptists who happen to be in the town over the weekend would be very welcome to pop in,’ said minister Alan Mair.
The Left Bank arts centre in Headingley has been getting into the spirit with a cycle-powered festival: it has screened three bike-related films with sound and projection powered by pedalling six static bikes. Simon Hall, minister at Revive Baptist Church in Leeds and part-time minister at Chapel Allerton Baptist Church, Leeds, is a trustee there. Chapel Allerton is also co-ordinating part of the hospitality at the Fan Zone at Scott Hall Fields.
Many churches and Christians of all denominations are involved in similar activities.
‘Le Tour is far more than a cycle race,’ said Wayne Clarke, minister at New North Road Baptist Church, ‘it’s a cultural event accompanied by a carnival procession up to eight miles long. It attracts people of all ages.
‘It also attracts massive media attention with eight helicopters filming at any given time. This presents churches with the challenges of road closures and local disruption, but presents enormous possibilities for reaching out to people.’