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  Runners coming by the church. Photo courtesy of the Revd D. Warner

Hallo again to all.

Last Sunday was Road Race Day in the coastal town where we found ourselves. Road Race Day is really the culmination of Road Race Weekend in this town. For this one weekend, the town's population, already increased by regular tourists on holiday, swells by at least 15,000. The Road Race in question started many years ago as a friendly Sunday run by locals between two pubs seven miles apart.

It has evolved into being a world-class race attracting an international cadre of elite runners and wheelchair competitors in addition to thousands of other runners, local and otherwise. It is an official marathon qualifying race, and it serves as an annual reunion for many of the 13,000 participants and their associated families, friends and supporters. The course is run on small local roads and wends its way past a lighthouse, beaches, marinas, ferry slips, and the local outpost of the Anglican Communion.

This friendly and welcoming small parish is less than a mile from the starting line. The start time for first wave of contestants coincides with the regular end time of the early Mass. The majority of runners begin their run just before the main service would normally start at ten o'clock. It is not possible to drive to the parish on Road Race Day. The constables close the roads before the early Mass would start. It is not possible to cross the street to reach the church either. You may see for yourself what the street looks like on a normal Sunday morning (below) and what it looked like last week when a wave of runners came by. It takes about two hours for all the runners to pass by the church.

The parish has learned to adapt. For this one weekend, they hold their principal weekly service on Saturday in the late afternoon the day before the race. We attended and found a mix of people who attend each of their different regular services and some visitors to the area. We enjoyed the peace of the quiet church after the hubbub throughout the town.

Last Sunday morning was filled with sounds of thousands of feet pounding on the macadam and the cheers of encouragement from spectators. It brought to mind the words from the first verse of Hebrews 12.† We ourselves would be 'sore let and hindered' to run this seven mile road race. But we admired the endurance of the runners and wheelchair athletes who sped by in front of us! There was something visceral and uplifting about seeing the epistle writer's metaphor for life as a Christian in concrete physical form streaming past us.

The amazing thing about an event like the Road Race is how quickly things return to their normal routine after the event is over. By last Sunday evening, the streets were open and the playing fields at the finish line were cleaned of refuse and recycling.

This Sunday we returned to the same parish and witnessed two baptisms in the course of the Eucharist. There were four generations of one family and three of another present for their youngest relatives being baptised and chrismated. A Sister in wimple and habit was there. Faces familiar and new filled the pews. The hymns were sung with gusto, and the choir sang a lovely introit and benediction in addition to a piece at the offertory. It was Sunday as Usual.

We started wondering: What do other houses of worship do when large civic events happen right outside their doors? Certainly, we know there can be the need to adjust schedules due to direly inclement weather, but those changes are usually made close to the time of a service and according to planned emergency procedures.

Do other places change the worship schedule or routine when a parade marches by? When a bicycle race whips past? A marathon? Has your church had to deal with this kind of situation? Please write to us and tell us your experiences.

See you next week.


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23 August 2015

†Some of us may also recognize this text from different collects. Two examples:

O Lord, raise up (we pray thee) thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through the satisfaction of thy Son our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be honour and glory, world without end. Amen. [The Fourth Sunday in Advent]
O Almighty God, who hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of thy servant N., may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at length, through thy mercy, we may with him attain to thine eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen [Of a Saint (p. 198)]

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