Thursday, 17 May 2012

God bless this bunch as they munch their Big Lunch

We all know it’s the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and that we get a day off to officially mark it (June 5), but in a society that doesn’t really rate the royals, are we really ‘bovvered’?

Well, I spoke to HOPE Together’s executive director Roy Crowne and he seemed to have some pretty good arguments in favour of a big celebration.

“This is a once in a lifetime moment; 60 years of serving our country,” he says. “This is a community festival and will become a significant date in the calendar, and Christians need to be right at the heart of it.”

HOPE’s aim is to bring people and churches together; to serve God and the local community at the same time. Each year it supports the ‘Big Lunch’ initiative, which will be extra special this year (June 3) as it coincides with the Jubilee weekend.

The Big Jubilee Lunch is part of the main programme of events over the central weekend of Jubilee celebrations. These lunches will take place across the UK, wherever there is enough space to have one. According to Roy, the key ingredients are food and people.

“The Big Lunch idea came from a project called Eden and they’ve been running these Big Lunches for the last three years but they’ve always been seeking to partner with the church,” he explains.  

“HOPE provided that partnership with the church and our dream would be six million people having lunch together; to move the church out of its building onto the street, to meet friends and neighbours, be shown to be salt and light and show that the Kingdom of God is a party!”

HOPE is all about taking Christianity beyond the four walls of church buildings; of meeting people of other faiths and no faith; of supporting people who are in need; and of breaking down barriers within communities.

“Christianity and community: that link is key,” Roy continues. “It has been shown that any church that grows is integrated with the community. So, we should be communities; but not communities that exclude, let’s create communities that include others.

“It’s clear that any effective outreach that happens starts with building relationship. This is a great outreach opportunity as after the grace is said you can discuss across the table; with friends and neighbours: ‘why do we say grace, what do we think about grace and how important is that?’ We have the opportunity to have a faith conversation.”

So how does the Queen’s faith and her social outlook fit with this? Well Roy thinks they’re a good match: “I think the Queen’s faith journey over 60 years makes her a great, great role model.  She’s lived with all the challenges and all the issues. 

“I am convinced this occasion, not building off the Queen, but recognising Christ and Christianity, makes this a great moment for us to acknowledge what happened at the Coronation as an anointing for service for the whole Commonwealth.

“In exactly the same way we need to be able to serve and represent Christ.  The Queen does it in one way and we need to do it where we are, in our way.”

HOPE Together has put together a range of resources including quizzes, games and information for schools. And if that’s not enough, it has produced a special Diamond Jubilee New Testament that people can buy to give away. I heard from Roy a week or so ago that half a million copies have already been sold!

So how will he be celebrating the Jubilee himself? “I certainly will be having lunch with a group of people and we’ll see what happens on this amazing occasion,” he says. “I want the whole country to party and I want Christianity and the Christian faith to be right at the heart of it.”

Read more from Joy in the next issue of Sorted magazine.

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