Churches across the diocese gear up for Le Tour

News Release June 17 2014

Skipton Parish Church Yellow Jersey (Left: The yellow jersey in Skipton

With little more than two weeks  until the Tour de France gets underway in Yorkshire, churches along almost 400 km of the Tour de France’s first two stages are gearing up with a series of imaginative and creative events as well as offering hospitality to the thousands of visitors who are expected in the region.

For many churches the preparations have been going on for several months –a special gathering of 200 church leaders was held in Harrogate with Welcome to Yorkshire last September, chaired by the Bishop of Knaresborough, Rt Revd James Bell.  A special website was created – www.lechurchletour.org – which has photos and details of many of  the landmark churches on Stages One and Two, many of which will stand out in the landscape as TV helicopters film the race from overhead.

Blubberhouses(At Blubberhouses on the A59 (Stage Two) the church which lies at the foot of the renamed Category 4 climb, the Cote de Blubberhouses, has been putting out the Big Welcome. Kevin, Rob and Dave of Basil Houldsworth & Sons Ltd., Otley, are pictured putting a giant banner in place over the chancel roof, and bicycle on the tower.)

The Tour will unite the new Anglican diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales – Stage One is held entirely inside the diocesan boundaries and much of Stage Two crosses the diocese after starting in York and finishing in Sheffield. The acting Area Bishop of Bradford, Rt Revd Tom Butler, has used his July message to urge churches to get behind the Tour: “One church is combatting the problem of getting to church at all through the crowds by arranging a sleep-over followed by breakfast in church …. Wherever we are located in our diverse diocese it seems to me that this July  there is fun to be had and work to be done. Let’s make the most of it.” (http://www.westyorkshiredales.anglican.org/sites/default/files/wyad_July_2014.pdf)

Many churches along the route will be flying yellow flags and banners, mounting displays and exhibitions and holding special services.  Others will provide shelter and a place of quiet, while several will be showing television coverage after the race has gone through. Below, the church tower at Holy Trinity Skipton greets the riders on Stage One as they turn into the High Street and start peddling towards the church. Possibly the largest yellow jersey ever to bedeck a church hangs from the top of the tower while yellow bicycles decorate the side of the church!

Skipton

Plans are in hand for church bells to be rung  along the Stage One and Stage Two routes ahead of the tour and the BBC’s special Tour de France Songs of Praise edition on June 29th will come from Otley with presenter, Connie Fisher, joining bell ringers at All Saints Church Otley to find out how their preparations for July 5th are going.

Top of the list of activities by churches (as listed on lechurchletour.org)  is simple Christian hospitality. At the start of Stage One, the Oxford Place Methodist Mission next to Leeds Town Hall will be distributing free water, while Leeds Street Angels will be on hand to offer help and advice to visitors who find themselves in need to any kind of help.

As Stage One moves out of Leeds, churches in Otley and Ilkley,  among many others, are planning a wide range of activities.  All Saints Otley will be providing a large screen in the nave to show broadcast coverage of the race, providing refreshments with a barbecue,  decorating the church with banners and holding a special service on Sunday.

All Saints' Ilkley have a weekend of events starting with an International service on Friday 4th July at 6,30pm for visitors. Over the weekend they will have a sports cafe and big screens and will be erecting grandstand seating outside the church to watch the parade before and the tour on Day One.

On Stage Two, Sunday July 6th, many churches will be swapping services for service as they offer hospitality to visitors. St Michael le Belfrey in York City Centre (opposite York Minster) are holding  fun,  family activities outside the church as spectators wait to cheer the competitors coming past.

Christ Church Harrogate, also on Stage Two of the route – will be holding serving a breakfast of bacon rolls, pastries, tea/coffee between 7.30am and 10am and as the Tour goes past between 11am and 3pm they will be holding a Grand “Hog Roast” plus Bar and Drinks Service.

Down the road, Bilton Area Methodist Church have cancelled  Sunday morning and instead will be handing out free bottles of water to the spectators.

Keighley Shared Church (Anglican/Methodist - St. Andrew's) will be offering free burgers and hot dogs immediately the bikes have gone past (about 1pm), along with an open-air service.

In the iconic Yorkshire village of Howarth,  St Michael and All Angels church will be open and offering   refreshments and a place of rest to visitors.

St Michael's Church Mytholmroyd is  at the start of the longest 8km climb of the first two days on Sunday July 6th, and will be offering drinks and bacon butties from 8am, sandwiches at lunchtime with the church open to visitors and an outdoor service after the cyclists have gone past at 4pm.

St Bartholomew Parish Church Ripponden at the bottom of one of the steepest climbs on the second stage will have stalls outside the church as well as the flower festival inside  while St Thomas Greetland & West Vale   will be offering hospitality  with toilets, the Parish Pump Café and members of the Mothers Union serving cakes throughout the day. 

The churches of Birchencliffe, Huddersfield, Lockwood bar, Armitage Bridge and Holmbridge will all be putting on weekend events, refreshments, entertainment and special services (see www.lechurchletour.org).

Mothers' Union Teddy Bears

Meanwhile the  Mothers’ Union will be offering refreshments at several churches along the two stages  and giving away special Le Tour teddy bears to welcome children to the event.

Hundreds of teddy bears have been made by MU members and will also be distributed at the First Aid posts on the route. Pictured is Jean Thurman, a Mothers’ Union Vice President in the Diocese, handing over teddies to Dennis Holmes from Venture Event Medical Management, the medical company organising First Aid for the Tour.

Members will be offering refreshments at St Matthews’, Leyburn, St Mark’s, Leeds Road, Harrogate, St John’s, Moor Allerton, St Bartholomew’s Ripponden, St Thomas’s, Greetland, St Phillip’s, Birchencliffe, and St Mary’s, Honley. 

Canon John Carter of  the Diocese of West Yorkshire of the Dales, who created the Lechurchletour website says he hopes that journalists and TV companies will use it to find out more about the landmark churches which will be clearly visible in the TV coverage of the Tour in Yorkshire: “We have some of the most beautiful, iconic and historic church building in the country in Yorkshire, and many dominate the landscape the cyclists will be racing  through.  But they all represent the local communities they serve, they are vibrant and thriving and  in the villages of the Dales and Pennines are well worth a second look. We want to say ‘Bienvenue sur les églises de Yorkshire!’”

For more information and details of churches please visit www.lechurchletour.org

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