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08 June 2012

Thousands of churches host Diamond Jubilee street parties

Thousands of churches host Diamond Jubilee street parties

Thousands of churches across the UK hosted or helped with street parties for the Diamond Jubilee, with more than 700,000 special edition new testaments given away, thanks to HOPE.

The rain didn't dampen the party spirit as people crammed into church halls to celebrate or lined their streets when the sun did appear.

HOPE was invited to help with the Big Lunch by organisers, The Eden Project. They happily obliged by providing free Jubilee resources and ideas to use in schools, with senior citizens and at neighbourhood street parties – including a specially-written Diamond Jubilee Grace, which was seen by the Queen and used at hundreds of Big Jubilee Lunches.

Peter Stewart, campaigns and communications director for the Eden Project, said they were delighted to have worked with HOPE. "At the heart of many communities, churches are fantastically placed to bring people together," he said.

"The Big Lunch offers the chance for members to reach out to others in the community and put their faith into action."

In Reading, people took 2,000 Diamond Jubilee New Testaments from among sandwiches and quizzes set out on the tables stretching a quarter of a mile, while Christians from Portishead baked 4,000 cakes for a street party at Battery Point.

In London's Old Kent Road, Pastor Wunmi Oladunjoye, of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, started their Diamond Jubilee celebrations by saying the Diamond Jubilee Grace before their buffet lunch. Pastor Lola Ayeni said: "Despite the rain, we had an amazing time. Everyone that got the Jubilee New Testaments was delighted with their gift."

In Croydon, the Ruskin Road New Life Christian Centre held a lunch in their main hall due to the rain. Kay McCabe, one of the organisers, said they had invited the local community and received 260 confirmed responses so cooked lunch for 300.

"We experienced a loaves and fishes moment as by mid-afternoon we had fed over 1,000 people with a cooked meal and desert followed by cake and tea or coffee," she said. "We were overwhelmed by the response of the local community many commenting that 'no-one has ever done anything like this' for them."

For many, the celebrations brought neighbours together for the first time. In Richmond Avenue, Benfleet, Essex, a street party on Monday brought together about 140 adults and children. Most people did not know who their neighbours were, so they each wore a name badge with their house number and first name. As a result people now greet each other by name in the street.

"There is now a completely different atmosphere in our road" was one comment.

Roy Crowne, HOPE's Executive Director said: "HOPE's aim is to help churches to do more together in words and actions, sharing faith and building up local communities. The Big Jubilee Lunch fits our mandate perfectly, so we were thrilled to support and encourage churches throughout the country as they pitched in helping with community events and hosting thousands of street parties."