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At the start of April many runners were gearing themselves up for their part in the Greater Manchester Marathon. Every year the route passes by St Mary’s and a lot of church members and neighbours have gathered outside the car park to cheer them on as they pass. This year we became one of only a few spectating spots where the route passed us twice, meaning thousands of people would be running past St Mary’s Church not once, but twice! So we decided to use the opportunity to become a presence in the community, to step out of the church walls and really bless the people who were there.
The idea was simple – free tea, coffee and cake to anyone who wanted it with no other motive but to bless. The heart behind it was to ‘support the supporters’, to give them a boost while they cheered on friends and family who were running, but the impact was wider than that. And as always, St Mary’s members really stepped up to help. It was like feeding the five thousand… cake never ran out and for five hours we were able to serve our neighbours, the marshals, the runners, the spectators. We estimate more than 150 hot drinks were given out!
Throughout the course of the day we were able to have conversations with people who asked why we were offering so much for free. Highlights included seeing the spirits of spectators who were lagging after travelling all over the city following runners being lifted after a hot cuppa; the banners we’d offered children to colour in being waved at the other end of Harboro Road and beyond; and being able to give a runner “the best cup of tea she had ever tasted” after she’d been running for almost four hours! We had used the youth prayer tent as a shelter and even had one man, from another church, approach us asking for prayer for healing after he saw the tent. What an amazing witness!
Thank you to everyone who baked, brewed up, carried tables, helped serve and who just came to hang out with people and chat to them. There was such a great atmosphere throughout the whole day and it really was amazing to be able to demonstrate that church goes beyond the walls of the building!
Emma Atkinson

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