Last spring we learned at Balsall Common Methodist Church that the 2019 Birmingham Velo was coming past our Church and that many, many roads in and around the village would be closed for many hours and that unless people were able to walk to church they would not get there. We also found out that there could be 17,000 riders passing church over a number of hours as part of the 100 mile ride.
The decision was taken that there would be no morning service but that we would open the church and serve refreshments to spectators and the church was to be open if people wanted a quiet space, but further than that we had no idea what to expect. What happened was on another level.
What started out as enthusiastic clapping and cheering as the bikes stared to come through turned into biscuits being offered that the riders could grab on their way past. The patches on the road on the photographs show that not all caught them and it was soon clear which varieties of biscuits worked best. What we thought was a lot of biscuits that we had bought soon disappeared and Toddlers biscuits and Church biscuits went too. More than one walk was made to the village for more supplies. Teas and coffees were slow to go until the elite riders had passed and the slower riders welcomed the chance to use the church and hall toilets, fill their water bottles, drink tea or coffee, eat biscuits as well as cakes and bananas that were on the ‘Fair Share’ table that day – thanks to Tesco. We now know why cyclists have such large pockets in their shirts – they keep their stash of food in them!
What started out as refreshing a few spectators turned into a day of hard work, a lot of fun and laughter, some lovely conversations and the grateful thanks of the many, many riders who stopped to avail themselves of the facilities.
During the evening and the next day Jane, our Minister, received messages by email and phone from riders who had taken the trouble to look at the Circuit website to find an email or phone number so that they could say thank you for what we provided and for the enthusiasm with which we did it.
‘Church without Walls’ took on a whole new meaning that day.
We have just heard that the Birmingham Velo in 2020 is on the 28th June and will use the same route. Would we do it again? Too soon for that decision but if we do you will know about it as local shops won’t have biscuits on their shelves!