Monday, 17 May 2010

Belfast Marathon

The Development Committee of Belfast City Council has reversed a previous decision in relation to the Belfast Marathon and so the 2011 marathon will be held on the Bank Holiday Monday, instead of the previous day, which is a Sunday.

The debate in the committee was interesting but one fact came through very clearly and this was that the organisers of the marathon had made no attempt at all to consult with those affected by a proposed change to a Sunday.  There had been no discussion at all with any of the churches in the city and they were simply ignored.

We live in an age of 'consultation' and almost every decision requires a consultation process.  Indeed the list of consultees for some decisions can run to several pages.  However in this case, when the people affected were Christian churches, they were simply ignored.  Indeed they were treated as second-class citizens.

A number of good points were made during the debate including the following:
1. A Sunday marathon would have an impact on Sunday morning services because almost any route will take it past a number of churches.
2. Quite a number of evangelical church-based youth groups, such as companies of the Boys Brigade, enter teams in the marathon.  A Sunday marathon would exclude them from participation.
3.  These youth groups often use the marathon to raise money for good causes and a Sunday marathon would put an end to this good work.

Common sense has prevailed this year and I hope and pray that it continues to prevail in future years.  I also hope that organisations such as that responsible for the marathon will not treat Christian churches as the 'invisible sector', one which they can simply ignore.

Year after year the marathon has been held on the Bank Holiday Monday and every year it has been a great success.  Why then should anyone want to change it?

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