Bristol's Racers for Life
5th July 2019
Huffing, puffing, feet pounding. Swelteringly hot, a swathe of pink in a sea of green and blue. Welcome to the 2019 Bristol Race for Life event, raising money for Cancer Research.
In the background, you hear rousing cheers and the beat of drums, as you round the bend and into sight come a group of Bristol Pathfinders, in their smart uniforms, praising God, while encouraging the runners. They bring many smiles and a spurt of energy to the runners, as they raise the tempo as they demonstrate their drum skills to the crowds and runners.
One more mile to go! You finally cross the finish line, flushed with the heat and exertion, but also beaming with pride as you've completed the course and done some good by raising funds for cancer research. Then you spot a sign saying 'Seventh-day Adventist church'. You see a crowd of people surrounding a red and white tent. You go over and are welcomed and offered delicious healthy vegan tasters and smoothies. The friendly faces invite you to have a rest and give you a free bottle of water. As you enjoy the food and relax, you are offered a goody bag containing health books on stress, cancer, and details of health and Bible courses, and invitations to vegetarian cooking classes and exercise classes. You've just met the Bristol Seventh-day Adventists.
Just described was the annual Race for Life event in aid of Cancer Research UK, which took place on the Clifton Downs, a large public open space in Bristol on Sunday 30 June. The event brings together thousands of men and women and their families, from all over the area who run, jog or walk a 5k or 10k distance around the Downs.
This year for the first time, a team of 10 church members took part in the race, and raised funds for the cause. This was also the first time that men were allowed to run, as previously it had been a women-only event. This meant that 5 men, including Bristol district minister, Pastor Royston Smith, braved the 5k course. For those not used to running or walking for 3 miles, it was an effort, but well worthwhile, and the members encouraged each other to keep going until the end.
This was the fourth year the church had a presence at the event, but the opportunity is not one the church takes for granted, as it allows them to serve the community, make friends, and promote the health and spiritual message of the Church. The event has become a regular fixture in the church's calendar and is particularly important as it allows the church to reach out to a wider cross-section of the community.
The race was a great success despite the hot conditions, as thousands of women and children set off, many of them running in memory of someone affected by cancer, whose names and inspirational messages were put up on a Memory Wall.
While there were many different stalls offering food items at the event, the church's stall was busy after the race was finished, giving out free vegan tasters with humus dips and vegetables, fruit bowls, as well as freshly made juices, and smoothies produced by Brother Evan Green from the Newport church on his smoothie bike. These items were so popular after the race, as people were keen to try the healthy food and drinks.
The event, sponsored and supported by the Bristol Joint Evangelism Committee and the South England Conference, provided an excellent opportunity to witness not only of the church's holistic approach to health, but to demonstrate the caring side of the church and its mission to witness to and serve the community. All in all, it was an excellent example of churches working together for a common purpose, to reach out to and be relevant in the community, while forging links for future engagement.