This week Loughborough is teeming with new students, just arrived for ‘freshers week’, dragging suitcases, lugging carrier bags with kitchen equipment and bed linen, wandering through the unfamiliar town in newly-formed groups. They are starting on an adventure here – a very good place for young people, as I said in the last post. Its a place of training with a call to “run well”…
Knowing this, the announcement of the decision that Team GB will be using Loughborough as their base for the 2012 Olympics should not really come as a surprise! Obviously, the university facilities are of the right standard. But for me, to have our top young athletes here in our country’s Olympic year is such a sign of the town’s call and significance in the nation.
“The Sock” is another Loughborough landmark! He is a tribute to the hosiery trade that flourished here in the 19th century. Loughborough remains one of the best places in the country to come to study textile art. All around the base of the statue are reminders of other aspects of our heritage: Taylor’s Bell Foundry, the University’s ‘Towers’ accommodation block, the Goose Fair that visits from Nottingham every November filling the whole marketplace, the Great Central railway with the first trip Thomas Cook, the travel pioneer, made with a party – from Leicester to Loughborough, for a temperance meeting in the park: his name is now on every high street and the steam train, manned by volunteers, still runs between local stops. There are Herbert Morris’ cranes, the canal joining the river Trent with the Grand Union Canal to London and the cows born out of the first ever animal breeding experiments.
As well as these historical markers, our prophetic mandate is distinctive. “Loughborough is made for worship” – as well as the sign of the bells, around the derelict water fountain erected to remember Archdeacon Fearon’s water sanitisation project the words are inscribed ‘Loudly call for praise to God who gives them all our common mercies’. “Loughborough is a place of great safety, a welcoming home for many” – we are the East Midlands hub for asylum seekers, the check in point from which they are sent to other towns. The Baca project – a church initiative – provides housing for 16-18 year old refugee boys and there is a longstanding work with the homeless. “Loughborough is a place where God is gathering the nations” – again that’s the asylum issue, and the cultural mix we enjoy of 2nd and 3rd generation Bangladeshis and Pakistanis as an integeral part of the community: curry is good here! “There are connections to be found into France and the Students Union” – Open Heaven is on the verge of planting a new chuch in SE France. Club Mission, an OH initiative a bit like Street Pastors in the Student Union, has just won the ‘team of the year’ at the Loughborough Experience awards, nominated by someone on the union executive and the union venue manager: 8 years ago the church was not trusted enough to be allowed to meet on campus.
So along with the wake up call of the bells and the clear anointing on youth and education, there is so much to “run well” for here, much to continue to call for in prayer, as we rejoice in the signs of some of the fruit coming through. Come on, Loughborough!