Adventist Olympic Chaplain Uses Pins as Witness
Six days a week during the 2012 Olympics, Richard Daly rode the Underground to Olympic Park in East London, where more than 100,000 spectators swarmed nine game venues.
Daly, a Seventh-day Adventist minister, was one of 60 chaplains volunteering at the games site. For the first week of competition he was assigned to serve the media, along with 11 other chaplains who took turns staffing a media prayer room throughout the day.
He sometimes got stopped while walking around Olympic Park, and it wasn’t always because he resembled a competing athlete. It was usually for his extensive collection of pins on the lanyard around his neck that held his credentials.
“Wow, so many pins,” said a volunteer ahead of him in the lunch line. “That’s an impressive collection,” said another. Later outside, a woman shouted from the middle of a crowd walking to an arena, “You don’t have any Adidas pins to trade, do you?”
PIN MAN: Trading pins was a common hobby at the summer Olympics in London. Many people stopped Adventist chaplain Richard Daly to comment on the extensive collection he wears on his lanyard, which holds his Olympic Park entry credentials.At the Olympics, trading commemorative pins is a serious hobby, well documented in local and international media. An NBC cameraman said he was doing a story on the custom as he captured footage of Daly negotiating with a trader wearing a vest festooned with pins from these games and Olympics past.
One pin Daly regularly showed game goers is his Olympics “Faith” pin, a great conversation starter, he says.
“See this one, have you seen this one yet? Are you a person of faith?” he asked a security guard before inviting her to consider visiting the prayer room.
Daly, 45, pastors the Croydon Seventh-day Adventist Church south of London, and used his annual leave to volunteer at the games. He said working the Olympics is an opportunity to offer a ministerial presence at one of the world’s highest profile events.
“We want to provide a service and have a presence here,” he said Tuesday morning while walking among crowds of smiling people lucky enough to score tickets to games.
From the park’s security entrance gate it took Daly almost 20 minutes to walk to the prayer room located on High Street, with its row of cafes, banks, and service stores. During the games, it was an on-site shopping center located between the International Broadcast Centre and the Main Press Centre.
A religious center among journalists drew little traffic, even with its strategic location across from the media gym. They’re mostly a secular bunch, Daly said, and constantly dealing with deadlines. While most won’t attend a service, some will come to write prayer requests on a card, which chaplains will later pray for together.
On Tuesday morning a few followers of Islam trickled in and out for prayers. The room had folding chairs, cushioned ottomans, and two semi-private prayer areas behind white room dividers. The Olympics logo was featured on the wall, with added words of inspiration, such as “determination,” “courage,” and “excellence.”
Because few came in, Daly went out. Most of his connections happened in the cafeteria where people relaxed and opened up about their life. That was Daly’s opportunity to affirm their faith or offer a word of support, perhaps even an introduction to Christianity. Proselytism wasn’t allowed, but he could explore their own faith with them or invite them to seek a deeper spiritual life.
Daly said people were surprised to learn chaplains are at the games. Making chaplaincy a priority could also increase the public’s awareness of the denomination, said Daly. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a small minority in Britain and little known in most areas. “[Adventists] are way down there,” Daly said.
“Seventh-avenue church?” said Kaye Wren from Birmingham, asking Daly of his religious affiliation, before admitting she hadn’t heard of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.
At the Adventist Church world headquarters, Chaplaincy Ministries director Gary Councell said Adventists “must rethink and expand how we do ministry beyond traditional paradigms. Jesus mingled with all types of people in His day. Chaplaincies are a way of mingling in the greater community, of extending ministry beyond the four walls of a church.”
—Ansel Oliver, Adventist News Network, reporting from London