Vicar's Letter July 2018


JULY 2018

Dear Friends,


I guess there is very little that divides people as strongly as a football tournament! On the one hand, are those who wouldn’t miss for anything any of the matches, any of the commentary, any of the gossip that surrounds the players from the different countries involved. On the other, are those who find it hard to understand what the fuss is about when it comes to 22 people kicking a bag of wind around a pitch within a stadium filled with tens of thousands of people. Most of us are actually somewhere in between those extremes, and we may wonder if people move between them and why.


Some people are naturally more competitive than others. Much of our society, our economics is based on all of us competing with one another – for a job, for a house in the right place, for access to anything from sporting facilities to concert halls or libraries, for the best opportunities to make something of our lives. That competitive streak can be channelled into supporting a particular team, and we can identify their wins with ours. For others it will not matter who wins and we can be content with how things are, rather than needing constantly to repeat the competition.


Many more people will follow the world cup matches involving England, than will support ‘their team’ regularly the rest of the year. When it comes to identifying the right team to support, it is much easier in national competitions. Almost all of us will identify with England in this year’s world Cup, though I am not trying to decry the support that Ireland, Wales or Scotland receive on other occasions.


I am no footballer! But I can appreciate the technique and skill that is on display. There should be no shortage of talent on display in international competition – the very best players in the world are taking part. While I admire the players’ skill (from the comfort of an armchair), I am even more impressed by the commentary. On the fairly rare occasions I have been to football matches, I can never identify which player has scored, who was in a better position to finish that particular move, who was  showing a pinnacle of skill and who was just lucky. People like me need to have the game explained before I can really appreciate it; and the better that is done, the more likely I am to share the kind of wild enthusiasm that is on display from some of those actually in the stadium. I think that I will always prefer, however, to see football matches on the television, rather than in the flesh.  I can see much more clearly and someone can tell me clearly what is going on if I get confused!


Church-going people may well find attending a football match an odd experience. Am I going to grow into this, to catch the enthusiasm, the determination of the fan that my team will win? Can I work out what is happening at the other end/side of the pitch? Will I be accepted by the rest of the crowd if I’m not wearing the right scarf or shouting the same things as all the others? Do I really understand this game, or am I just hoping that “we” will win? Will I go again?

Now put yourself in the football fan’s position when coming to Church! Will they find anything of the same enthusiasm for our team among our congregation that they may want to share? Will they be able to work out what is going on at the far end of the Church? Will they really feel welcomed as “one of us”, or will it always feel as though they don’t particularly belong here? Is there some nagging feeling that they’re not dressed right, that they’re getting the words wrong when invited to join in, and the tune conspicuously wrong when the organ’s playing. Or that everyone is looking because they obviously don’t know what they’re supposed to do? Can they enter into this to the full, or just tolerating it so that they can use the Church to mark the big moments of life? Do they feel wanted, loved?  Will they come again?


Are we ready, as a Church, to respond to those questions and concerns? To explain what we may think should be obvious, to express our enthusiasm in such a way that other people will want to share it rather than be frightened by it? To look at new ways of making our faith and Christian practice more accessible, more outsider friendly? Can we learn again, afresh, exactly how to love? And can we learn the constant lesson, that it is not what we do that matters, but how much we are truly giving ourselves to God in Jesus Christ. We may find these things difficult; with God nothing is impossible.


Enjoy the World Cup as you are able! Welcome others into their Church! Let’s all rejoice together, whether “we” win or lose at football, that God shares his victory with us in Jesus Christ our Saviour!

Charles Minchin