Globally it is reckoned that Wales is famous for 3 things: 1- Singing – we are the land of song and our choirs are sought the world over. 2 – Sheep – out numbering the human population by over 3 to 1, you can’t go anywhere in Wales without encountering sheep. 3 – Finally Sport – Wales has a great reputation for playing and delivering sport at the very highest level and very much punch above our weight in the sporting world.
Just think back to the recent Commonwealth Games, we came home with a record medal haul. We are now always very completive on the rugby field and hopes, as ever, run high for the next world cup. Sam Warburton is the most successful Lions captain ever. The Blues won in Europe, the Scarlets nearly won the Pro 14 for the second year running. Geraint Thomas is as good as any cyclist with Gold medals and major event wins. Gareth Bale is one of the best footballers on the planet. Wales is also a world leader in disability sport again doing incredibly well at many sports with gold medallists everywhere from VI downhill skiing and cycling to disability discuss, shot and javelin, table tennis and so on. Aled Davies is one of the most successful Paralympians ever!
As a nation we love our sport where more than 1 in 3 people are actively involved - playing, coaching etc, volunteering or regular fans. Sport is the biggest connecting community in our land. Given the size of the sporting community how do we as God’s people provide support to it? How do we interact intentionally with the sporting community seeing it as a great opportunity to serve them and be the hands and feet of Jesus and be “salt and light” rather than see sport as our “Sunday competition”?
Many Christians are finding ways of serving God through their sporting communities. One way is through Sports Chaplaincy UK – Wales where we now have 50 chaplains (mainly church ministers but also gifted lay people) working from elite sports down to local club level, in most sports, male and female and in disability sports where we are world leaders in our disability provision. We offer pastoral and spiritual care for everyone! Many visionary churches see the benefit of, as Dr Huw Osgood says, “leaning out” to connect with those around us. As we serve our sports people, clubs etc we can also over time influence them to the gospel. Church being connected to those in sport would help make us relevant to our world today.
Take the recent Commonwealth Games we had 2 of our Welsh sports chaplains serve on the international chaplaincy team. They helped people pastorally – those who needed a shoulder to cry on, share their frustrations with or even their joy. Those who just wanted to chat about life or share some challenges from home. Then spiritually there were daily bible studies and prayer times for athletes and coaches who wanted to join in, or 1-2-1s. A couple of remembrance services were held for athletes where loved ones had died but they couldn’t get home in time. And wonderfully we had the joy of Team Wales accepting a special badged new testament (see pics) which the Gideons produced for us and where 250 were taken by Team Wales and all many promising to read. Some even said they had never had a bible before with some posting their thanks on social media. Some asked for help to read the bible or work through the team prayer that was included. There seems a growing hunger to understand what Christianity is across Wales.
Wow – God is at work in sport in Wales but we need so many more chaplains to help. For example we need 2 chaplains at Carmarthen Town, 4 chaplains with the WRU all-ability rugby teams, powerlifting across Wales, local bowls clubs, rugby league – it’s endless. Can you or gifted Christians in your church help? Watch this short video https://youtu.be/tTjbdKDdB8I