The last place you may imagine for a Christian act of worship is a sports stadium. But, across the land, from Portsmouth to Leeds, from Shrewsbury to Sheffield, more and more clubs are now open to using Christmas as a great opportunity to gather supporters together with their local community for carol services. These may offer a lively mixture of carols, readings and creative ideas, reminding people who would never step inside a church, of the Prince of Peace who came to save the world.
At AFC Bournemouth, they have been running their Community Carol Service since 2003. The Club Chaplain, Andy Rimmer, has organised a number of the services and says, 'Christmas is a time when it's OK to talk about Jesus in an open way, and we see this service as a great way to bring people together to sing their favourite carols as well as hear a low-key message about Jesus. It's enabled us to build bridges into the life of the club and the community. Numbers have varied between 300 and 1,000 but it's always been a positive family occasion. 'The hour-long service usually involves the whole first team squad plus staff who do the readings, a Salvation Army band and school choirs. It has mainly been outdoors, apart from a couple of years, when it was held in the main bar. 'It takes quite a bit of work to pull off well,' says Andy,'and we're looking to draw in more local churches over the next few years, but it really is worth it - we even raise money for local homeless charities!'
Why not get together with your local sports club and churches to hold a Christmas carol service? If you'd like more information about sports chaplaincy you can contact Sports Chaplaincy through their website at www.sportschaplaincy.org.uk.