A worship service focused on sport participation is helping students to connect God with all parts of their life.
What was the need or challenge being addressed?
One of the greatest challenges facing Christian schools is that of providing opportunities for meaningful worship which contextually connects students to their faith in a non-dualist experience. An “all of God is everywhere” approach, as the “Godly play” philosophy proclaims would help students to understand and appreciate the omniscience and omnipresence of God in their lives, not only during Chapel.
What was the response to the need?
The question now was “How do we attract students into a worship experience which is neither compulsory, nor during school hours?” An obvious choice of topic seemed to be that of “Sport” in which most of our students engage across all age levels encompassing a wide variety of sporting practices. The challenge was to find a creative form of worship which would allow for full student participation in the context of “Sport” which would also allow for it to be a worship experience.
What was the experience?
Placed into the context of the basic framework of a rugby/netball/football game, the worship band became the cheerleading team, the congregation the spectators, the sermon the half-time team talk, the referee the timekeeper and the game itself was the liturgy of word, blessing and the innumerable artefacts of sport which gloriously decorated the Chapel. Students came dressed in the colours of their favourite teams (school and otherwise) and brought their symbols of sport with them. The Chapel was decorated with bats, balls, nets, skateboards, and other sporting paraphernalia. Students led the liturgy, prayers and reading and gathered with their coaches gathered as each participating team was blessed. The congregation even “changed sides” at half time. The congregation was given to opportunity to consider that God was present in every game, and not only in Chapel.
What were the challenges faced?
Convincing the students and coaches of the benefits of the service was a challenge which we overcame by inviting a dynamic guest speaker, and, the next year, a well-known past-student who has excelled in the sporting arena to give the “Team Talk.” This second option attracted a larger congregation who more willingly participated. Encouragement by the coaches as overseas tours were presented with their kit was also a draw-card. Subsequent to these services, the senior rugby team have, on occasion, asked for before-school prayers on days when they are playing big games. We feel sure that this will increase as we continue to provide prayer and worship support to our sporting teams and their coaches.