There are many moving experiences that I have during visits to schools. I was particularly moved by the experience of praying with the First and Second XV rugby teams and the First XI football (soccer) team. The rugby teams meet in the Chapel before their games and the football team meets on their pitch. They don’t meet to pray for victory over the other team; though I’m sure it is also a silent prayer left unsaid. Rather they meet to be a team who prays together, giving thanks to God for their talent and prayers to use that fairly. They also meet to pray for team mates who are injured and to give thanks for those who support them and coach them.
The Chaplain will share some words of scripture with them and then some reflection on mateship, team spirit, or reflections on who we can draw out experiences of living a christian life through playing sport; or rather how to express christian values through playing sport. The Chaplain will also bless a palm cross for the teams, he gives this to the captain who then gives each of the players a piece of the palm to carry with them during the game. This connects them to their school motto ‘let him how deserves victory bear the palm’. The rugby boys then finish their service by singing verses of Amazing Grace. They may be only be a few young men but the Chapel rings out with their voices. Their singing is not the quietness of one hiding under a bushel but one who is unafraid to express their faith.
Br Wade and I were especially privileged on the Saturday as we were invited to share some prayers and blessings with the First XI between their pre-game warm up and the match. The captain of the 1st XI himself one of the candidates for Confirmation on Sunday.
It can be easy to make jokes about ‘the other religions’ of society (i.e. rugby). But from the experience of a few boys we can learn that there are moments when the divine and the secular can meet.