CHURCHES are hoping to take advantage of the football fever that is sweeping the nation as the World Cup kicks off in South Africa today (See Leader, Comment and Features). Hundreds of them will be showing England matches on big screens in an attempt to reach out to the wider community.
Christ Church, Clifton, near Bristol, will be showing the first two England games, and the final, and holding a barbecue and penalty shoot-out competition. Neil Perrett, who co-ordinates the church’s sports ministry, said: “We’ve advertised it widely through the local paper and through the church football team, and we hope it will be a family-friendly event for all sections of the community.
“Before the World Cup final on 11 July, we’re holding a special service with an evangelistic aim. . . Showing the games is very much about bringing the church together, and also to get people into church who wouldn’t normally come.”
St Paul’s, Salisbury, will also be showing the England matches. The Rector, the Revd Andrew Cullis, whose father Stan was a player and manager for Wolverhampton Wanderers during the 1950s, said that showing the football was a good way of getting people into church.
St John’s, Colchester, has delivered leaflets to 2200 houses on two nearby estates, and will be showing every England game.
The Archdeacon of Buckinghamshire, the Ven. Karen Gorham, is calling on Christians to pray for the poor in South Africa during the World Cup. She has recently visited the diocese of Kimberley & Kuruman, in the Northern Cape region, which is linked with the diocese of Oxford.
“The reality is that the World Cup will pass many people by,” Archdeacon Gorham said. “There will not be any reason for people to go to the Northern Cape — there is no wine or garden route passing through, no matches will be played there, and yet, in an area the size of the British Isles, there is vibrancy, there are people with stories to tell and much to give us, who need our love, support, and prayer.”
Operation Mobilisation has sent teams to South Africa to take part in the Ultimate Goal initiative, where Christians will give out tracts and share their testimonies outside stadiums. They will also organise football camps in townships and be involved in outreach to prostitutes and prisoners.
About 200 missionaries have travelled from Brazil to evangelise during the tournament. A group of African Christian and Muslim leaders, including the Revd Jape Heath, an HIV-positive Anglican priest, have warned of the dangers of HIV and AIDS infection during the tournament. They have called for contraceptives to be made available during the tournament.