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Church suits Open to a tee

11 July 2014

ST HILDEBURGH'S, HOYLAKE

TOP golfers from around the world competing in the British Open next week have been invited to play a golfing prayer-labyrinth, set up in a church adjoining the course.

St Hildeburgh's, at Hoylake, on the Wirral, is just a short chip from the 18th hole of the Royal Liverpool Club. The Vicar, the Revd Paul Rossiter (above), an occasional golfer who plays off a handicap of "around 20", sees the idea as a way of connecting his church to the 200,000 fans expected at the event.

"It is open to anyone with a Christian background who can come in and reconnect with God on a prayer journey associated with golf," he said on Tuesday. "I have told the club that competitors are welcome. It brings people into church, and gets them back in touch with spiritual life. In golf, you face many challenges; as Christians, we also face challenges. Golf is accessible and engaging; so is prayer. It involves self-discovery, and finding out about yourself and your true feelings."

St Hildeburgh's chancel floor is to be covered with a green cloth in the form of a nine-hole golf course. Each "green" - complete with flag - has a theme for the "golfers" to contemplate. They include "facing the challenge", "fear of failure", "anger and frustration", "friendship and patience", and "achievement".

Film clips of golfing incidents will illustrate each theme. "Anger and frustration", for example, shows Doug Sanders taking a two-foot putt at St Andrew's for the 1970 Open title - and missing.

Participants will receive a booklet suggesting ways to approach each theme. Carrying a yellow practice ball, they walk the first four fairways, unburdening any negative emotions, and reflecting on their life, with the aim of developing a sense of forgiveness.

At the fifth, they swap the practice ball - discarding negative thoughts, too - for a white matchplay one. On the four remaining fairways, they focus on four points where Christ may have touched their lives.

The labyrinth will run from the first practice of the British Open on 14 July to after the final round on 20 July.

St Hildeburgh's has been regarded as the golfers' church since the Royal Liverpool funded a stained-glass memorial window honouring members killed in the First World War.

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