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Fishing rites — not angels but anglers

27 February 2015

Monster catch: Jon Barrett after a successful fishing expedition

Monster catch: Jon Barrett after a successful fishing expedition

JESUS is recorded as telling his disciples to become fishers of men; and one priest, a keen angler, is launching a network for Christian fishermen (and women) who hope to use their passion to spread the gospel.

Christian Anglers starts officially early next month, and is the idea of the Team Rector of the Cornerstone Team in the diocese of Leicester, the Revd Jon Barrett. The group will begin with a website, YouTube channel, and Facebook page; it hopes to expand into hosting events and tournaments, and even producing angling-themed resources. Mr Barrett said that it would be both a place for Christian anglers to gather, and an encouragement to share their faith with their fellow fishermen.

"[It] should be a way to integrate their faith and their hobby," he said on Tuesday. "For some, it may work better than a traditional home-group or a Bible study."

A journey through the American South showed Mr Barrett how Christians there were using outdoor pursuits such as fishing and hunting to encourage unchurched people to tackle the big questions in life (Features, 6 December 2013).

In the UK, as many as four million people go fishing at least once a year. "Fishing tends to be a white male, working-class hobby," Mr Barrett said, "and that can be a demographic that the Church doesn't find quite so easy to hit."

He envisages Christian Anglers as a kind of Fresh Expression: encouraging Christians and non-Christians who enjoy fishing to gather, online or in person, in the hope that, through the shared interests in angling, some might also get hooked on church.

The Revd Stewart Bloor, a Baptist minister who, like Mr Barrett, runs a popular fishing blog, is already on board. He has "quite a high profile in the fishing world", and is even sponsored by tackle companies, says Mr Barrett, who is confident that his idea will be well received: "There is a greater openness in most churches to going beyond what's been done before . . . taking the Church outside the walls and then looking for relational inroads for the gospel."

Casting into a river or lake can be an almost "numinous" experience, he said. "We are out there in the world, seeing the beauty of creation, and can get drawn into some of the big speculations about our place in the world."

For Christians concerned about the ethics of the pastime, Mr Barrett said that the most common form of fishing in Britain was catch and release: angling tended to be "a relatively harmless pursuit for relatively harmless people".


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