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/ 8 June 2017

Grants for grass-roots sport at St Saviour’s, Sunbury

Football at grass level - sport

Ron CrossVicar of St Saviour’s Sunbury discusses the playing of sport and how it has led to a grant and support from the Bishop of London’s Mission Fund for a youth apprentice.

Arriving in the Diocese just under two years ago it made clear sense to take Capital Vision 2020 and see how we could interpret that vision in the context of the local church of St Saviour’s, Sunbury.  I have a love of sport and at my age, I’ve turned watching it into a skill that has reached new heights.

However, I found myself surrounded by a multitude London Marathon runners, pilate teachers, kung-fu black belts and the like.  With Twickenham Stadium just up the road, we have a large number of rugby fanatics with two local teams heavily supported; Harlequins and London Irish.  There are a multitude of London football fans too, Hammers, Bees, Gooners, Chelsea and Fulham supporters pack the church at weekends.

It took a few months before I disclosed my life-long love of all things Queens Park Rangers – something I’m still paying for!  With Kempton Park Racecourse just over the road and the Thames just down the street, yachting and sailing clubs abound, it seemed to me that sport and physical activity was front and central to the culture I found myself in.  Then they opened a 24hr gym over the road and as I looked at the neon sign I thought, “is God trying to tell me something here?”

Primarily our sporting engagement over the last few months has come through a great partnership with Kick London.  I met with Joe Lowther, Kick’s CEO, and within a few weeks, God had placed it on someone’s heart to start a Football Academy on a local estate reaching out to the kids and young people.

So on a Saturday morning you’ll find Stuart, our youth pastor, Josiah, who is a Canadian who recently bought his first pair of football boots (no Josiah, it is not called soccer) and a few keen church members kicking a ball around and teaching the kids what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  We have just been selected by Tesco’s Bags of Help scheme which means we are in line to receive funding between £1000-£4,000 for this community project.

Furthermore, last August we were successful in obtaining a grant from the Bishop of London’s Mission Fund for a youth apprentice.  We had identified someone in our congregation for who this apprenticeship scheme would be ideal.  Beth had just completed a gap year with Youth For Christ’s dance troupe, touring schools and sharing the gospel message in Birmingham.  It seemed natural to combine her love of dance with young people and our partnership with Kick took a new direction.

Youth for Christ invested in training Beth to be able to teach all kinds of sport in primary and secondary school.  So now at lunchtimes, she delivers a dance class to Year 10 students in the local secondary school and an after-school gymnastics class to the primary school children.  All this teaching takes place with Christianity at its core.  The lesson plans are centred on either Christian values or the parables of Jesus.

All this is undoubtedly fostering relationships with young people, connecting their love of sport and physical activity with the church, and ultimately to a God who loves and knows them – even the Chelsea fans!

Ron Cross has been Vicar of St Saviour’s Sunbury since June 2015.  He is married to Ro who, along with his two children, keep him focused on the good things in life.

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