St Simon’s Boxing Club and the Theology behind it
The Revd Cameron Collington, vicar of St Simon’s Shepherd’s Bush, discusses the theology behind his church’s Boxing Club, which runs from its hall in the heart of west London.
“The glory of young men is their strength, grey hair the splendour of the old.” (Proverbs 20:29)
At St Simon’s Boxing Club, there are three ways in which God is glorified – with body, mind and soul. The verse from Proverbs (above) is a reminder that our bodies are created, integrated parts of us which God has designed in some way to reflect him. Right at the beginning of the Bible we have: “So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27).
At the Boxing Club young men and women are trained to get the best from their bodies: to excel in discipline, to discover the benefits of exercise and to develop a technical skill. God is glorified as people are taught to respect and care for themselves physically, and strive for full potential.
The discipline aspect is where the mind comes in and it is about learning perseverance and control. Philippians 3:14 says: “I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.” According to all the greats of the sport of boxing, the body can be at its peak and the talent necessary may be evident in every way, but unless the mind is super fit and focussed, ready to take the mental strain and the psychological pressure, there is little point in bothering at all.
This is striking in its similarity to the Christian journey of faith and indeed bears resemblance to Christ’s own journey of passion, leading towards his death on the cross as a sacrifice for human sin. His mind was resolute and he didn’t back out and this is because he had spent so much of his time in training mentally through setting aside large chunks of his day for prayer. Many sportsmen and women talk about the cost involved in order achieve the top status in their particular discipline, and much of this is the investment made in training the mind.
At the Boxing Club, we have seen young people’s minds develop, such that they have been able to concentrate better on school or college work and veer away from trouble. Many parents over the years have thanked the church for altering significantly the direction of their child from dubious to determined.
Lastly, the ethos of service – both public and Christian – is displayed in the Boxing Club as glorifying God through the soul. Our principal leaders have experienced a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ and are keen, as part of their worship to him, to reach out to others. They put on this specialised activity because of their desire to serve Christ and the effect is the help, hope and fun which is offered to people who largely have no contact whatsoever with a church or Christian people, outside of the Club.
Jesus said in Matthew 22:37, 39: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… and… love your neighbour as yourself.” Through loving and serving others, motivated by an overarching love for Jesus, God is glorified in this work which always culminates in prayer at the end of a good session with the punchbags, the sparring and the skipping.