The Revd Peter Crumpler, a Church of England priest in St Albans, Herts, and a former communications director for the CofE, has a football story to tell…

Thousands of BBC local radio listeners across England recently tuned in to an unusual sporting-themed church service.

It wasn’t broadcast from a typical place of worship, a church or a cathedral, but from Wycombe Wanderers FC – a football club in the Championship, the second rung of English soccer.

Four of the team’s leading players joined the Buckinghamshire club’s chaplain Benedict Musola for the special act of worship broadcast across the country’s 38 BBC local radio stations.

Professional footballers Adebayo Akinfenwa, Jason McCarthy, Alex Samuel and Cameron Yates spoke of their Christian faith during the 30-minute service broadcast in January.

Chaplain Benedict Musola explained how the team prayed on the pitch before matches and held regular Bible studies at their training ground.

He told listeners: “I am grateful for the opportunity to serve God in this role, which uniquely combines my passion for God and my passion for football.”

The service featuring Wycombe Wanderers underlined the close links between football and faith.

In ‘Thank God for Football,’ (SPCK, 2006), author Peter Lupson featured chapters on the Christian roots of soccer clubs including Aston Villa, Barnsley, Birmingham City, Bolton Wanderers, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Queen’s Park Rangers, Southampton, Swindon Town and Tottenham Hotspur.

The Wycombe Wanderers service is one of a series of Christian acts of worship broadcast on BBC local radio stations at 8am on Sundays since the onset of the pandemic last March.

The services have included speakers and musicians from a wide range of denominations and have won praise for easing feelings of loneliness and isolation.

The Sunday services have formed part of the important role played by local media during the series of lockdowns.

Callers to BBC local radio stations – often older people – have been expressing their thanks for keeping them in touch and raising their spirits during the pandemic.

Commenting on the church services, Chris Burns, Head of Local Radio for the BBC, said: “We know from personal testament just how important these broadcasts have proved to be. They have played an important role in bringing communities together virtually so no one need feel they are on their own.

“We expanded our religious programming on the first weekend of lockdown in March and will continue to broadcast services and reflections until life returns to normal.”

Source : Parish Pump