Called to be together

Dr Rob Marshall, media adviser to Chichester Diocese and contributor to Radio 4 Thought for the Day
Dr Rob Marshall, media adviser to Chichester Diocese and contributor to Radio 4 Thought for the Day

Russia has been embroiled in so much controversy lately it’s hard to believe that stadia across that country will soon be hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

After so much political and diplomatic upheaval our prayers are for the safety and well being of all players, officials and especially supporters who will travel to the region to enjoy a feast of football.

St Mary de Haura Church, Shoreham is holding an art exhibition called Journeys

St Mary de Haura Church, Shoreham is holding an art exhibition called Journeys

And this time around it doesn’t feel as pressurised as far as England is concerned. After what seems like decades of unfulfilled potential and, some might say, lame excuses for repetitive failures on the field, this young, potentially vibrant England side could (just could) spring a surprise or two?

Sport continues to break down barriers and bring people together. Despite ongoing debates about equality in sport, combatting racism and homophobia etc - it is generally the case that where sport happens, barriers are broken down and people come together to enjoy a spectacle.

So even though expectations are low - the flags might soon appear on people’s cars and in their gardens. Barbecue expenditure is expected to rocket. The pubs will thrive as people gather together to watch the various spectacles - because sport is inherently and intrinsically about joining in with others, overcoming obstacles and sharing in the wider community.

As a priest, I am increasingly concerned about individual isolation. Digitisation has brought many benefits as far as technology is concerned and our lives are more easily (it would seem, anyway) lived out.

Young people rarely have a moment to spare as one gizmo after another occupies their time and their minds and they share in online activity with others.

But the dangers of all of this are obvious. Loneliness. Isolation. A lack of sharing experiences with others. Lack of exercise and motivation. Getting up and getting out to share a spectacle with others.

The Christian faith is rooted in a story of people being called to be together, to remember the past, to celebrate the present and to look confidently to the future. That’s why the word ‘communion’ is so important. It seems of community, togetherness.

And so, despite all the controversies which have raged over Russia 2018 thus far, perhaps after all we might relax and reflect on the spectacle of nations coming together to enjoy a spectacle and remember that being and belonging easily finds a home in the understated importance of sport.

Faith Matters:

There are a number of interesting events hosted by churches happening around the Diocese...

St Mary de Haura Church, Shoreham - Art Exhibition: Journeys

until 17th June, 2018, Monday to Saturday 11am to 5pm, Sundays, 2-5pm.

Exhibits for you to enjoy including paintings, photographs, sculpture, stained glass, textiles and mosaics. Also work from the children of St Nicolas and St Mary CE Primary Schools on display. Free admission.

Petworth Fete in the Park – Saturday 14th July from 12 noon.

Petworth Area Churches Together is proud to be serving the community with cream teas at the Fete in the Park in our large Tea Tent – sharing God’s love with all people

through quintessentially British refreshments. The churches of Petworth work together on a number of events throughout the year and the summer fete is bound to be a true highlight.

Horsham Funday Sunday, 8th July from 12-6pm

Horsham Churches Together will be joining in the festivities at Horsham Park and will be organising a Messy Family Fun tent for children and families. This will run alongside a whole host of other activities and events with something for everyone.

'Authentic' Conference at All Saints Crowborough, 9th June, 9.45am-3.15pm

A day for women of all ages and at any stage of their Christian life, including Bible teaching, seminars and praise. Linda Allcock will be teaching from the Sermon on the Mount about what is the heart and secret of authenticity and there will be an opportunity to attend two seminars during the day. £10 for adults or £5 for those 21 and under, to include refreshments and pastries. Please bring a picnic lunch and a rug if it is fine to picnic outside.