August brings with it one of my favourite days of the year – the start of the football season. Recently I was asked, in my role as chaplain at Havant & Waterlooville Football Club, to write a short piece about myself for a publication aimed at telling non-league football clubs about chaplaincy. The article is reproduced here to give readers of Portsdown Post an insight into what my chaplaincy work is all about.
I’ve been a follower of lower league football since the 1980s. So when, in 2007, I was appointed as Vicar of Christ Church Portsdown, an Anglican church on the border of Portsmouth and Waterlooville, I immediately sought out my local team to go and watch and I’ve been a supporter ever since.
Six years later, while listening to the BBC Non-league show, I heard Colin Peake speaking on behalf of the Conference about the value of Club Chaplains and I knew that I should respond. I’m not usually one to push myself forward so I waited a couple of months before contacting the club and offering to help in any way that they thought appropriate. The reply was enthusiastic and so I was appointed Chaplain just before the start of the 2014-15 season.
As the players at Havant & Waterlooville are part-time, almost all of my involvement has been on match days. For home matches I arrive at the ground a couple of hours before kick-off and chat with the manager and other staff. After the team talk, the players are given the opportunity of a short prayer time which I lead. There’s only been one occasion when no-one has turned up for that.
After the prayers I wander around chatting with turnstile operators, programme sellers, catering staff, club officials, journalists and, of course, the fans. Talk is usually about football, often about what’s happening in people’s lives, and sometimes about God.
I think that the fact that I was already a supporter (and am a season ticket holder) has helped me to be welcomed at the club, particularly by other supporters. I have made attending matches a priority, and have travelled to more away games than I have before, and that has helped to build relationships.
Revd Andy Wilson