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"Football is not a matter of life and death, it is more important than that."

Bill Shankly, Liverpool Football manager

Keeping faith in the team

Return to the book list for titles beginning with 'k'.

Keeping faith in the team, The chaplains’s story, Stuart Wood, London, Darton,Longman and Todd, 2011

The chaplain of Cambridge United tells his story of the 2010/11 season. The book gives a fascinating insight not only into the role of the chaplain but also into how a football club at that level functions. His role enables him to “bring together two of my great passions, football and God”.

You may wonder what a chaplain does:

He is generally there for people and to serve the club. He elaborates: “The role of the chaplain is to be independent, so that if a player wants to speak to you, he can do so without thinking that what he says is immediately going to go back to the management and likewise the management can speak to me without thinking I am going to pass this back to the players”. Some of the jobs Stuart has found himself doing are a little strange:

PA announcements;

Leading one minute’s silence or applause;

Links to charities;

Liasing with family etc when a player is injured during game;

Manning the club shop;

Scattering ashes of cremated fans.

He helpfully sets out some principles of chaplaincy:

• Being available;

• Being trustworthy in small things;

• Ministry of presence;

• Be around but not in way;

• Prayer;

• Hospitality – invite to home;

• Independent of club;

• Respect confidentiality;

• Don’t abuse privileges.

He finishes the book with the following statement: “This has been my story as chaplain at Cambridge United Football Club during the 2010/11 season. I hope it has been informative and interesting. But more than that, I hope and pray that this story has been about how God has used an ordinary man to be a blessing and help to others – without God none of this would have been possible”. I think he succeeds in that aim.

I have one reservation about the book but it is a big reservation. I wonder if it helpful for a chaplain to write a book of this nature. Without names the book is bland but as names are mentioned there is the risk that it damages the ministry. On two occasions we read of conversations about “spiritual” matters with named individuals. There are lists of players who have been to his home or for whose family he has done a funeral. My fear is that the possibility of the conversation appearing in a book might discourage a player from talking to the chaplain.

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