It will certainly be a huge day for long standing fans of the Seagulls who have dreamed of visits to Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and The Emirates for many years. And whilst the City of Brighton and Hove already had a marvellous reputation for offering hospitality to visitors in its all year round economy, the regular arrival of hordes of Premier League fans from other clubs throughout the season is a further boost to the economy. The connections between faith and football are rooted in the shared experience. There's a lot of similarities between joining the crowd at a local football club and sharing in an act of worship, though the language used in church is notably much better!! There's that wonderful sense of being with other people, seeing familiar faces week in week out, enjoying food and drink, supporting other members who are celebrating or mourning and just catching up with friends. When a priest in East London I was a season ticket holder at West Ham when they were at Upton Park and the communal singing of "I'm forever blowing bubbles" before every home fixture gave this disparate group of people a sense of belonging and identity which was unique in many of their experiences. That's why football at the grass roots (rather than the megabucks associated with some of the more outlandish transfer fees and transfer deals) is all about community gathered and experiences shared. In many communities across Sussex, churches continue to offer a similar kind of support to individuals who might otherwise be isolated.
The regular gathering together with others, the familiar faces, the hospitality and community gathering is the natural antithesis for increasingly levels of loneliness which we read about almost every day. Lunch clubs, food banks, youth outreach and drop in centres mean that people are not alone. It's the being with other people and sharing in the richness of the shared experience that brings out the best in humanity. Too many young people and, increasingly many older people, are addicted to their small screens and retreat into a digital world where human contact is limited and shared experiences almost non existent. Spiritual enrichment often comes about through shared moments of worship and exhilaration with fellow human beings which is why so many people still find church to be important. And for Seagulls' fans, that shared experience is soon to step up to another level altogether.
Faith Matters: Christians in Sport Interested in how faith and sport can go together? Christians in Sport is an organisation that encourages Christians to get stuck into sport. They offer encouragement and support wherever people play and in whatever role, through training events, chaplaincy, resources, groups, training schemes and 1-1 support. They hope to give sportspeople the opportunity to explore the Christian message for themselves, through equipping churches and Christians involved in sport to share their faith and through running sports guest events. You can read more about their history and some of the interesting projects they're involved in at www.christiansinsport.org.uk 400 Days Art Mosaic in Chichester Cathedral:Chichester Cathedral has just opened an extraordinary exhibition of 400 paintings, produced over 400 consecutive days, by the artist and poet Frieda Hughes. The paintings are displayed in the style of a huge mosaic, 9 metres by 4 metres, titled ‘400 Days’, in the Cathedral’s North Transept. Alongside ‘400 Days’ Frieda is exhibiting other new paintings titled ‘Alternative Values’ – these artworks are visual responses to her latest collection of poetry carrying the same name. Many of the poems in ‘Alternative Values’ explore Frieda’s increasingly personal look at her childhood with her parents, the poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath; the book includes several moving poems about them. This, she says, is her way of reclaiming her parents’ very public relationship. The exhibition is on display until 17th August with free entry.