The Spurriergate Centre, York

Visited briefly the Spurriergate Centre in York. Interesting project which is based in the Church of St. Michael`s, Spurriergate, and has operated since 1989.

Arising out of a casual conversation between the Vicar of St. Michael-le-Belfry and the Archdeacon of York a desire grew to create something new in the building of a long established Church (dating in parts back to the 12th Century).

The aims of the centre are……….

To serve the people of York and its visitors

To promote justice in trading through retail operation and education  

To offer a listening ear

To share the Good News of Jesus

Staffed by people from a variety of local churches it offers a superb menu with an open plan kitchen so that you can see exactly whats going on. Its well worth paying a visit for the food if you`re ever in York.

As I sat with my cup of coffee I remembered that the last time I was int his building was on my last sabbatical, seven years ago, when I was part of a travelling theatre group and we were performing in York. The local theatre had arranged for us to have an early evening meal in the Spurriergate Centre. What a co-incedence !!

I certainly won`t wait for my next sabbatical before I attend again.

But its more than just a cafe, run by Christians. It also operates a listening and counselling service for anyone who needs is. The counselling service is run by professional, qualified staff and offers a Christian response to peoples needs.

Thirdly, it also offers a prayer service. As I sat I noticed that on the balcony there was a prayer space. Dotted around the building were prayer request slips so that prayers could be offered on behalf of the customers, always in confidence.

What do I make of it all ? In the middle of a large, bustling, tourist filled city is a group of people meeting the physical and spiritual needs of those who are in need of them. This is truly a Christian presence in the world, and whilst it may not be the way forward for every church it has surely been a wonderful way of bringing the Kingdom of Christ into York. I commend it to anyone thinking of visiting the City.

You can visit online at

It also reminded me of the Salt Cellar in Oldham, a similar project that I was involved with and it has resolved my determination to perhaps return there and see how they`re getting on.


Its been brought to my attention that the comments option has been disabled. This is intentional in order to stop abusive comments being made. If you have a valid comment to make please send it to my e~mail address which is

I would be interested in what you think about my sabattical and whether or not I`ve provoked any thoughts amongst you.

Cafe Praise

Tonight I went to West Hallam Methodist Church (part of the Erewash Valley Circuit) to observe (share in) their cafe style worship.

Chairs arranged around coffee tables with nibbles and tea/coffee/pop/juice on offer (free). In the background c.d`s playing and then a couple of musicians playing guitar and keyboards while people talked and mingled.

When Tony de Boltz (Minister) began the evening it was a very low key invite to relax, get refreshments, listen and join in if we wished.

Couple of Praise songs, some of which I knew and others I didn’t, then a NOOMA (spiritual dvd, was played. I have a few nooma`s myself but not this one. It was simply called LUGGAGE. Boy, was it powerful ! A  suprise ending left everyone speechless and Tony took the opportunity to declare a break at this point.

After the break Tony issued a challenge to us all on the basis of the Nooma, to learn to forgive others. Then there was some more music, a prayer and close.

All in all it was very low key, despite the power of the challenge.

Is this the way of the future ? I don`t know. I was left feeling as though I`d been challenged, but I`m not sure if I worshipped. My focus was perhaps too much on observing rather than immersing myself in it.

I was reminded of how 15 years ago I was advocating this style of worship in Oldham but none of the churches would entertain the idea. And yet now many churches are latching onto the idea. Is this because it seems like an easy option ? or is it truly God driven ?

My personal feeling is that its probably a bit of both. In some areas it will be exactly what God wants but in others it may simply be a matter of leaping on the current bandwagon. I don`t really know and I don`t want to denigrate Churches who are trying.

I`d like to visit some other cafe style worship experiences and see how its handled elsewhere. In the meantime I would certainly recommend it to others to see if its what God is asking of their church.



July 19th. I visited Rev John Boyers, the chaplain at Manchester United but also the driving force behind the charity SCORE ( which has set up and supported many chaplaincy projects throughout the United Kingdom in a variety of sports, including Rugby Union, Rugby League, Cricket, Motor sports, Athletics, Horse racing and Football.

John began by explaining how he became involved in this work, much of which is outlined in the excellent book “Footballing Lives” (Canterbury Press). John is a Baptist Minister and the Baptist Union invited him to worjk full time in the area of sports chaplaincy in 1991. What a far sighted vision that was and how brave of the Baptist Union ! We then went onto discuss chaplaincy in general.

On this occasion we didn`t discuss his role at Manchester United very much but simply dwelt on the work of a chaplain, in general terms.

Johns observations were many and varied. One that interested me was his view that a sports chaplain is different to other chaplaincies, as there is the need to understand the sporting mentality. In industrial areas there is the sense of the workforce being more stable and remaining in one place, whereas in the sporting world there is much more mobility and variety, both of employees and employers. Sports people move from club to club, situation to situation; employers are sometimes distant from their employees by the very nature of the work.

John felt that in football in particular much depends on the manager as to whether or not the chaplain is accepted, and this will relate to previous experiences that manager may or may not have had. Foreign managers tended not to be as familiar with the concept of chaplaincies.

Some of the sgtatemtnts that John made seem quite obvious but there is a strong need for them to be reiterated and recieved afresh again and again. One of these being that the chaplain needs to be able to transcend any denimational bias and indeed may find themselves in a situation where help of someone from a different faith is required. The chapliain is truly to be the Christian presence and simply helps regardless of background, creed etc.

The internationalisation of the sports world has brought new challengbes and issues in these areas. It also means that some sports people come with strong faith, strong sense of denomination and some come with no faith at all. The key is to be open to all.

This must surely be true of the church as well. Are we REALLY open to all or do we pick and choose who we help ?

The SCORE vision is of a network of local volunteer chaplains delivering this vital role in a professional way. Alongside other Christian sports charities they see their role as being a good Christian witness within sport. In particular John pointed out that the most long established of all these agencies is Christians in Sport who deal with the sporting world in general. Had a very high regard for their work.

We looked at the passage from Ephesians chapter 4 where Paul speaks of the leadership gifts. John felt that the chaplain was to have an element of all of them but primarily the gift most required is that of Pastor. In a sense it is like pastoring a small secular congregation.

We also spoke about the need to “understand the culture” as the sporting world has a different culture. I commented about how Paul would look around him before starting his work; looking at the unknown God in Athens and using it to speak. Chaplains need to get alongside sporting people, understand their concerns etc. before responding. Vital. Cannot simply go in and speak about our faith before we`ve even come close to understanding them. Chaplains need to see people (perhaps players especially) as whole people. I would say that its abouttime the Church in ggeneral started seeing people in this way rather than simply as pew fodder !!

As we drew to a close we spoke about the funding of SCORE. Apart from the funding from the Baptist Union (£15,000) it needs to find its own funding. The Methodist Church does not support this work financially despite various Methodist chaplains and also the work of Graham Locking, Methodist Minister, who is employed full time in the Horse racing world. Perhaps this needs to be addressed if Methodism is to be serious about the value of this work. By my reckoning if each District put £500 towards the work then we may be close to the Baptist Union gift.

Hull City & Hull Rugby League Football Club

After a hugely enjoyable day at Newcastle I travelled down the M1 and M62 to visit the fair city of Hull. First time I`d ever been there and I have to say I was most impressed by the shopping area.

Allan Bagshawe is the chaplain to both Hull City A.F.C. (football) and Hull F.C. (Rugby) as well as to various other organisations. Allan gave me yet another fascinating insight to the work that he does alongside his role as Parish Priest. His Church is within walking distance of the K.C. stadium where both teams play and so he refers to it as the Stadium Church which gives some indication of how highly he regardxs his work.

Once I had got over the confusion about which Hull he was talking about (football or rugby) I was able to grasp some new insights that he gave me.

Having been a chaplain for 28 years I was able to ask him about whether or not chaplains were suspicious of `outsiders` and he agreed they probably were. Why ? He felt that it was because chaplains saw their role as a ministry in itself and didn`t want it hijacked by people who were seeking reflected glory, kudos, freebies etc. I could understand that and later that evening I was able to witness at first hand how Allan quietly ministered to both fans and members of staff at the ground.

Allan felt that there was a need to have access at all levels if relationships were to be built but alongside that there also needed to be a respect for areas offered by the clubs. Allan felt that you simply couldn`t presume a right to be there; it was a privilege not to be abused. He tries to visit the clubs for part of a day each week but like others he acknowledged that it was difficult finding the time. However he also felt that the important thing was to create an awareness that the chaplain was `there` if need be and for the whole club, not just the players.

Allan thought that perhaps rugby chaplaincy was easier by the very nature of the sport. Rugby is still, despite its growing profile, a closer knit community, friendlier, and smaller, whereas football with much more money floating around tends to have a need for more remoteness and the need to be businesslike in all its dealings.  

Again there was an awareness that some Christians see sports chaplaincy simply as part of the ministers enjoyment (an add~on for him or her to amuse themselves with) and not an essential part of Ministry. Surely the increase in sports chaplaincy will begin to challenge this ?

Allan felt that chaplaincy is a type of fresh expression of church. When I enquired further we talked about how he has a community carol singing for Hull City (Football) on the pitch each year as well as carols in his church as well. On one occasion it was tried in a stadium room rather than church and the surroundings were more intimate. The clubs were more relaxed in the environment that they knew well. (Maybe this is a challenge to the church as it reaches out ??) As we pursued this line of conversation Allan pointed out that out of opportunities like these, out of other opportunities such as pastoral situations and ordinary day~to~day conversations, people see the chaplain as Church. The chaplain becomes Church to them and in this way it becomes a fres expression. No hymns, few prayers but still church. I found this line of thought to be most challenging about all that we do in expecting the world to come to us, instead of us getting alongside the world. Too often `they` should do it our way instead of us simply being present with `them` and loving them for who they are.

Allans view was that chaplaincy is about befriending and I feel strongly inclined to agree with him.

After some generous hospitality Allan took me to the stadium where I was able to gain some of his enthusiasm and pride for what has been achieved, but also to see how he interacted easily and frely with club officials, with fans and with the whole situation. Hull (rugby) beat Harlequins 20~8 in a most enjoyable night. Afterwards Allan had to go and see someone so he left me to find my way home; as I walked out I chatted with a fan and her family about what Allan meant to them and her comment was “that without him I would have given up on the church”. Surely no finer praise. She also pointed out which way I had to go to get back to the car. She pointed to the Church tower and said keep going towards that ……….. Well, I did and managed to get lost. However, by keeping an eye on it I was able to find my way back eventually and then onto the motorway and home.

Sermon ?? Keep an eye on the Church and you`ll find your way home. I hope thats always true but I`m not sure…….. Better to keep an eye on Christ, see what he`s doing in the world and follow Him !! He`ll always bring us home.

So, leaving a very wet, wild city of Hull I gave thanks for a most enjoyable couple of days (Newcastle and Hull) and praised God.


Newcastle United F.C.

Last Thursday I met with the Rev. David Tully (12th July), who is the Chaplain of Newcastle United and has been for about 15 years. A Tyneside lad he has served the club since the days of Arthur Cox and encouraged by Kevin Keegan and Sir John Hall has developed the role.

  It was interesting to discover that managers vary in their approach towards the chaplain, ranging from the suspicious to the curious to the encouragers. By and large it would seem that the majority are warm and welcoming towards the chaplain once they have begun to understand the role.

David and I spoke about the reaction to the chaplain from various Christian footballers he’s known, and again it seemed as though Christian footballers are also encouraging of chaplaincy; however it was acknowledged that there was the danger of the chaplain interfering in how the footballer saw his own role as the “Christian in the club”. Like most things this is resolved by the development of trust.

As with the other chaplains there was a strong emphasis on confidentiality. David felt that his work would be compromised if he ever broke that, even in sharing information for prayer. Trust was to be gained through long term work, but also through the attitude of senior players. However the Academy seemed to be a natural place for relationships to begin and often some of the youngsters were glad of seeing a familiar face when they eventually broke through to the first team. This speaks to me of the chaplain having the possibility of being a good role model for youngsters as they develop through their formative years.

David felt as though the world of footballers was instinctively more open to faith matters than many work places. Could this be because of the superstitious nature of many footballers or of inherent insecurities ? I`m not sure why this should be and perhaps not all chaplains would agree with it. However, it raises many interesting issues about Christian presence and how it can be both positive and potentially abused.

We also had a fascinating conversation about a subject I hadn`t even considered and that was of the increasing numbers of foreign players coming into the British game. These bring different issues with them; of culture, language, loneliness (living in a new country away from family) etc. This led onto the subject of needing to see footballers, of whatever nationality, as whole people. I was interested to hear David say that he rarely talks about football to the players, but instead talks to them as people with a wider life, family, friends, concerns, dreams etc. They are whole people created by God, not just footballers. I wonder if the clubs, or indeed the supporters, see it this way ?

David was at pains to point out that he isn`t there to evangelise but to be a pastoral friend.

We spoke about the need for good continuity of the chaplaincy work, which shouldn’t be denominational. However this does raise the issue of who and how is a chaplain to be appointed. As it is usually an addition to circuit or Parish work then will the right person be there when a current chaplain moves on ? Vital that right person is appointed rather than simply filling a gap.

As with other chaplains there was an acknowledgement that it puts pressure on parish work and some folk are reluctant to accept chaplaincy as a valid part of ministry. However thats probably the case in most areas of Ministry. I get asked the same thing about my school assembly work as some people are concerned about ministry outside of the church as not being valid !!

All in all this was a good visit which I rounded off by nipping off to the stadium itself and indulging in a tour of the ground. Not that I`m biased, mind you, but sitting in the top row of the ground at its highest point gazing down on the pitch and out over the city it felt like I was close to Heaven !    Only trouble is I came away feeling quite jealous of a certain District Chairman who still has a season ticket to the club.

Visit to West Yorkshire Playhouse

5th July

A visit to the West Yorkshire Playhouse (Leeds) to meet with the Rev. Paul Glass who usxed to be chaplain there until about seven years ago.

Paul shared with me about his work of meeting touring companies, the day to day staff who run the theatre, and the Wednesday `hey` days where members of the community came onto the premises for a series of workshops (about 250 people)

Paul was chaplain from the beginning of the theatres life  ( and again he shared about the opportunities, including the possibility of being seen in the community, the chance to get alongside the regular members of the theatre staff (about 180 of them), the ability to become a friend to the acting world who are notoriously suspicious of institutionalised Christianity (and fearful of condemnation in some cases) and the opportunity to speak about issues raised when certain productions came to town.

Again I asked why Paul was not now the chaplain when he had such an obvious love of the work, and the answer came down to the difficulty of juggling chaplaincy with regular circuit work.

Perhaps congregations need to see chaplaincy not as an add~on to the Ministers workload but in some cases as an integral part of it, and therefore make allowances accordingly. There is also the  question both today and yesterday of football chaplaincy of “what is the role of the laity ?” Could they be chaplains, prayer partners etc.

Great opportunities and advantages, but also great challenges to the church as to how these are to be met.

Again my thanks to Rev. Paul Glass for his time and help.  

Visit to Leeds United F.C.

July 4th

It feels as though the sabbatical is getting under way properly today as I have travelled up to Elland Road, the home of Leeds United football club. The purpose was to meet the chaplains of the Yorkshire branch of Score. Score is a Christiian charity dedicated to supprting the work of Chaplians in the sporting arena. More about them can be found from their website,

Unfortunately because of the appalling weather many chaplains simply couldn’t get but in attendance were chaplains from Scunthorpe United, Hull football club and rugby leagueclub, Manchester United and York City. In addition were two chaplains from Leeds United itself.

On the afternoon we had a visit from John McClelland, formerly of Glasgow Rangers, Mansfield Town, Watford and Leeds to give us his views of “understranding football and footballers”. 

Much to think about including issues re. trust, how to gain it and how to keep it. The common concensus was that it took time to earn trust and in order to do so there needed to be a consistency of approach. John McClelland bore this out from the footballers perspective. After all who wants to tell the chaplin a confidence if they then think the manager will be told and therefore risk their chances of playing for the team ? It doesn`t seem that much different from circuit practise where trust is paramount to all relationships.

The whole issue of dedication came through; the need for the chaplain to take his or her role seriously and not to simply see it as a sideline from regular church work.

Some of the great opportunities in chaplaincy was the possibility of getting alongside someone in their time of need. Now this may sound as though it is the same as Church work but we must remember that the sporting world isn’t always one of great Christian spirituality. Indeed its very nature of competitiveness and its businesslike approach sometimes gives it the feeling of being the very opposite to Christianity. Therefore any opportunity to get alongside someone is all the more precious because they may not have a Christian faith, and may be dwelling in an environment where it is seen as a weakness.

Opportunities such as the one afforded to the Leeds Chaplains when there was a need for a memorial service to the late John Charles, which put the work of the Gospel in the community spotlight, or the annual round of carol services for clubs and supporters.

For me today highlighted the need for chaplains to be involved in the sporting world. This is where the world and Christian faith rub together. At Leeds there is a feeling of crisis as the club are in administration and the chaplains are having to deal with the general air of uncertainty around the building. Real issues facing the lives of real people and a Christian response is needed.

I was also interested to discover that there are few, if any, full time chaplains in the footballing world !! So many of these good folk are trying to combine working in the community with the general stress of church life. What is the Church saying about this ?

All in all it was a good visit and my thanks to the chaplains who allowed me to infiltrate their meeting and sit in and very definately learn.

Rhine Cruise Final Thoughts

Varied weather, but sun shone at all the right times.

Food wonderfully surprising. Never knew what was coming next.

Company delightful. We may never see them again but Betty, Mary, Elsie, Blanche, Ivor and Doreen will remain in our memories as friends.

Ship good and comfortable.

Ships company a joy to meet even if Jiffi, one of the waiters, kept trying to pinch my plate before I`d finished.

Scenery can`t be described by mere words; it involved emotions as well.

Would I go again ? YOU BET I WOULD !

Thanks to Mike Churnside for taking us to Trowell services at the unearthly hour of 2.30 a.m. and To Alison Wood for collecting us at the other end at 1.30 a.m. 

Special thanks to Dad for all his help and for pet sitting while we were away, and to Les and Freda (Alison’s Mum and Dad) who supported us all the way.

This has been a truly memorable holiday and a fitting way to celebrate 25 years of marriage, but also a wonderful launch into the next 25 and beyond. Alison, I love you.

Rhine Cruise Day 8

Thankfully woke this morning feeling fragile but better and able to say goodbye to my new found friend, the toilet bowl !

Decided to avoid eating so no final breakfast on the ship and off to the coach to leave at 7.30 a.m. for the final journey which wasn’t due into Calais until 7.00 p.m. A whole days travelling by coach with a dodgy constitution. I slept most of the way, but still managed to see Germany Luxembourg, Belgium and France en route.

All told over the nine days we were away we had covered over 2000 miles and six countries; does this now qualify me for the title of “international evangelist” ? No, I thought not.

Tiring journey but stopped off at a chocolate factory and the obligatory cigarette and booze cash and carry. They won`t have made much money from Alison and I.

Miserable weather travelling over the sea, delays getting ito Dover which we later discovered were down to the security alerts all over the country, and then when we came off the ferry we were told that there was a major accident on the A20 which would delay us by about an hour !

All of this was put into perspective when we telephoned Alisons Mum, Freda, to be told that Alison’s Dad, Les, had died this afternoon. We shed tears on the coach but also gave thanks for a wonderful life and the assurance we have as Chistians that Les is in Heaven now with his Lord and saviour.