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.

Second week gone

Began this week still feeling strange that I was relaxing, while Alison was going out to work, and while Lesley was still running the circuit office in my study. It had been a great weekend visiting Dad and seeing friends from Consett, and then on Monday morning back to earth, trying to avoid Lesley so that I didn’t get caught up in circuit work. Mind you, she is terrific at telling me to “keep my nose out”. I think she rather enjoys it !

Monday night saw me going to Lincoln for the Mission Shaped Ministry course I`m a part of. Excellent night looking at the spirituality of mission. More on my sabbatical page.

This afternoon had a pleasant hour with Sue, my colleague, who`se recovering from a hip operation. Good to see her looking better, although extremely bored. She`s concerned about the length of her grass and is hoping someone from the circuit will volunteer to cut it.

Tonight (Thurs.) I’m writing this having packed cases, checked passports, money etc. for tomorrow we’re off on our 25th wedding anniversary cruise down the Rhine. Left Dad, who is looking after the house, with a list of instructions and telephone numbers, and then at 1.45 a.m. we`re off. Very much looking forward to it. Excited. Tell you all about it when we get back. Look it up under Rhine Cruise on the menu board at the side.


One Week Down !!

Well, the first week is over; 1 week gone and only 11 left !

Seriuously, it has been a wonderful pleasure not having to worry over anything in the circuit or any of the churches this week. Woke up early on Monday morning (in fact I haven`t had a lie in yet !) and it felt very strange to be able to have a leisurely breakfast, wander out for my paper and generally relax.

All week I’ve followed the same pattern, walking the dog, reading the paper, catching up on the telly and generally `chillin-out` as the youngsters would call it. Personally, I call it `slobbing` but, hey, I don`t care.

However on Monday evening I went to `The Malt Cross` in St. James Street, Nottingham, where the latest Fresh Expressions seminar was held. The Malt Cross is a Christian run pub. More about this on my Fresh Expressions page.

Started reading a book about the history of Christian Spirituality. It looks promising.

Ended the week by visiting Dad in the North East, meeting some old school friends, Chapel coffee morning and worshipping in my home Chapel on Sunday which was led by Rev. Terry Hurst, the Minister who was there when I candidated. It was good to see Terry again. He preached on making a difference, and I`m not sure if he will ever fully understand the difference he made to my life, with his care for us as a family when my youngest daughter was born, and later with his wisdom when I felt called to the Ministry.

So, all in all, its been a good week and a good start.

Only sad note is that I visited Alisons Dad in hospital. He`s not good at all really. Please hold him, Freda, Alison and Stuart in your prayers at this time, that the right decisions will be made.

Off to Lincoln tonight for the next part of my `Mission shaped Ministry` course. Tell you all about it next time.