We held the inaugural CCB sports’ day last weekend. Sports day is perhaps a little deceptive; we had some well organised games that needed a combination of speed, skill and dexterity. Think egg and spoon rather than steeplechase and you’ll get the picture. I guess it would have made sense to call it the family fun day but we wanted more than just the families to come.
We had a ‘sports’ day’ simply for these three reasons.
1. It was fun: We met after all age church on the Common for a picnic lunch. The gazebo was up, the rugs were out and little groups of people were scattered around nibbling on sausage rolls, sandwiches or Domino’s pizza! I’m always amazed to learn that that sporting competition isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But nevertheless people came. As expected, it was terrific. We were a small crowd of about 25 but comfortably enough to make three highly competitive teams. Tom and Jemma did an awesome job of organising, running a slick event and giving us a wonderful time. It was competitive, surprisingly at times, and it was godly. No one took it that seriously. Hard to do that with the wheelbarrow race. But we all tried to win. And then we all appluaded the losers. We were amazed at the skills of some and laughed together with the mistakes of others. Even one of my sons, who’s unbelievably competitive and an extraordinarily bad loser (he gets it from his mother), was fine about coming last. It didn’t really matter. And to be honest I couldn’t tell you who won. It might have been my team, I know it wasn’t Jenni’s, but I haven’t got a clue. It was just great fun and most of us could do with a bit more of that.
2. It was communal. Community life in London is very precious. It’s rare. And so when you find it, you need to value it. We had people from both our congregations at the sports’ day; young and old, marrieds and singles, adults and kids. Sure there were significantly fewer from the all age congregation than the evening. But that’s often the way. Parents and families are usually less reliable when it comes to pitching up to stuff. That could be because we’re overly precious and timings don’t always work well with scheduled sleeps. It could be because most of our parents have pre-school children and it’s so much m,ore straightforward when they’re older. But most likely it was because I managed to schedule it on Father’s Day! Muppet. But for those of us who were there it was like belonging to a big family as we gathered together for food and frolics! I love events like sports’ days. I have an instinctive impulse to gather. I like crowds. I like getting people together. I think communal activities are good. I think it’s what churches should do. But I think it’s what lots of churches don’t do. God gathers people into communities of people who otherwise don’t have a whole deal in common. It’s what the gospel does. But we forget that and we can work against the grain of what God’s doing. Churches with what might described as a ‘professional’ clientele can be a bit consumer. There’s a danger that we think only about me and what works for me. But the decision about whether to pitch up or not should not be determined only by whether it works for me, but whether it might be of benefit to others as well. Communal gatherings apart from Sunday meetings force us to confront our self interest. That’s not why we do them, of course, but if we’re remotely self aware we may reflect on why we do things.
3. It was relational. After the games people of all ages sat around chatting and catching up. I’m sure that happens at lots of different venues on a Sunday lunch. But we can be selective about who we invite into our homes. And we can be lazy, especially when we’re tired, choosing not to engage with those we don’t find straightforward. A mixed gathering over time is good for us because it encourages us to get involved in the community life of a smaller church. One of teh relational issues that I hold dear is the interaction between adults and kids. Most young adults in London operate in a child free bubble. And I’m not sure that’s good thing. Because Balham is a little bit like a postgraduate university campus we can extend our college experience for as long as we choose. But families and kids are part of normal life. And yet we can forget that. It dawned on me a while ago that most of the lads that I play rugby with don’t sepnd any time with kids. They work with Dads, but they don’t socialise with them. They may live near families but they don’t know them. They may come across kids when they leave town and see their families in the regions. But day in day out they don’t interact with kids, until they have their own. That’s not normal. It’s unusual. But church addresses that. If you’re part of a church, then kids are part and parcel of your life. And the kids love hanging around with the evening congregation crowd. Mainly they love terrorising them. But the grown ups are their role models. How they show that respect varies. My kids had one intent for most of the afternoon, which was to give Ken a wedgie. I have no idea whether they were successful. But they respect him.
It was the first time we’d done it. We’ll do it again. It’s too good not to. But just not on Father’s Day!