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Harmony behind the scenes as football season kicks off with Bournemouth v Charlton

The first fixture of the football season on Saturday sees AFC Bournemouth against Charlton Athletic. But behind the scenes, there’s more harmony than we can expect on the pitch ...

The first fixture of the football season on Saturday sees AFC Bournemouth against Charlton Athletic. But behind the scenes, there’s more harmony than we can expect on the pitch.
 
Matt Baker, Charlton’s club Chaplain, is Pastoral Support Director in English Football for Sports Chaplaincy UK. He has teamed up with AFC Bournemouth’s Chaplain, Rev Andy Rimmer and the national Christian mission charity HOPE to plan community carol events this Christmas.
 
Sports chaplains around the country are planning to take part with the support of local churches, so stadiums more accustomed to the cheers and groans of chanting crowds will ring out to the sound of carols this December as fans and communities gather to celebrate Christmas.
 
The sports stadium carol services are part of HOPE’s work with churches of all denominations, preparing for 2014 and a year of mission together in word and action.

HOPE is working with Sports Chaplaincy UK to equip local clubs, community groups and churches to stage the events. Pilot events have been held for the past two years. In 2011 Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Aldershot Town and Shrewsbury Town football clubs held carol events at their stadiums with the help of sports chaplains, local school choirs and Salvation Army bands.
 
In 2012 the idea spread to 15 clubs, and this year more than 50 sports stadiums around the country are expected to host a carol event for fans and other members of the community.

AFC Bournemouth’s Chaplain, Rev Andy Rimmer, Vicar of the Lantern Church in Merley near Bournemouth, has held several carol services with fans and players at the Cherries’ ground.

As the Cherries’ Chaplain, Andy says: "I enjoy getting to know the lads and occasionally training with them. We have pre-match prayer which a few of them attend. Sport is a tremendous gift from God and it’s where people are.

"The carol service is a chance to celebrate Jesus’ birth in a completely unique environment. We want this event to have a real community feel as well as being attended by supporters of the clubs."

The tried-and-tested formula for the carol services includes local choirs, bands and the club’s players or manager reading some of the familiar Bible passages about the nativity story.

HOPE and Sports Chaplaincy UK have resources for groups of churches to use to help their local stadium to stage a community carol service. These can be downloaded from www.hopetogether.org.uk at http://bit.ly/15xg7HK

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