Avoid carol services on World Cup final day, Church of England vicars told
In an effort to avoid a potential clash between the Three Lions and the three kings, the Church of England is advising vicars to reschedule Christmas carol services due to be held on World Cup final day.
The guidance to clergy, under the heading “Making the most of the World Cup final”, warns of the possible difficulties of holding a carol service on Sunday 18 December. The Sunday before Christmas is a traditional time for afternoon or evening festive services.
With the final due to kick off at 3pm, the C of E says services “could still be possible if you choose the time carefully … but what if there are penalties?! It may be best to avoid that day altogether and host a carol service on Saturday 17 instead.”
But it adds: “Despite this clash of dates, football and faith don’t have to be at odds with one another.”
Football and the church have a “conjoined heritage”, it says, as several Premier League clubs “started up as parish church football teams, set up for the health and wellbeing of those local communities”.
The guidance suggests ideas for how parish churches could encourage people to “use the World Cup as a missional tool this Advent and Christmas”.
They include watching games at local sports clubs or pubs or inviting neighbours to your home. “Offer to lead some carols, perhaps sharing a sport and faith testimony after the game, with an invitation to Christmas services.”
Alternatively, parishes could screen games in church with refreshments, or host a Christmas sports day instead of regular worship, “weaving together a range of sport and Christian values”.
Another idea is to stage a football-themed nativity play. The C of E has created two scripts that parishes can download, involving the three kings following the star to an adaptation of the anthem Football’s Coming Home. “We’re coming west / We’re coming west / We’re coming / Kings are coming west.”
The C of E has acknowledged the controversies surrounding the World Cup in Qatar. In an article on the C of E’s website, Libby Lane, the bishop of Derby and the C of E’s lead bishop for sport, said: “There are serious concerns about the treatment and safety of workers, especially migrant workers. I am concerned about the discrimination which women face in Qatar, both in law and practice. And I am concerned for the safety of LGBTI+ supporters travelling to the World Cup, and who are impacted by the decision to play the World Cup in a country which criminalises homosexuality …
“I personally do not think that the World Cup should ever have been awarded to Qatar, and I support those individuals and nations who are making a stand at the tournament, on behalf of migrant workers, women and LGBTI+ people.”
Sport should never be “a smokescreen for discrimination, oppression and exploitation”, she said.