Chaplaincy takes many forms beyond the walls of our churches. I have been ordained now for 18 years and in every place where I have served I have been a chaplain, as well as a Methodist Minister: Hospice, hospital, prison and to a RAF base and now I am chaplain to Featherstone Rovers. For me it’s about being part of the community but which community? We live and work and play in different communities and chaplaincy is an area of ministry that reaches out, as we are invited in, beyond the walls of our churches, into those communities to make a difference. Sports chaplaincy makes many of those links and it is one of the fastest growing areas of chaplaincy. Importantly many lay people are actively involved, which is not always the case with the other areas of chaplaincy in which I have worked. I find this exciting and what an opportunity we have to reach out with the Good News of Jesus.

Last Monday, 31st July 2017, I presided at the funeral of a legend of rugby League; Vince Farrar. Vince has played for Featherstone Rovers, Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, Hull FC and Sheffield Eagles, as well as England and GB. It is at such times that not everybody can say goodbye, to a loved one, a friend, a hero and role-model in person and so services such as this one has to be part of that process. People needed to say goodbye and thank you to a sportsman extraordinary and a legend but also to an intensely private man and a family man. We knew that it would be a big funeral and that a lot of logistics would have to take place, to incorporate the many contributions people and clubs would want to make. We also realised that many people, from near and far would want to attend. They did, in their hundreds: managers and coaches, owners and CEO’s, players past and present, legends of the game and fans. Our church, at the very heart of Featherstone, could barely contain so many and they spilt out onto the streets. As I left, in the funeral courtage, spontaneous applause rang out along the street, as a mark of the respect that so many had for Vince. I have taken many hundreds of funerals; some have just included me and a funeral director, others have been even bigger than Vince’s, usually for younger people and children but this one was special because I was not just the local Methodist Minister but the Chaplain to the club he idolised all his life and that was a honour.

Rev Andrew Longshaw

Featherstone Rovers Rugby League chaplain