Sports Chaplaincy at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia

Immediately after Easter this year Sports Chaplaincy UK supplied three of its chaplains as volunteers to serve as part of the 30 strong multi-faith team at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. These were Neil Urquart, Heather Lewis and Steve Jones, who formed part of the contingent of 11 overseas chaplains  that complimented  16 Australian chaplains and 3 counsellors.

Based in a chaplaincy centre right at the heart of the athletes’  village ,the duties of all three were twofold :  firstly to be available on a reactive basis to meet the pastoral, emotional and spiritual needs of athletes, coaches and  sports administrators who came seeking such support at the centre. Neil, Heather and Steve were all involved in supporting  by way of listening to and praying with such individuals who were struggling in some way, either with performance-related stress and pressure or upset over news received from back home.

Secondly, the more pro-active side of the chaplains duties involved  (a) leading the scheduled  morning and evening Bible studies  and prayer times, as well as the Sunday services that took place in the chaplaincy centre and on some occasions  in the larger Chefs de Mission hall ( due to numbers attending) (b) meeting up for one to one times of encouragement/ prayer/ Bible study  with athletes ( both para and able-bodied ) athletes and coaches , some of Christian faith and some of no faith and (c) planning and taking part in radio and press interviews regarding  sports chaplaincy as incarnational Christian mission.

Steve found himself having to put his French language skils to use as some of the athletes and coaches from Cameroon and Mauritius were first language French speakers  and preferred to offload  and do Bible study in French, rather than English.  Heather had Welsh athletes who she already knew from her chaplaincy in Disability Sport Wales come to her for support, with there being a number of tears from some of them.  Neil’s musical and worship-leading gifts were amply in evidence in his leading of Sunday services and times of worship. The chaplaincy service was overseen and very effectively managed by Hannah  Johnson from Sports Chaplaincy Australia, with whom we at Sports Chaplaincy UK have a very close and strong relationship.

Another SCUK chaplain, Martin Lewis, chaplain to Cardiff Blues Rugby Region and SCUK Director in Wales, was also out in Gold Coast, not serving himself as a games chaplain but principally supporting his wife Heather. However, Martin did  also take a number of opportunities  to network with individuals from Governing Bodies of Sport in Wales and Welsh Government Ministers who were out there and who Martin encountered in the Team Wales social  base that was located further down the coastline, some distance from  from the Athletes Village. We will be praying that such involvement from SCUK personnel in the Commonwealth Games will lead on to opportunities for  the establishment of a number of new domestic sports chaplaincy arrangements in various sports clubs, teams and governing bodies in the UK.

As they say in Australia….” Good  on ‘ya Neil, Heather and Steve.”