You always did walk anyway didn’t you Dad!

It’s been a while since I last blogged sorry! It wasn’t intentional but maybe watching the awful invasion of Ukraine by Russia unfold, I think lost a bit of motivation for writing my somewhat trivial ramblings and reflections on life and faith.

So here goes… A few months ago, following my move to East London, I began to connect to some great people in East Ham organizing and playing walking football. Usually when you mention walking football to people there is often a bit of a smirk followed by some kind of joke (especially from my own offspring – love you all!)

My relatively decent amateur footballing career is way in the past now but I try to keep active and love playing and watching sport. Finding myself a couple of years on from knee replacement surgery and looking to connect with local people here I thought I would give walking football a go and I am really glad I did.

A series of short matches, with some variation of rules but generally no running (body touching the ground at all times), no tackling, under head high, sometimes limited touches took a bit of getting used to, but I have really enjoyed it so far. I have found I can still use strengths of two feet, control, passing, vision, communication/teamwork and shooting without doing what I can no longer do.

The programme that I am involved with has arisen out of the community work of a local church and it is accessible to people of all genders, backgrounds, ability, age, faith background or none. Special rules can be applied to those with limited mobility which works really well. We play together and usually chat over a drink and a snack afterward and people are beginning to get to know me and my story and there are also some tough situations in people’s lives. This is offered about 4 times a week in partnership with West Ham United FC. This reminds me of my dear and departed older Christian friend Ron who, as his dementia progressed for him, was really helped by walking football in Southampton.

Walking football is also played competitively, and it is a privilege for me and a small squad of others to represent West Ham United FC in friendlies, tournaments and rounds of league matches in our age group (over 50’s) and we are doing quite well I am pleased to say. These are hard matches, with tactics and a high degree of competitiveness, taking the rules to the limit sometimes with a bit of subtle bodily contact going on.

In Ecclesiastes 3:1 in the Bible we read “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. It is great to be a spectator and enjoy the rollercoaster of fandom, or to be invested in my adult children’s lives and careers (sporting or otherwise), which I definitely am. But here’s the thing; there is no substitute for what we ourselves find ourselves doing and dare I say it, enjoy doing. The sprinter Eric Liddell famously said “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure”. Perhaps an important part of whole-life discipleship is to discern the season and the activity that we are called in and to but it is not always easy!

We know theologically that God is with us in these places, spaces, and activities but how far do we really feel God’s presence? How far do we believe that as God’s people, we are scattered into the nooks and crannies of lived activities to live our lives to the full, to share our lives with other people and to live out our faith and to do things as well as we can?

I am sure you have things that you do or are thinking about doing that become important to you. Perhaps I could encourage you not to regret or resent what you haven’t been able to do yet, but to get stuck in and know God will be with and in you.

If you want to find out more about walking football, you can do so at https://thewfa.co.uk or you can get in touch with me and talk about what I have written here. Maybe you have a story to tell about your life, faith, and activity!

Just do it!

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