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Church of England invests millions in church-run sports clubs

by Cara Bentley

The £12 million comes from the Renewal and Reform program, which aims to grow the church's attendance among all classes, races and generations. 

Some of the money will be going towards sports clubs in deprived areas to help alleviate crime and spread the gospel.

One church that will benefit from the money is Christ Church Anerly in South London, who are already running a Christian boxing club for 13-19 year olds and an evangelistic Bible study for ex-offenders.

The pastor there, Rev Matthew Fitter, told Premier he has conducted two funerals for victims of knife crime in his area and that was what persuaded him the boxing club was worth doing.

"The reason that convinced us to go for it is it is definitely distinctively Christian. So, we have a professional boxing coach who comes and does the actual boxing, training, the fitness, the boxing moves, all of those things. But then for the last 10 minutes of every session we have unashamedly Christian content where either an ex-offender, or somebody, shares the difference that Jesus has made to them and so for me, the way that I'm comfortable with it is because it is definitely Christian, both in the way that we set it up and also in the way that we run it."

The pastor explained how the Christian content had been received by those going to the boxing club: "They'll have done an hour and 20 minutes of fitness and boxing and all those sort of things and everyone stands round and whoever's speaking they listen - absolutely. There's no messing around, everybody listens and in fact they'll always applaud at the end, whoever it is who's shared that 10 minutes of difference that Jesus can make. They will almost always just clap and applaud at the end and so it's well received, it is not high cringe factor fact or anything like that. People respect the integrity with which the people share."

Rev Matthew added that there are options for those who want to know more about the Christianity, such as to join a beginner's Bible study and that they're hoping the boxing club will grow.

"Doing the boxing every week, it builds a relationship with people. The good thing about the boxing is it gives a person focus, it gives discipline, it helps us to build relationships, it also gets people off the street and it is, if you like, a very small Christian response to the knife crime epidemic in London."

The funding Christ Church Anerly will get will go towards better equipment and mean they can definitely keep hiring the boxing coach and the venue to host it. 

The minister said he would appreciate prayer for a reduction to knife crime in London and for people who come to come to a real faith in Jesus, "that there will be many that will come to realise that Jesus actually is the answer to everything."

Other projects receiving money include St Matt's in Exeter, whose pastor spoke to Premier earlier in the year, who are trying to reach students and funding will go to the diocese of Truro towards starting churches in cafes and a former pub.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: "From congregations in cafes and community centres to sports ministry and social action, these projects are moving the heart of our mission to where it should be, recognising Jesus beyond the borders of the institutional church. The Good News of Jesus Christ cannot be contained within existing worshipping communities. We want everyone to know how much they are loved by God."

 Click here to listen to the Rev Matthew Fitter interview:


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