“Leicester City – the team of teams”

Richard Atkins

So, the underdog finally won the big prize.

Leicester City, little Leicester City, are the new English Premier League Champions.  A simply amazing story!

I’ve been watching football for over fifty years. It would true to say that it’s a passion. Five decades of hoping and waiting to see if my team, Portsmouth, could win something.

In 2008, they won FA Cup; but in essence it meant very little to me. Of course it was great to see them parading the famous old trophy around Wembley. But somehow I knew that it would all end in tears. Was it because none of the team was connected with the local area? Was it the fact that they all came with a huge price tag that the club couldn’t afford? Was there that feeling that we had ‘bought’ the FA Cup with a group of players rather than with a team?

Within months the club was in freefall as the players left and the money stopped coming in. Five years later we were in the bottom division of English football and still struggling to get out.

That’s the great thing about Leicester City, the new and unexpected Champions of the Premier League. None of the players were signed by paying huge amounts of money. Indeed the whole team cost what one of the bigger teams would pay for one average player. In fact, many of them were cast-offs from other clubs.

What they are, is a team who play for, fight for and drive each other on. Of course they are hugely skilful, with a coach in Raniari, who has worked for decades at the highest level. But they are a team, where the sum of the parts is greater than the individual. In due course the best of the players may well be lured away by bigger teams in Europe. But together this bunch of players have taken on the very best and won. This may never happen again, a smaller club winning such a huge prize. But for Leicester City working together as a team meant winning together as a team.

A lesson for the Church?

By the Revd Canon Richard Atkins, Faith and Ethics Producer and Sunday Breakfast  Producer for BBC Radio Gloucestershire

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Growing the Rural Church…

Eucharist with the Ordination and Consecration of The Rev Johnathan Goodall, to be Bishop of Ebbsfleet and The Venerable Martyn Snow to be Bishop of Tewkesbury at Westminster Abbey, London led by The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.I’ve just returned from my first ever General Synod of the Church of England (Suffragan Bishops like myself are not automatically members of Synod, unlike Diocesan Bishops). It was an interesting and varied experienced – some very significant moments (like the address from the Iraqi Archbishop about the desperate plight of Christians in his country, and the decision to reshape training for vicars) and some rather dull and boring bits (including the deep irony of the “simplification task group” producing a 50 page report!)

Right at the end of the Synod came a report titled Growing the Rural Church (http://bit.ly/1AiqGRA). It is a report full of hope and optimism for the future while also sounding an urgent call to action. Essentially its message is that rural churches can grow and thrive (and it gives a number of good examples – and we have plenty more in Gloucestershire) but this only happens when lay people are encouraged and enabled by their clergy to take on significant leadership roles, and when there is an openness to change and new ways of doing things.

This will not surprise anyone who lives and works in a rural area. It is hard work and demands real courage from clergy and lay leaders, as well as real skill in change management. This is why, as a diocese, we are putting significant resources into training lay leaders and helping our clergy make the transition to new models of ministry. There are exciting possibilities for churches of all sizes who are ready to work with God in the new thing God is doing in our rural communities.

The Bishop of Tewkesbury, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow.