Community boxing club puts God in the ring

A community boxing club led by a CMS pioneer has been commissioned by the Bishop of Chelmsford

Left hooks, upper cuts, southpaws and bantam weights took centre stage as the Right Rev Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, joined novice boxers, and their families and friends to celebrate the commissioning of The Good Shepherd Boxing Community as a new worshipping community within the diocese.

Chelmsford Diocese has a vision to birth 101 worshipping communities in Essex and East London over the next 10 years. One of the first wave of these alternative communities, The Good Shepherd Boxing Community, is based in Romford at the Church of the Good Shepherd. It was conceived by Dave Harrigan, an ordained pioneer minister who is currently studying for a BA in Church Mission Society’s pioneer mission leadership programme. Four years after its launch the club has now become a hub for people in the local community to learn to box and get fit, as well as a place where they can have fun, build relationships and encounter God, many for the first time.

Harrigan explained that the Good Shepherd is more than just a boxing club. He said, “Through prayer and friendships something changed. People we didn’t know started coming, they were sharing life and interests, inspiring and encouraging one another.” The first few sessions were only attended by a small number of people but slowly word got around and membership grew. Harrigan continued, “We went from being a Thursday boxing session to a community of people who look out for each other.”

The Good Shepherd’s vision is to bring boxing and spirituality together. Harrigan explained, “We have explored many different styles of worship from curry on Maundy Thursday to evening prayer inside the boxing ring. The group extends beyond boxing to living and sharing and conversations about faith and life.”

Jon Wood, who hadn’t boxed for 15 years before joining, reiterated this aspect. He said: “There’s a diverse group of people that come these sessions, but unlike any other gym there’s a spiritual side. Whether or not you’re a believer the philosophical debate and spiritual exploration add a wonderful dimension to the experience.” Connor Boot, 22, said: “The first time I came it was overwhelming but for sure it’s made me more interested in Christianity and want to get more involved. It’s way more than just a boxing club. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Eden Black echoed others’ comments and said the club was a welcoming environment that has the community and wellbeing at its core. He said: “Each class is underpinned by the church’s values and isn’t preachy at all. In a world where being busy has reduced our ability to focus on what should be important in life, this class is a reminder that taking time out to nourish the body and soul can do wonders.”  

Published 1 October 2019
Europe, Middle East and North Africa

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