We’re often being told that football is the national, if not global religion. Well here’s an interesting twist. In Saturday’s Telegraph there was a big splurge about the foreign take over of the English FA – with now 60% in the 20 Premier League teams ineligible to play for England (see the table, right, from the Saturday Telegraph). I don’t have a particular problem with that – i couldn’t really care less about football if the truth be known.
But what did strike me is the fact that 65 nationalities are represented.That’s a pretty telling indicator of the extent globalised football and a reflection of the multi-cultural nature of modern Britain. But that’s not what really got me going. It was that, at the last count, our church, All Souls Langham Place also had 65 nationalities represented in the congregation. I don’t say this to boast – not least because i can take no credit for that whatsoever (only God can anyway and also because it is a fact of All Souls life that long predates our appearance). It is simply the reality – and an astonishing one at that (after all most people seem to swallow either the myth of the dying English church or that Christianity is just a western religion or, perversely enough, BOTH). It’s perhaps the first thing you notice at an All Souls service: a rainbow of people. Which is PRECISELY what the Church SHOULD be like: a global community of believers, because that is what it IS. Now there are all kinds of reasons why All Souls is like this – but the simplest and most significant is that London is a melting pot of nationalities already. So you could never expect a church in South Uist or Eastern Uganda to have 65 nationalities it.
But none of that dampens the remarkable fact that they all come, most of them regularly, and that it is a real joy to be mixing together. The England squad selectors are perhaps understandably stressed by this variety as it limits the experience available to fresh English footballing talent. But when it comes to church, it’s great. Bring it on!