A vicar's view: Take chances in life and stand out from the crowd
PUBLISHED: 16:24 03 March 2017 | UPDATED: 16:24 03 March 2017
So, here's the thing. I'm the vicar of a church in Norwich and have been for four years now. Most of the congregation are avid Canary fans. Many of them are season ticket holders and can be heard muttering words like "scrimmage" and "yell-low" on a fairly regular basis.
I had no choice over my town of birth so please do not hold against me the fact that I was born in Felixstowe. In Suffolk. Yes, the town not only just down the road from Felix’ foot but just down the road from (pregnant pause) – Ipswich.
There, I’ve said it.
Nor did I really have any say over the fact that the first match I ever saw was Ipswich against Manchester United on Saturday, February 17, 1972.
Like so many lads at the time all the Man United players were my heroes – Best, Charlton, Law, etc – but would you believe it – Ipswich won that match 4–1!
The dye was cast, my future made certain.
No more fickle following for me.
I can still name the whole Ipswich team that won the match and won my heart that day, impressionable eight-year-old that I was!
It’s not easy being blue in a sea of yellow.
But I’m a man of grace and peace and I live amongst a people of grace and peace, love and forgiveness, people that welcome in the stranger and give the poor wanderer shelter.
Steven Downes (that well known reporter with Archant and Norwich City aficionado) and I even laid our East Anglian differences aside a few years back to travel to India to work together on a short-term mission.
Evidence that faith really does transcend all barriers, differences and boundaries! NB – He has much less hair these days.
But a remarkable thing has happened.
And by confessing this I may never get back into Suffolk again.
I have recently been to a number of NCFC matches – and really enjoyed them!
I think it started as a conspiracy.
The St Thomas congregation plotted my downfall as they took advantage of the fact that a lad is staying with my wife and me at the moment who loves football, eats, sleeps and breathes football, and “out of the kindness of their hearts” week after week these “friends” at church have been offering me their season tickets so I can take him along.
Initially I was hesitant.
Would my comrades south of the border ever speak to me again? Would I be able to look myself in the mirror? Or ever sleep again? Or would my guilty conscience keep me up, sweating, and pacing the floor?
I reassured myself with the thought that I may never have to cheer, or be exposed by being the only person still seated as the rest of Carrow Road erupts in euphoria.
But that wasn’t to be. We’ve been four times in 2017 and we’ve watched them score 12 goals. At first I clapped politely.
But by the Notts Forest game (and what a game!)
I was jumping out of my seat, throwing my arms in the air and shouting myself hoarse! I know people who would have paid good money to see that.
As I write this the cheering is over from derby day. The result is known. The match stats speak for themselves, as does the score.
Fortunately I was saved the problem of attending by attending church instead!
And please don’t ask me who I was cheering for. I’m not allowed to fib. So let’s just agree that football was the winner!
In a world where there is far too much division, and fear of the “other” seems to dominate, let us celebrate our differences and enjoy this game that we call life.
Jesus taught us that what mattered most was love – loving God and loving our neighbour, a love that he demonstrated by dying on the cross for all humanity, whether his supporters or not.
He was asked who our neighbours are and he replied with the story about the Samaratian who cared for the Jew, at much risk to himself, even though he was an outsider, a stranger, and would have been thought of as the enemy in many ways. It’s like a Norwich supporter risking much to help someone who follows the Blues.
So why not take a chance and stand out from the crowd for the sake of the least and the lost, the refugee and the homeless. Come on you…………
Ian Dyble is vicar at St Thomas’ church in Norwich @STNChurch