Churches across England made the unprecedented move of altering or truncating their usual Sunday worship services to witness a historic moment – the Women’s World Cup final clash between England’s Lionesses and Spain.
While the decision raised some eyebrows, it received the blessing of the Bishop of Derby, Right Rev Libby Lane, who also serves as the church’s spokesperson on sports-related matters.
One such congregation that embraced this novel approach was St. Luke’s Church in Bournemouth. The church’s vicar, Rev Michael Smith, articulated the decision as a way of fostering a stronger connection with the local community. He pointed out that often, churches are imposing structures that might seem closed off to ordinary individuals during much of the week. By screening the highly anticipated football match, St. Luke’s aimed to change this perception and open its doors to a diverse audience.
Rev Smith emphasized the importance of community engagement, noting, “We want to do more things where we can share the space with the community. And I think we have to adapt and change a bit to recognize that we do need to do that and reach out more to the community.” This step underscores a broader shift in the church’s approach – acknowledging the need to be inclusive and accessible beyond traditional worship hours.
Amidst the Women’s World Cup final, social media platforms buzzed with heartfelt tributes for the Lionesses, despite their unfortunate 1-0 loss to Spain. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Rev Justin Welby, took to Twitter to express his admiration for the team’s resilience and sportsmanship. He conveyed, “Commiserations @Lionesses, World Cup 2023 Finalists. We know you gave it everything. We admire your talent, grit, and determination. And congratulations to Spain, who played with such dedication to the end.” The Archbishop of York also wished the lionesses the best in his post.
The very best of luck to the @Lionesses as they play in this historic World Cup final today.
You've made the country proud, and we'll all be cheering you on.
May God be with you!
— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) August 20, 2023
A tremendous achievement already for both sides, who are playing in their first women’s world cup finals.
— Archbishop of York (@CottrellStephen) August 20, 2023
Joining the chorus of voices celebrating the Lionesses’ efforts, the Archbishop of York, Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, also utilized social media to share his thoughts. He extended his heartfelt commiserations to the Lionesses and acknowledged their immense achievement in reaching the World Cup final – a feat that hadn’t been accomplished by an England football team since 1966. He congratulated Spain for their victory, acknowledging their dedication throughout the tournament.
These reactions from the Church of England’s prominent figures not only underscore the broader societal significance of the Women’s World Cup but also highlight the evolving role of religious institutions in contemporary culture.