Revised August 2017
During the London Olympic Games of 2012 the Methodist Church in Britain was active in building outreach and service opportunities. This in turn inspired StF+ to look at our heritage of hymns with a ‘sporting’ theme.
Methodist hymn writer Andrew Pratt wrote his hymn The witnesses are watching (website only) at the time of the 2004 Games in Athens. With words that draw on the meditation on lives of faith in Hebrews 11, Andrew’s hymn reflects Olympic and Paralympic ideals as well as the image of the ‘Christian race’. His words include the fruitful idea of Christ as ‘pace setter’.
In 2012, Andrew wrote a more overtly Olympic-themed hymn, Lift high the banner of these games (website only). It looks beyond the arenas of competition to the values that underpin the modern Olympic ideals and to the challenges of countries and communties living side by side in peace and with justice.
At the same time, Dominic Grant wrote A prize that won’t perish (website only) in time for the Olympic Torch to pass through East Sussex, where Dominic was then ministering. Recalling that “the Games of the ancients / caused battles to cease, / as messengers summoned / each city in peace”, Dominic speaks of a “relay of peace”. He closes his hymn with the prayer: “Lord, make of our witness a light that endures.” Dominic draws upon a range of biblical texts, from the letters of St Paul to the writings of the ancient prophets, Isaiah and Habakkuk.
Also see (and listen to) Paul Thompson’s song for children, Got a race to run (website only), with its “upbeat rockabilly boogie” tune!
Other hymns in Singing the Faith
As well as hymns on this website, a number of hymns in Singing the Faith itself draw on images of athletic endeavour (from Hebrews 11 and elsewhere). (Remember, if you click on the links, below you will find that each hymn post includes the kind of notes that we hope to add to every hymn on this website.)
The head that once was crowned with thorns (StF 312) sings of the pursuit of glory through endeavour and suffering. The image of Jesus’ “crown of thorns” offers a striking contrast to the Olympian laurel wreath.
Jesus, all for Jesus (StF 555) by Northern Irish songwriter Robin Mark, in collaboration with Jennifer Atkinson. Their words pick up on the theme of ambition and hope that underpins all athletics competitions. Very simply, the song says that, by surrendering our “ambitions, hopes and plans” into Jesus’ hands, we will experience the freedom that derives from God’s love and grace.
Take my life and let it be (StF 566). Here is a text that embraces our physicality and the very great potential of our bodies. In verse 2, for example, we pray:
Take my hands, and let them move
at the impulse of thy love;
take my feet, and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee.
What other hymns are appropriate for worship reflection around sporting events? If you have suggestions, do get in touch by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.