My cup overrunneth
Team spirit and episcopal ambition.
The Bishop of Wolverhampton’s pastoral letter for September 2018
As summer draws to a close, so does another cricket season, and especially poignantly for the members of the Diocesan Cricket team. For we have come to the end of an era, one filled with unprecedented success and golden memories.
It was on the day of my announcement as the new Bishop of Wolverhampton, back in 2007, that I was asked by our then Director of Communications, Gavin Drake, what I most wanted to achieve in my new role. I unaccountably went off message and failed to speak of doubling the size of every congregation by 2020. What I actually said was that I wanted to win the Church Times Cup with Lichfield!
Four years later the dream became a reality as we held the trophy aloft, triumphing over Bath and Wells in our first ever appearance in the 60 year history of the competition. Joy unbounded! And joy shared with the large number of supporters from different parts of the Diocese who had got up ridiculously early to make the journey to London.
That has been our only victory, though we have made the final on four subsequent occasions. We have often come tantalisingly close but in recent years the muscular and far more youthful London team have just prevailed.
This year it was Bristol who ended our dream in the semi-final, a match which saw two of our key players depart to pastures new, one of whom was of course Bishop Mark Rylands. Responsible for many wonderful innings over the years, Bishop Mark was also both the most congenial but also the most competitive player I have played with! And he found the temptation to use clergy cricket as a recruiting mechanism for the Shrewsbury Episcopal Area quite irresistible.
Our dressing room has always been a crucible of diversity, with not only every tradition within the Church of England represented, but also ministers from other denominations enriching the mix. None more so than our late, great, skipper, Jeff Reynolds, from whose peerless banter there was no escape, and who managed to combine the sober responsibilities of being a Methodist Superintendent with playing in a soft rock band. His royalties from CD sales helped him buy his round.
Unforgettable Anglicans include Peter Hart, ex professional footballer, whose batting style owes more to baseball than to the MCC coaching manual, but whose mighty blows have scattered both sheep and spectators over the years, and Phil Searle, the narrowboat dweller with the thunderous laugh and uncomplicated approach.
Our dressing room has been a place where we have tried, not always successfully, to treat triumph and disaster just the same. It has been a place of support, encouragement and friendship, and on occasions, good disagreement. A place where theological differences can be aired and respected, without bats disappearing though windows. On a good day, in the aftermath of a good win, where everyone has been able to contribute, it has felt a special privilege to be part of that Body, diverse but unified, joyful, if rather sweaty. As one in our sense of purpose, but fully aware that for each of us, there is a greater goal, a higher purpose, even than winning the Church Times Cup. How special it is to share that bond with one another, and with all those who have faithfully supported us over the years.