This lovely reflection was written by past pupil Rev. Jono Pierce. He is rector in St. Finnian’s Church, Cregagh
𝗥𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗼𝗿'𝘀 𝗕𝗹𝗼𝗴: 𝗖𝗵𝘂𝗿𝗰𝗵 𝗪𝗶𝘁𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗪𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘀 - 𝟮𝟵𝘁𝗵 𝗠𝗮𝘆 𝟮𝟬𝟮𝟬
I’ve been thinking a little this week about the special place teachers have in my heart and, in particular, I’ve been recognising the enormous effort our children’s teachers have been putting in during lockdown to facilitate remote learning.
During the week, an old school friend sent me a photo of a rugby team from probably 32 or 33 years ago. Can you spot the rector?? It brought to mind a very special life changing event inspired by one of my coaches, sadly taken from this world far too soon in 2007. Joe Weafer is in a tracksuit at the extreme right of the front row of the photo and a sports hall in Wilsons Hospital School is now named after him. It was an honour to know him, to be coached by him and his memory continues to inspire me.
This blog post, in large part, originally appeared as a devotional in the Church of Ireland Gazette in Spring 2019. It is reproduced here with kind permission. The Church of Ireland Gazette is not being printed during lockdown, but is available free to download and always has interesting features and interviews if you care to check it out. It is available at www.gazette.ireland.anglican.org
I wonder if you have a treasured possession? It may be a gift given to you by someone you love, or something you picked up on a special trip somewhere, or something that brings up special memories every time you see it or use it?
For as long as I can remember I have always loved sport. I’m the sort of person who loves to roar on my favourite teams on the television or, occasionally, get to some of the great arenas to watch live sporting events. How amazing to see the best in the country or the best in the world demonstrating their skill. I’m the sort who will keep an eye on my phone to get scores from fixtures or events I have an interest in, though never, of course, in church!
Given this lifelong passion for sport, it may be surprising that I always hated sports’ day in school. It was a day that always reminded me of my limitations. If there was a race with 4 people I would be the man that came in 4th and didn’t get a medal. I aspired to greatness, but never reached it and watched enviously as the cool people were invited onto the platform to collect their trophies and their medals. It was a day that I knew would never feature my achievements despite my best efforts and, having competed in every race and event possible on my last day in school in June 1988, there was no success to report as I waited for the presentations to be made and to head home for a few days before beginning my Leaving Certificate.
Then something remarkable happened as the ceremony drew to a close.
My rugby coach, the late great Joe Weafer, came onto the stage and announced he had a special presentation to make. It was a presentation of a senior school rugby jersey. He said, ‘The boy who is going to get this jersey never represented the school at the highest level. He was an unused substitute on a few occasions but, over the past 2 years, he has never missed a practice. He provided opposition for the first fifteen in this cup winning season, he’s someone that strengthened our squad by his presence,” and he called out my name to come up and receive this jersey.
Not only did I get the jersey, but the room stood up to applaud the effort and it’s a moment that I believe changed my life.
I’m incredibly proud and grateful to have gone to a school that wasn’t just about achievement and success. It was a place that celebrated effort and teamwork and community. My coach, not just on the sports’ field, but in front of my peers, told me that I mattered, that my contribution was valuable, that the team would be less if I didn’t tog out, even if I was never going to be the most skilful player on the pitch.
In a beautiful chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12, he describes the church as being like a body with many parts. Every member, in that sense, has an important part to play. There will always be the upfront people who have particular roles in music, in teaching and preaching, who hold significant offices in the church. They are all vitally important people, but so are the background people – the glebe warden who climbs up a roof to unblock a drain, the people who decorate the church with love and care on Sundays and special occasions, the Sunday school teachers who persevere with intermittent attenders and small numbers and do all in their power to pass on the faith.
I have never forgotten that special moment of being called on stage to receive my jersey. It’s something I still have in my study 30 plus years later.
Maybe as you look around your church, keep an eye out for those who do the faithful unspectacular things. At the minute, it’s those who are keeping the grounds tidy during lockdown, those getting our communications and services online, those who are prudently overseeing our finances but, in normal times, it might be those who provide the teas at funerals, those who decorate our church with flowers so beautifully or sing in the choir week by week, those who oversee the governance of the church or deliver magazines. Let’s be grateful for the caring visitors who pitch up in times of trouble with a casserole and reassure us that they will pray for us. Let’s not just say ‘thank you’ but let them know that we appreciate so much all that they do.
It’s a transformative thing when our confidence is low to be believed in, to be told that we matter and have an important role to play. No one was better than Jesus of Nazareth for spotting that potential in the most unlikely of people and enabling them to become people who would transform the world.
Looking forward to speaking again soon.
Much love to everyone,