Church spends £12m on boxing club to spread faith and help youngsters avoid knife crime

Five-a-side football, running groups, netball and after-school and holiday sports groups will also benefit from CofE funding. The £12million cash injection is aimed at spreading the Christian faith and showing youngsters that church is not “just pews and hymns”. At King’s Boxing, in south-east London, up to 30 vulnerable youngsters are coached by a professional boxer, and ex-offenders talk to them about their experiences in a bid to steer them away from a life of crime. 

The club, run from Anerley Town Hall, had been funded by donations and came out of work the Rev Matthew Fitter has done with ex-offenders. He said: “We came up with boxing as it helps give people a discipline, focus and purpose, and helps get them off the street. 

“This is different from other boxing clubs because, for the last 10 minutes, we have a Christian focus. It’s a slow process, it’s not a quick fix to the knife crime epidemic.” 

Another beneficiary is the sports ministry at St Thomas’s church in Norwich. Leader Tim Henery said: “A lot of young people see the church as just pews and hymns – not something that relates to them.

“Through sport they realise there are people who come to church and are like them. 

“Sports ministry is helping us to reach people and transform their view of the church.” 

St Thomas’s the Rev Ian Dyble said the project employs five “sports ministers” who go into schools, colleges and the city to encourage people to take part in sporting activities. 

He said: “Christianity should not be about religion. At its core, it’s about relationships, loving God and your neighbour. People are genuinely interested in that. 

“If we can put people on a different course using sport, that is what we will do.” 

justin welby
Mr Welby said the sports programme reaches beyond institutional borders (Image: PA)

The £12million strategic development funding is a key part of the church’s Renewal and Reform programme. 

Other projects include a network of new churches meeting in venues such as community centres, cafés and a former pub in Cornwall. 

Social action projects to receive support will include a food bank, work to help homeless people, lunch clubs and toddler groups. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: “These projects are moving the heart of our mission to where it should be, beyond the ­borders of the institutional church.” 

Image credit: PA

Written by: Tony Whitefield

First published 04.08.19:

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