Stories

Wingers returns to the crease

Date posted: 13/06/17

cricket

 

With England hosting both the ICC Champions Trophy and the Women’s World Cup this summer, cricket is at the forefront of the nation’s sporting calendar. As you enjoy some great action, here’s an article looking at the past, present and future our cricket ministry.

Former Director Andrew Wingfield Digby (Wingers) is now back on board as a volunteer, spearheading our outreach to the world of professional cricket. Here he describes how that work has grown over the years.

ANCIENT HISTORY

If you have only got involved in Christians in Sport in recent years you may find it hard to imagine what it was like in 1984 when I became the first full-time employee and therefore the Director. We had been a registered charity for four years and I had worked there one day a week as well as being a local church minister building up contacts and creating a mailing list since 1980. Whenever possible I had played a few games of Minor Counties cricket for Dorset each year which at least kept me in touch with the game. I was fortunate that almost all my teammates from the Combined Universities side I played in from 1975 to 1977 were by then county professionals.
 

Andrew Wingfield Digby


Wingers features in a 1977 Christians in Sport prayer letter (above) and pictured in his early days with us (below)

Setting up an office in Oxford, employing a secretary, trekking around the country speaking in churches and at evangelistic events for sportspeople, and following up rumours of ‘so and so’ becoming a Christian was how I spent my time. In the summer cricket became the centre of my attention and I managed 50,000 miles one year I recall.

Andrew Wingfield DigbyThere were a handful of Christians playing county cricket, some of whom came on tour with me to India. My dear friend and fellow sports ministry pioneer Rev Robin Paul hosted our visits and on the first trip we played a full India side four times in charity matches on Test grounds – we came second. Our guest Indian player was a young Paul Moses – now the leader of Sports Ministry in India. Tours to Zimbabwe and South Africa, including several professional players, followed. They had a big impact on all of us who went and on the countries we visited, with many hearing the gospel as a result.

CHAPLAINCY

I kept playing Minor County Cricket and captained the Dorset team with unexpected success from 1988-91. By then I was 41 and certainly past my best and the World Student Games at which I led a chaplaincy team was a good excuse to retire from playing for Dorset.

No sooner had I done so than I received a phone call came from Ted Dexter, the England cricket director, inviting me to become spiritual adviser to the team.

Andrew Wingfield DigbyFor 10 years, I had the privilege of access to the team both at home and on tour. I could bore you with numerous stories! I am not sure I achieved a great deal in one sense, but God used the publicity to open more doors for the work of Christians in Sport.

I returned to Parish life with St Andrew’s Church, Oxford in 2002 and it was a great joy to see how Christians in Sport under the leadership of Graham Daniels and Keith Proctor has grown far beyond what I would have ever managed to do.

Despite the tremendous progress, things have gone quiet in cricket in the last few years. Ex-Leicestershire professional Nick Ferraby, now a Staff Worker in Jersey, did a good job keeping in contact with the handful of players whom we knew to be following Jesus. But with central contracts and T20 cricket going on all the year round, attempts to get another tour together never quite came off.

 SO WHAT NOW?

I have retired from parish work and am now getting alongside and encouraging the players of my era now coaching county teams (quite a few actually) and also meeting up with those we hear are Christians. Of course, I would love to put another tour together, but we shall see. Several of the counties now have chaplains who are part of Sports Chaplaincy UK and I shall be working closely with them whenever possible. I value your prayers as I reconnect with old friends and make new ones, praying that God will build His Kingdom in the world of cricket.


PRAY

For Andrew’s work and that God would open many doors to the gospel in the world of professional cricket. You can contact him at andrew.wd@christiansinsport.org.uk

 


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Andrew Wingfield Digby

Andrew Wingfield Digby, Swinbrook Cricket Club
Andrew plays for Swinbrook Cricket Club and is a volunteer for Christians in Sport. He is a member of St John the Baptist Church, Burford