blog | 31.03.18
What began as a desire to witness at his cricket club has led to more than 30 years of sports mission for Bryan Hewett.
Seeking to share the gospel at Hagley CC, Bryan organised a church service to mark the club’s 150th anniversary in 1984. Not sure how to proceed, he heard of Christians in Sport for the first time when pioneer and tennis commentator Gerald Williams was interviewed on the radio and Bryan got in touch with him at the BBC. This ‘God-incidence’, as Bryan calls it, proved the catalyst for a new Christians in Sport work in the West Midlands where Bryan has lived all his life. A lifelong sportsman, Bryan joined Hagley CC, near Stourbridge, as a player coach in 1976. Alongside the club in the grounds of Hagley Hall is St John’s Church, which prompted Bryan to suggest a service as part of their anniversary celebrations.
Although a committed Christian, he had no real idea what to do next. “I went away thinking ‘Oh my, what have I done?’” Later on, he prayed: “I want to be a good witness at this club. Will you help me?” The answer came via the radio programme and a letter to Gerald Williams, who he asked to speak at the service. “I’m not your man, but Andrew Wingfield Digby is,” was Gerald’s reply. Andrew, who had recently become Christians in Sport’s first Director, accepted the offer. Having warned Andrew that despite his efforts, there may only be 10 from the club alongside the usual small congregation, Bryan’s pessimism was unfounded. “We walked out and amazingly, there were about 70 people, mostly from the cricket club. Andrew preached the gospel and it was a great occasion. People still talk about it after all this time. Afterwards, Andrew said ‘What you’ve done Bryan is what we want to do at Christians in Sport. Why don’t you come and join us?’”
A few months later, the first Christians in Sport meeting in the West Midlands took place at Selly Oak Elim Church in Birmingham. “From that moment, for 24 years we had a Christians in Sport prayer meeting once a month at that church.” From here, Christian sportspeople from across the West Midlands got involved, including cricketers Jane Powell, Ron Headley and Mark Frost and footballer Peter Hart. The group would often visit local churches, showing them how they could get involved in sports ministry.
A first West Midlands evangelistic dinner followed in 1985 where Gerald Williams shared the gospel with 120 sportspeople at Hagley Hall. A year later, it was 250 people in Birmingham’s Grand Hotel. “There were Aston Villa, West Brom and Birmingham City players as well as those from amateur clubs and other sports.” Bryan was introduced to the late Coventry and England footballer Cyrille Regis, who went on to give his life to Christ, while new Christian golfer Alison Nicholas joined the group.
“Over the years, these dinners were so wonderful spiritually. We had several people, who came to the Lord through them.” Bryan and the team then continued the work more locally “We tried to encourage people to do things themselves.” A Stourbridge Golf Club dinner saw 85 of the 93 seats filled by those investigating Christian faith, while St Matthew’s Church, Walsall hosted a Christians in Sport Songs of Praise service.
As a young teenager, Bryan had been encouraged to use his passion for sport for God’s glory. “From that moment in time, God put in me a spirit of evangelism, which is still here today.” Trusting God, he saw how he and other Christian sportspeople had so many opportunities to share the gospel. “For a sportsperson, to come into contact with a Christian who has that same love and respect of sport, that is a fantastic way of witnessing. It sticks in people’s minds.”
Now 84, nothing has changed for Bryan, who is still playing golf at Ombersley GC and looking to represent Jesus there. “It’s a super environment to witness in because you’re with people for three and a half or four hours during a round.” Bryan remained good friends with Cyrille Regis until his death in January and is still a regular at gatherings for current footballers in the West Midlands.
City of York Athletic Club, St Thomas’ Church, York
Main photo of Hagley Cricket Club (C) John Garghan.
Christians in Sport is a UK based charity that aims to reach the world of sport for Christ. We mainly work with sportspeople in competitive and elite sport.
Registered Charity England and Wales 1086570.
Registered Charity Scotland SCO45299.
Company number: 4146081
Photos (c) Shutterstock unless specified