My family were Baptists and I remember attending Sunday school and church from an early age.
Don’t confuse the American Baptists with the Australians; they are different in many respects.
One of the rules impressed upon us as kids was, ‘no dancing’ because it could lead to unhealthy relationships – well, this rule lasted until I was 17 I think, when I was working and started going out.
Sunday is a day of rest
Another rule we learnt was, ‘no sport or work on Sundays’ and this is where I’m headed today.
You see, my brother and I (he was 15 months younger) played Rugby League on weekends and Rugby Union at school and we both made representative teams.
In 1960, we were both selected in Sydney’s Northern Zone primary schoolboys under six stone (38kg), Rugby Union team.
We played three games at wet and muddy suburban grounds before lunch, winning them all, and then went to North Sydney Oval, my all-time favourite ground, for the final in the afternoon.
We won 9-nil in the mud and became NSW Zone Champions – I still have a triangular pennant presented to each player after the games.
Saturday and Sunday games
In high school, we had a choice of either game but on the weekends, we played in the same team, union in the morning and league in the afternoon.
It wasn’t long before both of us were selected into the North Sydney Junior Rugby League representative teams and the Eastwood Junior Rugby Union zone teams.
The union teams played on Saturday afternoons but the league teams played on Sunday and this again is where my article is headed – our Sunday school teachers, Christian Endeavour and youth group leaders said we had to give up playing on Sunday, it wasn’t allowed.
Well, as early teenagers, footie was the ‘be all and end all’ of our lives and we played right through the season only to find we were frowned upon whenever we attended any of our church activities.
We were even shunned on a number of occasions.
In 1963, I became a shift worker for the NSW Government Railways, just like my dad, and I had to work on Sundays – again I was told by some ministry leaders it was wrong to work on Sundays.
We were told things like, “The devil has his hands on you,” and “You will never go to heaven if you play sport on Sunday.”
No-one seemed to care
Over time, our treatment at church and at church-related activities turned us away – we simply stopped attending and what hurt most was no-one approached us as to why.
It didn’t concern me about working on Sunday as I realised my day off during the week was my ‘rest’ day but I was so concerned about the sporting aspect I actually gave up playing in any Sunday games in 1964 (but resumed the following year).
This was a long time ago and what massive changes have taken place.
Sunday is now probably the biggest sporting day of the week, all year around and almost every sport has a Sunday schedule.
Having been a Sunday school teacher for over 20 years and involved in several church-based youth activities for about 40 years now, I’ve evenseen a few modern daychurch leaders take a dim view on Sunday sport.
Kids, teenagers and adults, both male and female, will take part in sport on Sundays no matter what the church may say so those who object are facing a losing battle.
A change of attitude may be the way to go – instead of condemning those who take part in sport on Sunday, how about supporting them? Look for a way of ministering to these people, not shun them.
How much better it would be if selected people attended the games on Sunday where ‘church’ kids, teenagers or adults were playing. Support them, help or even coach, ensuring the door to their church-related activities wasn’t closed and in fact they were welcomed.
Sunday might be a ‘write-off’ for those in sport but there are alternatives.
How about pulling those kids into Boys/Girls brigade, mid-week small groups, perhaps even Sunday night youth services?
Something like this may have kept my brother and I involved in church, instead we both spent years in ‘the wilderness’ before recommitting our lives much later.
By-the-way, my brother went on to play Rugby League at the highest level while I broke my femur and later played only in lower grades.
John Skinner is a retired journalist who has written ten biographies on famous campdrafting competitors. He was an Australian infantry soldier wounded in Vietnam, served six years as a Police Officer, was CEO of the then Australian Rough Riders Assn (Pro-Rodeo based in Warwick, Qld). He and his wife Marion retired to a small farm 25km south of Warwick 20 years ago. They have three children and now seven grandchildren.