Posted March 4, 2016

Players and prayers: Championing spirituality on the ice

Being called to the church happens to hundreds of thousands of people every year.

For many, that call leads to seminary school.

"What they do with that seminary degree varies... for some a partnership between religion and sports is on the agenda," said Connor Williams, a second-year student at Wesley Theological Seminary in D.C. "We forget that they're people and I really want to work with these 'people' because they have families, stress...have all these burdens of anyone who travels a lot and is away from their families."

At the top of the sports fan's list is hockey. The same is true for lifelong Caps fan, Jeff Dwyer.

Dwyer is chaplain for the Washington Capitals and helps players, like the injured Jay Beagle, worship while managing life with a sports team.

"It's a way to have a 30 minute chapel program and refocus on what really matters," Beagle explained.

Jeff's day job is Pastor of Indian Head Baptist Church. He's been a chaplain with Hockey Ministries International for seven years.

"You can do that in a lot of different places why with hockey teams?" That's where God has put my heart, it's where God has opened the doors for me to minister to them," said Beagle.

That is where Connor may find his calling too.

"It's more about what individual is struggling with spiritually and mentally that you want to work with rather than oh I'm gonna pray for 30 goals this season."

'Beags' is practicing on his own these days as he preps for a return from injury in about two weeks.

"In sports, there's a lot of injury so it definitely tests your faith, that's for sure."

Connor's favorite bible verse, Philippians 3:13 plays into sports injury... or any life struggle for that matter.

"No matter what has happened in your past, it doesn't dictate your future.. and to always constantly be striving for Christ," Connor recites.

Many DMV college and professional teams have chaplain programs including the Terps, Wizards and Redskins.

Posted February 18, 2016

Looking ‘Upwards’ for inspiration

Sports program focuses on athlete, spirituality

POINT PLEASANT — A unique children’s sports program is winding down its season after winding up the athletic, and spiritual, growth of its players.
The Upward Sports Basketball and Cheer program at Trinity UM Church’s Christian Community Center is finishing up its fourth successful season with around 110 kids participating.

Nathan Fowler, who has led the program since its start, said there are 10 basketball teams and three cheer teams in the league that hosts games every Saturday for kids in kindergarten through eighth grade. These children are also led by a volunteer army of around 30 coaches.
Fowler said a few years ago he went to a conference in Toledo, Ohio, to find out more about the program that incorporates a Christian, spiritual element to the game.

He said one of the pivotal moments for him was hearing Upward Sports Founder Caz McCaslin speak, telling those in attendance this was a race to the heart of a child and the first one there won, and got to teach that child about God.

At the conference, Fowler said he also learned there are a lot of people who will walk through a gymnasium door sooner than they will a church’s door. In this way, the program can bridge the connection between a Higher Power and sports.

Upward Sports was established in 1995 as the world’s largest Christian youth sports provider. Upward Sports is the only organization that offers the 360 Progression, a uniquely designed total sports experience that adapts and expands as players grow in their personal athletic journeys. The 360 Progression develops total athletes mentally, athletically, spiritually and socially — producing players who excel both on and off the field.

Today, approximately half a million players at more than 2,000 churches in 47 states participate in camps, clinics, and leagues through Upward Sports’ Recreation Division.

The practices at Upward Sports are also unique in that players break for prayer, devotionals and a spiritual lesson at halfcourt. This practice in spirituality is carried over to the games at halftime as well. Players are also given matching wrist bands to know which player on the opposite team is their player to guard — this avoids ganging up on one person and keeping the spirit of fairness and sportsmanship alive where everyone gets an opportunity to play.
In addition, Upward Sports at Trinity Church also holds basketball camps in the summer.

Fowler said when Trinity Church was building the community center, the church members knew this program was something they wanted to be part of the facility. So far, the community agrees.

Some information for this article found at

Posted February 17, 2016

Shared spirituality is the quilted fabric of the sports community
By Dave Frederick

Free exercise - That was not a sonic boom you detected this weekend, it was me attending two Catholic masses over three days, the first to honor the memory of Jack Hearn and the next to send Tommy Coveleski back home. The community of people and shared spirituality, I’m all about it, regardless of the religion or if it occurs at a fire hall where they hand you a beer while you wait in line to pay respects to the family. It made me think of the quilted fabric of our great community and the place of the public school, with all its First Amendment freedoms and protections. The trick is that in public schools, you can teach religion without preaching religion; it would certainly make a good nine-week class for the upper grades. How can you teach sociology and avoid a discussion of religion? If I were captain of a sports team, I’d have an optional Sunday service get-together (followed by a breakfast) at a different church in the district every Sunday as a way of connecting to the Cape community. The school or coach could not be involved in organizing or encouraging (violates the establishment clause) but he or she would have the right to attend because of the free exercise clause. None of this will ever happen, but it’s fun to talk about.

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