Revd Canon Karen Hutchinson - vicar of The Bourne and Tilford
A boxing club is an unusual activity to find in a Surrey church, but in the Bourne parish, Farnham Boxing Club is thriving as it approaches its first anniversary.
One of our church buildings is a community hall set in an area of Farnham that few people know about, where there is a concentration of social housing, single-parent families and those on welfare benefits. The church congregation that meets on a Sunday morning is very elderly, and so for some time we had been praying and seeking opportunities to connect with the younger members of the community.
A ‘chance’ conversation with Rikke, the local school caretaker (a qualified boxing coach) revealed his dream of establishing a local boxing club, and as a church we have done everything possible to make this possible. Members of our PCC raised just over £10,000 for initial equipment by approaching local organisations, and the club opened in April 2015, using the church hall free of charge on Saturday mornings.
One year later, the club has over 100 registered members and holds seven sessions a week. A mixture of male and female boxers attends the club, across the age groups.
"One year later, the club has over 100 registered members and holds seven sessions a week. ... The feedback from our members and parents of children who attend has been tremendous."
Rikke’s wife, Alice, who carries out much of the administration for the club, says:
"‘We train children from the age of 5 and currently our eldest member is in his 60s, with lots in between. Our training sessions are proving their worth and we have already started to enter boxers into competitions.
"The feedback from our members and parents of children who attend has been tremendous. From weight loss, a visible growth in confidence, 'a new lease of life', right through to helping a member who previously struggled with drug abuse.
"The club means so many things to so many people. We have families who come along to train together and it’s endearing to see brothers and sisters, who we are told bicker at home, supporting and guiding each other. We have parents and their children who choose to train alongside each other."
As well as benefiting the health and wellbeing of members of the local community, the club is also helping the church to make and strengthen relationships. Some of the boxing families come to church services and events, and there is a growing sense of partnership.
It has been a real joy to see where God is at work in this community. By listening to God and looking out for the opportunities, we have been able to engage with our local community in a really positive and constructive way.
"The club is also helping the church to make and strengthen relationships. Some of the boxing families come to church services and events, and there is a growing sense of partnership."
Now our challenge is fitting it all in! The hall has little storage for all the equipment that is needed, and is in need of updating its facilities. So we are currently fundraising to extend the hall in order to give the Boxing Club more space, more of the time. That’s far from straightforward, but if this really is of God (and I believe it is) then a way will be found.
The club has an open morning on Saturday 2 April, 10am–2pm and welcomes all visitors. See www.farnhamboxing.com for details.