As worshippers gathered in the sanctuary on Aug. 17, 2014, they noticed tall, strong young men sitting in the pews holding onto their football helmets.
That Sunday, more than 70 athletes from three area high schools were present for “Blessing of the Helmets Sunday” for the upcoming football season. The Rev. Mark Flynn, senior pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, happily blessed the helmets.
East Hamilton High School coach and Christ Church member Ted Gatewood came up with the idea two years ago when Flynn prayed for students and blessed backpacks as the new school year began.
In addition to blessing the helmets, Flynn practiced with the players on the field. This was part of his “extreme devotion challenge,” in which people encouraged him to do unusual things like hang gliding, being a rodeo clown and doing drills with the high school football players.
Several of the football players are church members, who also enjoy coffee, donuts and conversation on Sundays. “They are thrilled to eat,” said Flynn. He also said that University of Tennessee football players were invited for “Blessing of the Helmets Sunday,” and many showed up.
As Flynn prays for the players, the congregation supports the young men and the gifts they bring to the team and the school. “This is a wonderful example of how it takes everyone to contribute to the greater good,” said Flynn. “God is with us all.” The church plans to continue “Blessing of the Helmets Sunday.”
AT A GLANCE Christ United Methodist Church | 8645 E. Brainerd Road, Chattanooga, TN 37421 | 423-892-9363 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.christchurchchatt.org | Rev. Mark Flynn, senior pastor | Average Attendance: 1,667 | Holston Conference
Originally published in Interpreter magazine, July-August 2015.