Six Bethune-Cookman football players stood on the altar steps at Palm Coast United Methodist Church behind the children’s choir, Joysong, Sunday, Aug. 26, and attempted to sing along and perform the hand motions to Audio Adrenaline’s song, “Big House.”
When children sang the words, “It’s a big, big yard, where we can play football,” everyone pretended to throw a ball, and they jumped with their arms pointed high screaming, "Touchdown!” These were motions, it seemed, that the athletes could follow.
The entire Bethune-Cookman University football team and the cheerleaders attended the contemporary service at PCUMC on Sunday for Football Sunday, a concept that new pastor Kevin James hopes becomes tradition.
“The day is to show that there are Biblical passages that deal with the athletic arena and can speak to our everyday faith walk,” James said.
It is something James has been sharing with local churches throughout his ministry and is designed to align with the beginning of the football season.
“I always contend that God watches all the football games; he has the best seat in the house,” James said. “And what better way to have a user-friendly, different style of worship and coming to worship than Football Sunday.”
Members of the congregation were invited to participate by wearing a jersey or shirt representing their favorite pro, collegiate or local team. James saw this as an opportunity for members of their worship community to connect with people who support the same teams or even come from the same state.
The visit from Bethune-Cookman was special for James because he is an alumnus of the school and has also served at the team’s chaplain. For the football team, this is not an isolated event. They have visited more than 40 churches, but it was their first stop at PCUMC.
“So many young men need to learn where their source of strength comes from,” said coach Brian Jenkins. “I try to introduce our players to different churches and different people in the community to get them to understand it doesn’t matter where you’re from, or who you’re around — praising God is all the same.”
Bethune-Cookman is a Methodist school, so there is also a connection with the Methodist Church as a whole.
“Bethune-Cookman is a church itself, and this is part of our mission,” said Athletics Director Lynn Thompson. “The opportunity for our young people to share, to witness and to be a part of a church service like this furthers the relationship of the school, but it also cements in them what their real mission in life is. This was indeed a great opportunity for us. Anytime we can expose our young people to spiritual upbringing and development, then we’ve done a good job.”