Cricket in a church?
February 28, 2018
There is a church that has been around the city of Hawthorn in Melbourne's eastern suburbs for 131 years.
The stain-glass windows are vivid in colour, with murals embedded in them of Bible stories.
The brick walls are a dim white, and there is a large wooden cross staring into the middle of the church.
And in the middle of the church itself, is a cricket pitch.
Pete Horsford is the youth pastor at St. Columbs Anglican Church, and the founder of St Columbs’ Premier League, an indoor cricket competition.
The church had been relatively unused for the better part of its 131-year history, being designed as a Sunday school, before becoming an Indonesian church.
But with it recently suffering from a lack of use, Pete decided the best course of action was to integrate cricket into their small community.
“When I saw this space, automatically I realised, ‘well, you can have a great game of cricket in here’,” Pete said.
“We have old pews as grandstands around the place, some fake stain-glass windows, and we have DRS.”
The league has grown rapidly since its incarnation, with five nights a week hosting T20 games, three games or so a night, and 30 to 40 teams participating.
Games are streamed on Facebook Live, there is an in-depth DRS system, in which they film the games and put them into a software system that is used in golf.
Founded in 2010, Pete established the league partly in response to the suggestion that Melbourne wasn’t a safe place for those of Indian descent, following a number of attacks on students in Melbourne’s Indian community.
“The church wanted to create a space that was welcoming, and safe, and engaging,” said Pete.
The league has quickly become somewhere that is incredibly inclusive and diverse.
There are many different cultures embedded into the church through the league, and the community has grown since the league’s foundation, creating a strong connection between cricket and church.
“It makes me feel great to be a part of what’s happened here,” said Pete, with a smile.
“There’s a sense in which people are really discovering the joy in belonging to a group.
“Turning up each week, seeing the same people, it seems to be something that’s a really valuable thing for people to actually give their time to something.”
“They don’t need to be rewarded for it, it’s actually in the serving, that their reward is.”