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Minnesota bishop makes Christmas Eve football game opportunity for evangelism

 


Minnesota bishop makes Christmas Eve football game opportunity for evangelism

Dec. 22, 2004     

by Victoria Rebeck*
 
Mention Dec. 24, and people in Minnesota and Wisconsin will think of a major event. But they may not be thinking of Christmas Eve.
 
The National Football League’s Minnesota Vikings will battle their rivals, the Green Bay Packers, for the Northern Division Championship at 2 p.m. on Dec. 24. This has stirred up significant conflict among the Minnesota faithful—those faithful to both Christ and their beloved Vikes.
  Some Christians have denounced the National Football League for scheduling a football game on a significant church holiday. The controversy drew front-page news coverage. However, Bishop Sally Dyck of the United Methodist Church in Minnesota saw the game as a golden opportunity.
 
“As soon as I took the office of bishop in Minnesota on Sept. 1 of this year, I heard complaints about the Christmas Eve Vikings game,” she said. “I realized that, at that point, nothing could really be done to change the scheduling. But I began to think that this could actually be an opportunity rather than a liability.”
 
Instead of chiming in with the grumblers, Bishop Dyck is encouraging Minnesota United Methodists to join her and her husband, the Rev. Ken Ehrman, in Christmas caroling to Vikings fans as they enter Minneapolis’s Metrodome stadium on Christmas Eve.
 
“This is a great opportunity for us to share the good news of the joy and light of Christmas,” she said. “This is a message that can be meaningful to everyone.”
 
At least 20 Minnesota United Methodists have already given advance notice of their intention to carol. Many more are expected to show up that day. The carolers will meet at noon on Christmas Eve at the new light-rail commuter train station across from the Metrodome, put on buttons to wish passersby a Merry Christmas from the people of the United Methodist Church and grab buckets of candy canes to distribute to the fans. Depending on the temperature—which promises to be in the single digits—the carolers will wander the area and sing for up to two hours.
 
After hearing many objections from church people about the game, reporters across Minnesota were fascinated with Dyck’s positive approach and featured it in
follow-up coverage to their initial stories on the complaints.
 
Bishop Dyck began her service in Minnesota by establishing reaching the unchurched as a priority. She told Minnesota United Methodists that she planned to be “the bishop of the ‘nones’”—those who check “none” on surveys that ask religious preference. The Christmas caroling event is one of the first steps she is taking to nurture a culture of hospitality and welcome among Minnesota United Methodists.
 
“This is not a protest but an opportunity to share something we value,” she said. “What better place than downtown intersections, where thousands of people will be walking?”
 
 *Rebeck is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference.

News media contact: Linda Green or Tim Tanton, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

 

 

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