PITCH AND PULPIT ... rugby-playing vicar Tom Brown gets a real kick out of the game

PITCH AND PULPIT ... rugby-playing vicar Tom Brown gets a real kick out of the game

By David Beddows | 04/01/2021

PITCH AND PULPIT ...  rugby-playing vicar Tom Brown gets a real kick out of the game

MUD, sweat and tries are as much a part of a typical weekend as Sunday services for rugby playing vicar Tom Brown.


The 34-year-old curate casts off the robes and pulls on his Wath RUFC kit to tackle a hobby that's far removed from his work at St Thomas' Church at Kilnhurst.


Tom, a scrum-half, has played rugby since he was at university and has been part of the Wath set-up for two-and-a-half years.


“I have a real passion for rugby and the physicality of it. There's a whole lot of stuff that comes together to make it brilliant,” he says.


“It gets you out of the bubble of being surrounded by church stuff and one thing we are supposed as vicars is to get out there into the real world with real people.


“God has given us amazing things like bodies and sport. A natural part of being a Christian for me is using my body in a way that pushes it to the limit.”


Tom is not the stereotypical rugby player and when he tells people about his “day” job,  there are quizzical looks.


“Some people just can't compute it,” he explains. “They ask 'what are you doing playing rugby?'


“You get a load of stick for it and a lot of banter but that's fun.


“As you get to know people it becomes a pretty normal thing. I'm just a follower of Jesus who plays rugby and that's great.”


An assistant vicar of St Thomas', Tom is coming to the end of a three-year apprenticeship to become a fully fledged cleric. He previously worked in business before doing a Theology degree at university.


Although he doesn't consciously set out to “convert” any of his team-mates to his faith, he is on hand to provide guidance and support, particularly in what has been such a difficult year.


“It's like any type of relationship. Once you get to know people you start talking about other things,” he says.


“You start to get alongside people and build genuine relationships and try and be a good mate to people. If you peel back some of those layers there is a whole load of stuff we've going on beneath the surface that we want to find answers to and to find ways of wrestling through life.


“I've sat in Costa and talked to guys about marriages that are breaking down and mates that have had some hard times through Covid. It has been a real privilege to experience real life on the ground.


“The things you naturally love just bubble over and for me the good news about Jesus just bubbles over in an appropriate way and hopefully that's brilliant news for the rugby guys, just like it is for the pensioner that lives down the road from me. 


“I'm not there to do a 'project' and have them as my targets. There are just guys I want to be a good mate to.


“With me being a southerner and being here not knowing anybody, the rugby club has just been a nice place to get to know a whole load of people and we have become mates quickly.”


A married father of two, Tom isn't the only one at Wath Rugby Club with religious connections.


Ben Keen, who plays for the first team, works for Rotherham Evangelical Church.


“We get along quite nicely,” says Tom. “We also used to pray together before games and ask the Lord to help us to play hard and not cheat and know where the line is, all those sorts of things.”


All being well, 2021 will enable Tom to combine his church work with a full quota of rugby matches, which hasn't been the case for much of the year.


“It's good playing scrum-half,” he smiles. “I don't have to do any tackling. It's my job to tell the others what to do. I think it's the best position on the pitch, I love it.”