Ruth is sports minister at Norwich church
A Norwich church has appointed former basketball player, Ruth Graveling, as its new sports minister to help people develop their love of sport, alongside a faith in God. Helen Baldry reports.
Having gained experience in youth work and sports coaching, Ruth, aged 33, has returned to her Norfolk roots into full-time sports ministry at St Thomas’ church in Norwich.
Ruth grew up in Cromer, she has always been sporty and played basketball to a high level. “I wanted to make it big in sport,” she said. “I wanted to make it to the Olympics or to play for my country. When I didn’t get that far I thought ‘what should I do?’”
What Ruth did was explore her appetite for Christian ministry by taking a year out in Coventry with Youth For Christ as a basketball worker.
Her first task was to set up a youth Alpha course, to which she invited a few local teenagers. After they had left, she discovered her wallet and keys had been stolen. She said: “That was one of the first times in my life when I didn’t know what to do. So I went back to God and spent time in prayer. I learnt through that and other experiences to trust in God."
Ruth discovered she had a knack for connecting people through sport and telling them about Jesus. She went on to become a sports minister in Gloucestershire working with disengaged young people.
She said: “They weren’t interested in Jesus at all but were massively sporty.”
Ruth found that a shared love of sport enabled her to talk to people about God. During this time she saw many lives transformed – several of the young people became Christians and many became qualified sports coaches.
Now back in Norfolk, working for St Thomas’ Church in Norwich, Ruth is at the helm of The Sports Factory, a church project which runs regular sporting activities, holiday clubs and coaching academies.
Ruth has already made progress; over 450 people attended a rugby world cup event, 12 people have started their academy training and over 40 children attended the first half term holiday club.
Pictured above is Ruth Graveling, new sports minister at St Thomas Norwich.