Ravens faithful praying that God is on their side

Religion and sports is a natural combination, clergy say.

Ethics & Values

January 14, 2001|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,Sun Staff

No doubt, a whole lot of praying is going on in area churches and synagogues this weekend. And a lot of it probably sounds something like this: "Please, please, please, God, let the Ravens win!"

And that, area clergy say, is OK.

St. Mary of the Assumption in Govans even acknowledges the inevitable with this sign outside the church: "Let's meet at my house before the game -- God."

Sports and religion do mix. In fact, many clergy recognize, sports is a religion for some people -- especially now.

"It's one of the few things in the community that everyone can feel good about," says Rabbi Mark Loeb of Beth El Congregation on Park Heights Ave.

Loeb, speaking of team sports in general, says pulling for a team is something that crosses "generations, religions, races, social classes, everything." There are precious few other things that all in a community can agree on, he says.

"It gives them a feeling of commonality," he says. Today, "you can buy your $5 ticket and sit in PSINet Stadium and if -- God willing -- they win, it gives you a feeling of pride and triumph."

Rabbi Loeb didn't plan on using any Ravens or sports metaphors in addressing his congregation this weekend. "But sure," he says, "I have on occasion."

Dr. Frank M. Reid III, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, won't be preaching this morning. But he did have a timely theme for last week's services. His three sermons that day were collectively titled "Play to Win," says Marlaa Reid, media director for the Baltimore church.

"The 7 a.m. service was 'Think Like a Winner.' The 9 a.m. was 'I Will Win,' and the 11 a.m. was 'The Winning Process.'

"We said, 'He's thinking about the Ravens!' "

Indeed he was. At one point during services, the pastor asked his church members who they believed would win the Jan. 7 game against the Tennessee Titans.

"We all answered 'The Ravens!' " Marlaa Reid says. And, of course, their faith in the team was rewarded. "We had a spiritually and athletically successful day," she says.

Using sports as a spiritual and religious metaphor "is a very legitimate thing to do," says Dr. Paul Gillespie, interim pastor at University Baptist Church on North Charles St.

For instance, he says, one can focus on how sometimes when things are not initially going well, they can turn around. "The Ravens," he points out, "did that a few months ago."

"I've heard a number of preachers use sports" while sermonizing, says the Rev. Daniel Meck of St. David's Church on Roland Avenue.

"There are goals that you are trying to achieve, and you can't do it alone on a team sport," he says. "And you can't live your life as a Christian alone. You are one [of many], and although there are differences, you are in a community."

Father Meck says he may not use any sports metaphors in the pulpit today, but he will be discussing the gospel story of how Jesus turned water into wine and "how that was a sign of better things to come."

Surely at least a few in his congregation will be looking for such a sign -- and hoping for another miracle -- this afternoon in Oakland.

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