St Hildeburgh’s Church is to be turned into a golf course as this year’s Open takes place in Hoylake. This unique project will be staged in the “golfers’ church,” which borders the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, where the world’s top players will compete for the famous Claret Jug at the Open in July.
The nine-hole course takes the form of a ‘prayer labyrinth’ – complete with greens, water, rain and wind – with the message that good golf can link with a good life. The labyrinth will represent a spiritual journey based on themes familiar in both golf and life, such as Fear of Failure, Patience and Achievement. Actual golf incidents will feature on the church’s audio-visual screen.
The vicar at St Hildeburgh’s, Rev Paul Rossiter, said: “We decided to set up the prayer labyrinth to coincide with the Open because in golf you face many challenges and, as Christians, we also face challenges. Golf is accessible and engaging and so is prayer. Both involve self-discovery – you find out a lot about yourself and your true feelings.”
Rev Paul explained: “At similar events, people have been surprised at their own self-discovery – their thoughts and realisations. Some might need sympathetic counselling to help them to think things through. Support for them will be available.”
St Hildeburgh’s has been the golfers’ church since Royal Liverpool members paid for the great east window to commemorate fellow-players who lost their lives in World War I. Plaques honouring the club’s fallen in both world wars are displayed in the building. The church also has a back door, installed in 1916, which shortens the walk to the golf course. Many leading golfers are committee Christians and those taking part in this year’s Open are expected to take advantage of the church’s proximity to hold a private Bible study meeting there.
The prayer labyrinth has the support of the Royal Liverpool Golf Club. Alistair Beggs, the captain, said: “The club applauds the parish of Hoylake for marking the playing of the Open Championship over the Hoylake links with an imaginative initiative at the parish church. The game of golf and life have so much in common.”
The prayer labyrinth will be open to everyone from 10am-4pm every day from Monday, July 14, to Sunday, July 20. Some services will be cancelled but the main 10am Sunday services will not be affected.
More details about the labyrinth are on www.sthildeburgh.org
HOW IT WORKS.
People entering the church will be greeted by a floral display in a specially-made golf bag. At the prayer labyrinth, they will be given a booklet suggesting ways to approach the theme of each hole. They will take a yellow practice ball and walk the fairways to the first four greens unburdening various negative emotions, reflecting on their lives, with the aim of developing a sense of forgiveness. They will drop the practice ball into the fifth hole, discarding negative thoughts along with it, and pick up a white match ball which they will carry along the final four fairways, focusing on four points at which Christ may have touched their lives. There are no ‘right answers’. Each person will have different thoughts and experiences.
HOW IT LINKS WITH GOLF
Actual golf incidents will feature on the church’s audio-visual screen to illustrate the labyrinth’s themes. Among them…
Anger and Frustration is typified by Doug Sanders taking a two-foot putt at St Andrew’s to win the 1970 Open – and missing. Friendship is evoked by memories of the 1969 Ryder Cup, when the entire competition depended on the match between Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin. On the 17th Jacklin drew level with a 35-foot putt then, at the 18th, Nicklaus controversially conceded Jacklin’s putt, ensuring that the match ended in a tie.
HOW THEY CREATED IT
The prayer labyrinth has been a year in the planning and nine months in the making, engaging a team of 30 members of the congregation on design, hours of stitching by a team of six, devising the booklet, floral decoration, IT, publicity and other skills. The labyrinth, occupying the main body of the church, will include a sand bunker, water, and fairways made from huge panels of fabric – 200 sections in all. It will be assembled on Sunday, July 13.
HOW ST HILDEBURGH’S IS GROWING
Church attendances are said to be falling but that is not the case at St Hildeburgh’s, where the congregation is increasing and more than 100 people now worship every Sunday (well over 200 at Easter). This continues the rising trend at St Hildeburgh’s over the past year months. Major events such as a flower festival and a Christmas tree festival are held regularly, luncheon clubs for the elderly attract scores of people, several social and discussion groups meet, and support is offered to all comers through a lifts-to-church service and in many other ways.
HOW TO GET THERE
St Hildeburgh’s, the Church of England parish church of Hoylake, Wirral, is at the junction of The King’s Gap and Stanley Road, opposite the Green Lodge inn, postcode CH47 1HL. Frequent transport services stop within a few minutes’ walk of the church – bus to Hoylake Town Hall and train to Hoylake station. Timetables are on www.merseytravel.gov.uk