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30 July 2013

Carolyn Skinner, sports and clubbing chaplain

Carolyn Skinner has been director of Third Space Ministries for three years. She is a sports and gym chaplain, has been a chaplain for a number of emerging bands and served at the Winter 2010 Paralympics in Canada and the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Carolyn loves tennis, sport and flip-flops. She likes nothing better than to put on her dancing shoes. She writes this from the white isle of Ibiza.
So you are in Ibiza? Are you just living it up on holiday?
I wish! I'm here with 24-7 Ibiza on mission to the holidaymakers and workers on this party island. Third Space Ministries brings a team out here most summers. I have just led a two-week team and am now here for a further four weeks working with the longer-term team.
The clubbing scene; isn’t it a dark place?
There is darkness but that can be found in most areas of society. God created music and dancing and fun – much has been distorted but it's our belief that God can redeem our culture. There is hope. The clubbing scene attracts people who are feeling empty and looking for fulfilment, the spiritually hungry, so it is a great opportunity to point people to God.
Had any wow moments recently?
It's amazing to see God answer prayer. Often what happens on the Ibiza streets at night correlates to what has been prayed in the prayer room. We sat with someone last week for about 2.5 hours. He began almost non-responsive and couldn't even tell us his name, let alone his hotel. After prayer he supernaturally sobered up and became alert, able to walk, and told us his name, hotel, room number, friends’ names and worked out how to get back. We often see God intervene in awesome ways.
Do you do the same back in London as part of Club Angels?
Club Angels is different. In Ibiza our ministry is more on the streets than the clubs. In London, Club Angels is about serving inside the clubs to listen, care, chat, help and pray.
How does clubbing relate to sports chaplaincy in your job?
The world of clubbing and sport are both leisure industries. They are both 'third spaces', both places where people think they are going to have it all but end up looking for greater meaning. Third spaces are spaces in society where people go outside of home and work to relax or make friends: gyms, coffee shops, bars, clubs, retail, sports entertainment and leisure industry. They look quite glossy on the surface but beneath that there is a lot of spiritual hunger and we just share God’s love.
What is your inspiration?
In Romans 4:8 it says it's God's kindness that leads us to repentance. John 10:10; that Jesus came to give life in all its fullness, and John 1:14 the Word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood. All of these verses sum up what we are trying to do and why.
Who's your favourite sports person?
I think David Weir is amazing; to be so gifted at a variety of disciplines is incredible. In fact all the Paralympians are some of the most inspiring people to meet.
What is unique about sports chaplaincy?
Sports chaplaincy gives the opportunity to draw alongside athletes and be a neutral person for them to offload to, to support and encourage them. The issues they face can relate to injury, homesickness, success, failure, fear of the future, identity.
How can we share Jesus with our culture in our third spaces?
Simply begin being intentional. At a basic level choose a cafe to visit regularly, pray before you go, make a point of chatting to the staff, ask God to show you what He sees, and then give it time and see what happens.

We can be relevant by meeting people in their space, living life alongside them and yet distinctive by allowing Jesus to simply shine through us, loving people who are not used to being loved, listening to them when everyone else is too busy, and going the extra mile. Often the simplest things have the greatest impact.
Who inspires you?
Anyone who is willing to live dangerously and see mission as part of everyday life, people who pursue God relentlessly and are simply obedient.
What is your vision?
I would love to see more people embracing the daily opportunities around them in the third spaces they find themselves in. The best way to keep asking yourself if you are making a difference is to ask the question: 'would this community grieve if we ceased to be here?'

More about outreach in third spaces and Carolyn's work.

For more articles and stories on the Olympics please go to our special Olympics webpage