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Introducing The Supporters’ Chaplain

The Board of the Supporters’ Trust was delighted recently to approve the appointment of a Supporters’ Chaplain and to invite her to join the Board. She is Debra Phillips, and here she introduces herself…

Amongst the obvious passions in my life I have two which sometimes goes hand in hand – My passion for football and my passion for faith and Church.

My Uncle first took me to an Accrington Stanley match in the mid 1970s at the age of ten. Things were quite different back then as you can imagine. No internet and on matchdays in the winter months often saw me having to go to the phone box to ring the ground to see if the match was on! However, later in life when I got married and started a family things changed as sometimes they do when you get involved in your children’s activities. Both my children started swimming lessons at a local swimming club, where I started training as a swimming instructor. Unfortunately for my hobby of football I missed out as I taught swimming on a Saturday afternoon.

Years later and after missing Accrington Stanley getting back into the Football League I decided that the time had come for me to retire from teaching swimming and saw me back at the Crown Ground as it was known then. I always missed the camaraderie of Saturday afternoons and knew that once I came back I would not leave this time.

Which moves me on to my other passion:

I am a Local Preacher in the Methodist Church in the West Pennine Moors Circuit which includes the areas of Accrington, Haslingden, Oswaldtwistle, Darwen and Blackburn.  I lead worship in churches within this area and sometimes have ventured out of Lancashire as a result of being invited to lead special services. Last year I had the honour of leading a Thanksgiving service of a life of a lady from our church in which I liased with the family. It was such a humbling occasion.

Before lockdown I felt called that my faith could run alongside my love of football. I have made many friends who sometimes unload their burdens (usually at half-time), feeling the need to talk to someone who wouldn’t judge how they were feeling and what decisions they were faced with. I feel that I’ve leant a sympathetic ear, sometimes just listening and not saying anything – just being there for them. 

This also has happened on the away travel on the coach. I’m sure you agree that we live in a community in Accrington where people are hurting and many times going to football/Accrington Stanley is their only means of escape from the stress and pressure that can be felt in many people’s lives. We only have to think about our beloved Billy Kee and all the mental health issues he has been faced with. I think football especially is doing a great job publicising this –  the charity MIND is a prominent charity in my heart.

As we are emerging from lockdown and hopefully will once again be able to come together at our family-friendly Club it is envisaged for me to be working alongside and being supported by Sports Chaplaincy UK as well as my home church of Antley Methodist Church in Accrington.

I will have responsibility of the Memorial Garden, liaising with relatives and hope to give some comforting words to them. This is where I will be found on match days between 2 – 2.30pm before I mingle around the ground. If you see me please stop and have a chat – UP THE REDS!

Debra Phillips

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