Time and again I have read that we live in times where people are not prepared to make commitments. We have lost our ‘social capital’ we are told; ties of community have broken down; no-one is prepared to take on voluntary roles. I wonder.
I was studying in Bristol during the past week. The course, which included the ethics of genetic selection and abortion, was fairly heavy going.
On Tuesday evening I decided to take a break from the books and to walk from the college where I was staying to watch Bristol Rovers playing a football match. This plan was greeted with hoots of derision from one of the students I told. He could not understand why anyone would ever watch Bristol Rovers. He thought my plan to walk three miles to the ground was plain eccentric.
I did feel he had a point, Bristol Rovers are not the best football team in the world; in fact they are near the bottom of the English Football League.
I set out in good time; it was a pleasant evening for a walk if nothing else.
After about half an hour of walking I became conscious that the streets were increasingly filled with parked cars and the pavements filled with people moving in the same direction. It was still a mile to the ground but there were throngs of people in blue and white quartered shirts.
On reaching the ground there was a great buzz around the place, the public address system played music to which supporters sang club songs.
This was a League Two match – the fourth tier of football in England – and it was a Tuesday evening and there were five thousand people inside this ground. The cheapest admission price was £14; the programme was £2.50; many people had bought refreshments and large numbers of them were wearing the club shirt for that season.
This was not a match that counted for anything. It was just one of the forty-six league matches Bristol Rovers would play this season. It would not feature on any news report; it would not mean anything to anyone apart from the people there.
Five thousand people went to the Memorial Ground, Bristol to watch their side draw 1-1 with Oxford United. It was not cheap or easy; it demanded effort, time and money.
If you think that people don’t make commitments anymore, go to Rovers on a Tuesday night. Maybe even the Church could learn a thing or two about what real commitment means.