The Marathon and the Church

Below is a word from Rev. Alex Shea Will who is our Associate Conference Minister for the Metropolitan Boston Association of the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ.  

This piece draws wonderful parallels between the recent Boston Marathon and the role and potential of the church in our society today.  Enjoy!

–Rev. Dominic

Good People:  Full disclosure: I do not like running.

do, however, love exercising, working out, and playing sports.  But running is merely something I do in order to do those other things.  While I may have been bitten by the “running bug” a bit during the start of the pandemic, when gyms were closed and we were stuck inside, you will not catch me running a 5k, let alone a marathon. 

Yet, year after year, I’m struck by the beauty of the Boston Marathon.

As an athlete, I know that the Marathon is an incredible testament to the power and resiliency of the human body.  I’m in awe of what these athletes – amateur and professional – put their bodies through to cross that finish line after 26 grueling miles.

But what really touches my heart every year, more than the physical aspect of the race, is the way in which the marathon gives us a glimpse of the Beloved Community that the Church can and should be.

Where else but the Marathon will tens of thousands of people, line the streets for miles and miles, to cheer on thousands of strangers?  No one asks about their gender, sexual orientation, race, or political affiliation.  It doesn’t matter that some are dressed in the most expensive running gear money can buy, while others are dressed in the silliest costumes you’ve ever seen.  From mile 1 to the finish line in Copley Square, tens of thousands of people stand out all day to encourage one another.  “Look how far you’ve come!” they scream.  “You’re doing amazing – keep going!” they shout.  “Here, drink this!” they say while handing out Gatorade.  People of all ages and physical abilities are encouraging, supporting, and helping one another, quite literally, run the race.

What if our congregations embodied the spirit of the Marathon?  How would we look, and function if we metaphorically (and maybe sometimes literally) lined the streets of our neighbors’ lives to cheer them on?

May our churches be places in which all people can come to find hope and tangible support for the race of life and faith.

With love and thanks,
Alex (Rev. Alex Shea Will)
Area Conference Minister
Northeast Region (Metropolitan Boston and Northeast Associations), SNCUCC