In spring 2021, many British people were starting to plan what they might do once the third national Covid-19 lockdown was done.

It was then that a group of Christian friends in Truro had an idea. They resolved that at the first opportunity they were going to start playing football together once a week. They expected their physical and mental health would gain much-needed benefits from it.

It started with just five of them, but over the months their group began to grow. And grow.

Falmouth Packet: Truro's friendliest kickabout in full swingTruro's friendliest kickabout in full swing (Image: Truro Diocese)

Two years on, there are now more than 40 of them. They hire the football ground at Truro School every Tuesday evening for their games.

They range widely in ages, backgrounds and footballing skills.

“Some are Christian, some aren’t,” explains founding member Joff Phipps. “They come from different walks of life. Some are looking to find friendship, some to get fit, some to support their mental health.

“We were trying to be different from other football groups. You could join us and find a warm welcome – and no judgment – however good or bad you were. It’s a friendly and inclusive space. We call it Truro’s friendliest kickabout.”

“We’ve tried to create a space where people can come, whatever their ability, and feel really welcome,” adds the kickabout’s co-founder, Robin Mitchell.

Within a few months, they had people coming from as far afield as Wadebridge, St Austell and Falmouth.

Falmouth Packet: Joff PhippsJoff Phipps (Image: Truro Diocese)

It’s a Christian group but Joff emphasizes that it offers a subtly different ethos from some other such gatherings.

“Many people wouldn’t know it’s a Christian thing,” Joff says. “The intention isn’t to get people into church but to introduce them to the ways of the kingdom of God through how we treat each other.”

It also presents a different approach from other amateur football groups.

“One guy said to me recently that it’s so nice not to be sworn at every other minute on the pitch,” Joff explains. “We’re about supporting each other, about cheering each other on.”

This Truro football group is one of various activities – including work with aspiring musicians, poets and creative artists – that Joff is engaged in as part of the Transforming Mission initiative in Cornwall. For Josh, it’s about finding forms of Christian mission which can best help to transform people’s lives.

“We want to create spaces for community flourishing and places to get to know local people,” he says. “It’s about transforming relationships. It’s about love for the place where you are.

“We’re focused on creating Christian community. We believe this community is about invitation to a relationship with Jesus, as well as the spiritual transformation of self to become like Jesus – which includes a transformation of culture to embody the love of God.

“Because we don’t have a church building, we’ve had to be a bit more creative in how we do things. If you step into places of the greatest deprivation, you’re more likely to find Jesus than at a church pew.”