Fusing Physical Activity and Faith

Fusing Physical Activity and Faith

Brent Bradford, PhD

Associate Professor, Faculty of Education
Concordia University of Edmonton

Published in the Canadian Journal for Scholarship and the Christian Faith (journal.ccscf.org) on 2 October 2019

Welcome to the CJSCF’s Special Issue that will be examining the relationship between wellness-related topics and the Christian faith. For as long as I can remember, physical activity, and often times as a result, physical recovery, have been an important facet of my life. In my youth, I spent countless hours in hockey arenas throughout BC’s Kootenay region and northwest USA developing my hockey and team skills with my childhood buddies. These early experiences led me to continue to play organized competitive sports such as hockey, baseball, and soccer throughout my school years and into early adulthood and, with reduced competiveness, into my 30s and 40s. It was during those formal learning years spent practicing, competing, reflecting, recovering, celebrating, etc. that afforded me incalculable opportunities to develop knowledge, skills, and attributes related to discipline, sportsmanship, resilience, and one of my most cherished (but, often times challenging) characteristics – competitiveness.

That said, one constant has endured as a primary element in my life. This constant has been my faith in God. It was during my formal learning years in elementary school that I became a servant to God. And to this day I continue to dedicate myself to living out His plan through physical activity and sport with their accompanying threads of spiritual, physical, social, and emotional development.

Competing with Teammates
National Champion University of Alberta Golden Bears, 1999

Jogging along a Beautiful Nature Trail with my Son (Kane, 3 Years Old), 2016

Engaging in Service. As part of my faculty-related service, I choose to serve on the Canadian Centre for Scholarship and the Christian Faith Executive Committee. As a component of this committee work, I wanted to help establish a section in the Canadian Journal for Scholarship and the Christian Faith that focuses on the relationship between wellness-related topics and the Christian faith. This led to the initial step of organizing this Special Issue. Over the past several months, I have been surprised by the richness of focus this topic continues to receive around the world. It is, for example, exciting to see the work that has continued through Athletes in Action (see Table 1). Further, I had no idea there was a group of scholars engaged in the Christian Society for Kinesiology, Leisure, and Sport Studies (see Table 1). This new contact has led me to become a member, to prepare a presentation for an upcoming conference, and to collaborate with scholars interested in exploring the relationship between wellness-related topics and the Christian faith.

In addition to these organizations, I was introduced to scholars such as Dr. Brian Bolt (Professor, Calvin University), author of Sport Faith Life (see Table 1). Dr. Bolt is interested in sharing the “love of sport and how it intersects with Christian faith in our everyday lives” (see Table 1). I look forward to reading Dr. Bolt’s book in the near future. Further, while working on this Special Issue, I was introduced to outstanding work and messages from the contributing authors: Louise McEwan; Dr. Diane Wiese-Bjornstal; Dr. Colin Pennington; Lacie Webb; and Dr. Marc Apkarian. It was through this guest editorial process that I was encouraged to reflect on my own life experiences and how faith in Him has remained a constant. As you read through the articles, I invite you to reflect on the importance of faith, in whatever form it resides within you, and how it connects to your daily life.

Table 1: Related Resources

Name Information Website
Athletes in Action … is committed to using the language of sport to communicate the most powerful message of all: God’s passionate love for His children. Through the integration of faith, life, and sport, AiA aims to see athletes engage with the Christian faith athletesinaction.ca
Christian Society for Kinesiology, Leisure, and Sport Studies … is an international community of Christian scholars and professionals committed to excellence in kinesiology, leisure, and sport through faith-integration, professional development, mentoring, and fellowship cskls.org
Sport Faith Life (2018)

·  Calvin College Press

… sport is part of a truly abundant human life that Jesus Christ offers for those who love to play

… God’s world includes the myth-like space where sport resides, where we celebrate our humanness, our desire to be excellent, and our need to belong

… sport at its best points us toward a future of play and delight


Special Issue (2019).
First, I would like to extend a big appreciation to the peer reviewers who volunteered their time throughout the review process. Beginning with a Special Column, invited contributor Louise McEwan, a former elementary school teacher, catechist, and freelance religion columnist, explains how physical activity can be viewed as an aide to our spiritual journey. Sharing her story about communicating with the ‘walking monk’, Louise lends thought to how physical activity is a gift from God and is part of His plan for human thriving. Dr. Diane Wiese-Bjornstal, a professor and certified mental performance consultant, introduces a religiosity-adapted version of the integrated model of psychological response to the sport injury and rehabilitation process as a conceptual framework for research concerning religiosity within sport injury prevention and care. Dr. Wiese-Bjornstal raises the issue that although the role of religiosity seems to be largely positive in preserving and promoting athlete health and well-being, future research might examine potentially negative aspects of religiosity relative to sport injuries. Dr. Colin Pennington, a scholar interested in teacher socialization and physical education teacher training, shares how physical educators are afforded opportunities to meet goals beyond physical- and health-related objectives, including positive moral socialization. As part of his work, Dr. Pennington offers a brief review of Muscular Christianity along with historical origins of church-based physical education. Lacie Webb, a physical therapist passionate in medical mission trips, and Dr. Pennington offer their insights into research exploring the intersectionality between faith, spirituality, and physical recovery. As part of their message related to preventative medicine, Lacie and Colin point to research stating that patient religious and spiritual practices and beliefs become powerful factors in coping with serious illnesses, making ethical treatment choices and end-of-life care decisions. Dr. Marc Apkarian, an Associate Professor involved in both youth and adult ministry opportunities at church, discusses attributes and characteristics of physical fitness and how each aligns to a figurative counterpart in the Christian faith. Marc extends his message through a number of examples in which strength, endurance, and flexibility are depicted throughout books of the Old and New Testaments.

As stated, the intention with this Special Issue is to provide opportunities for readers to reflect on the relationship between their own wellness practices (e.g., physical activity, physical recovery) and their faith. And, it is hoped future contributions to CJSCF will include a local, national, and international flavour while raising global-level queries and broadening horizons of thought possibilities related to wellness and the Christian faith. I extend an invitation for all readers to become CJSCF contributors. As a member of the Canadian Centre for Scholarship and the Christian Faith Executive Committee, I invite you to explore your understanding of the relationships that can exist between wellness-related topics and the Christian faith.