Chapter 5.  Deacon, Priest, & Master

It was the week before Christmas of 1909 when Kenneth Hunt realised the first of his career ambitions. It was then that he was ordained as Deacon by the Bishop of London. He was permitted to officiate at Anglican religious ceremonies in any parish within the capital city, if the incumbent had given his permission. It was almost two years before Kenneth became a fully qualified priest by taking his final vows in London. By this time he had already been employed at Highgate School for almost three years, and he was to spend the next three and a half decades teaching and counselling generations of boys at that institution. Hunt's strong involvement in football did not wane once he had been ordained. He even found ways of combining these consuming passions of his life; his faith and football. In early 1912, whilst on the playing staff of Leyton Orient F.C., Kenneth Hunt preached to a congregation of footballers at a service held in St. Luke's Church in Hanley, organised by the then Stoke City chairman, the Reverend A.E. Hurst. The service was an annual event and it is probable that Hunt had been especially invited to give the sermon because of his current popularity and fame. In his address Hunt drew a clever comparison between the temptations of good and evil, and "two agents from rival (football) clubs". The sermon is interesting for two reasons. Firstly, it gives some indication of his own understanding of the appeal of football, and the qualities needed to perform well in the game. In discerning the "strong and weak points of each man's game", Hunt cited the criteria of "... his pluck, his keenness, his perseverance, his love of applause and popularity, his self-indulgence".

Kenneth Hunt as priest and footballer, 1912.

Perhaps it is significant that he failed to mention anything that was related to talent or skill, and chose only to emphasise the more 'physical' attributes of the sport, which he himself was well known for. It suggests what his priorities would have been when identifying desirable qualities in his ideal footballer.

The second point of interest in the sermon is found in the reference he made to the "wages" being offered by the rival "managers", (i.e. God and the Devil). The wages for playing for the former "manager" was "eternal life", compared with the "wages of sin" being" death". The question of what constituted 'adequate' wages for British professional footballers had been contentious since the advent of professionalism in the mid 1880s. By making reference to this, Hunt showed a clever use of topicality, but what is even more significant is that Kenneth Hunt himself was never paid for football performances.

Unlike the vast majority of his fellow players, he did not have to rely on wages from a Club to maintain a home and family. Cynics might have cautioned him to steer clear of reference to wages, due to its controversial nature and the fact that Hunt himself would not have had a first hand understanding of their significance. There is a danger that he could have been accused of patronising other players in his Congregation, who did not have his education nor middle class upbringing. However, this is very unlikely to have been Hunt's motives, when his personality and consideration for others is taken into account. What is a more acceptable, charitable and likely view of his choice of metaphors is his ability to preach effectively to a congregation by reference to issues that they would be able to readily relate to and understand. Hunt never held a 'living' in an Anglican parish as his father had done, but he was the Chaplain of Highgate for many years and seemed to have taken a pride in his preaching ability. He returned to Wolverhampton on several occasions between the wars to preach to the young men of the town, and when evacuated to Westward Ho! at the outbreak of the Second World War, he became a 'visiting preacher' to the churches of that town. Even when he retired to Heathfield in 1945, he could still be found on a Sunday giving a sermon at one of the neighbouring churches. Kenneth Hunt believed passionately in the message of Christianity, and he thought little of those who were not willing to find new and interesting ways of conveying its meaning. After being addressed by a 'cricketing' parson in the Chapel at Highgate one Sunday evening, one of Hunt's fellow masters commented, "That was a jolly good sermon he preached tonight". "Oh?", replied Hunt, unimpressed, "not half so good as his other one!".

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