Christians, Jews Link Arms in Prayer Before High School Soccer Game

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As members of the Boston Trinity Academy varsity girls soccer team were traveling to a playoff game earlier this week, their coach asked them a question:

Want to pray with the girls of the other team before the game?

The other team was Gann Academy, a Jewish school in Waltham. The game was taking place Tuesday, October 30, three days after a mass-shooting during a morning Shabbat service at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh that killed 11 Jews.

The Boston Trinity girls agreed, so their coach, Shelby Haras, asked the coach of Gann Academy, who asked the captain of her team.

“I remember looking up, and all the girls and coaches are interlocking arms in the center circle,” said Lisa Brooker, athletic director at Boston Trinity, who didn’t know about it beforehand.

At least one player from each team took turns praying. A girl from Boston Trinity punctuated her prayer with “in Jesus’s name.” A girl from Gann Academy offered a prayer in Hebrew and then translated it into English.

“They were praying and recognizing each other’s faith,” Brooker said. “… That was not just sportsmanship. It was genuine love and kindness between faiths.”

The unusual encounter was amplified by the high-stakes elimination game that was about to follow. Boston Trinity had beaten Gann Academy early in the regular season, but this game was a semifinal for the Independent Girls Conference tournament, with the right to play for the championship on the line.

(As it happened, Gann Academy scored early and late in the game, winning 2-0.)

But for a brief period the game was forgotten.

“It wasn’t a long moment, but it was so meaningful,” said Jerrold Katz, interim head of school at Gann Academy, who spoke with several of the players from his school about it. “One of the players said, ‘When I stop playing soccer sometime in the future, I’m always going to remember this.’ It just gave me chills.”

Boston Trinity Academy is a Christian school in Hyde Park founded in 2002 that has about 250 boys and girls in grades 6 through 12.

Frank Guerra, the headmaster, said Boston Trinity emphasizes to its students the importance of hospitality, which he said the impromptu prayer gathering exemplifies.

“Very few things over my years here at the school have made me prouder,” Guerra said. “… That kind of initiative and hospitality and reaching out to people when they’re hurting makes me extraordinarily proud.”

Gann Academy is a Jewish school in Waltham founded in 1997 that has about 280 boys and girls in grades 9 through 12.

Katz reflected on a radio story he heard recently in which a rabbi said that Jews in the United States are finding solidarity after the Pittsburgh shooting not just from other Jews, but also from members of other faiths.

“That doesn’t happen all the time and it doesn’t happen everywhere,” Katz said. “And here was an unbelievably poignant moment of it on the soccer field at Gann Academy.”