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SUPER BOWL: Packers’ chaplain a ‘resource’ for players in spiritual need

ARLINGTON, Texas (BP)–Green Bay Packers chaplain Troy Murphy was born in Hawaii, loves warm weather and is happiest when he’s on the water, wearing board shorts and spending time with his wife and four daughters.

But the senior pastor of Green Bay (Wis.) Community Church also loves to warm the hearts of men, and that’s what led him to take over as the Packers’ spiritual coach two years ago.

“I am very strong on relationships and very much want to help these men and others,” Murphy said. “I don’t connect football with God, but I view being a chaplain as a resource to help them grow in faith.”

Murphy took over for longtime Packers chaplain and Green Bay Community senior pastor Joe Urcavich in 2009, after assisting him for several years.

As the only community-owned team in the NFL, the Packers have always had a strong faith background, still training at a religious college each summer and having one of the longest established chaplaincy programs in the league.

Despite having a busy schedule at Green Bay Community Church, one of the largest evangelical churches in the small northern Wisconsin town, Murphy said he sees a lot of fertile territory when dealing with NFL players.

“It’s central issues that everybody struggles with in life, no matter if you’re a million dollar NFL player or not, and how you handle them with God’s help,” he said.

He said he considers his work with the Packers part of his overall ministry. Murphy spent 10 years with Willow Creek Community Church outside Chicago before coming as an associate pastor to Green Bay Community, then replacing Urcavich, who left after 25 years.

Murphy and his wife Tricia have worked hard to include the players and their wives in the ministry with the Packers. They have a couples’ Bible study on Wednesday nights in a home, while Murphy goes up to historic Lambeau Field twice a week for lunch, a coaches’ Bible study and team chapel service the night before a game. He’s always available to help those seeking answers and struggling with problems.

“I try to show my face on a regular basis, to let them know I’m here and available, but the majority of the ministry that happens is outside the football schedule,” Murphy said.

Because there is no sole owner of the team, the Packers are governed by a community board of directors which gives power to the business and football side of the organization. Murphy’s freedom as the Packers chaplain also comes from the board and the people he works with on a regular basis.

The nature of the NFL is that players are always moving to another team, to retirement or out of the league. Before the start of the 2010 season, the Packers lost one of their main spiritual leaders in defensive end Aaron Kampman, who went to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

That left the Packers with a young team spiritually and Murphy with plenty of ministry opportunities.

“Anytime you lose one of your leaders, it can be tough, but it also allows other guys to step up and that’s what we’re seeing now,” he said.

Growing up on the West Coast, Murphy was a Raiders fan, but moving to the Midwest introduced him to the Packers’ fervent fan loyalty. In addition to his church and NFL work, he also serves as a chaplain with the Brown County sheriff’s department.

Murphy does not always travel with the Packers to road games but will usually go to the games he can drive to. He is flying to Dallas on Thursday for Super Bowl XLV with his father-in-law, a huge Packers fan, to conduct the team services.

“We all have needs and issues in our lives,” Murphy said. “I’m glad I am a part of helping our team with theirs through godly counsel and wisdom.”
Art Stricklin is a Dallas-based sports correspondent.

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