Every Saturday, after a busy week atwork, I look forward to spending the day with my 3 year old son Ed; because Saturdays are boys’ only days (as Jacqui unfortunately has to work). This leaves Ed, Earl (our big Labrador) and me the task of entertaining and fending for ourselves. By about Thursday of each week, Ed will have made a suggestion as to what we could do, which often oscillates from going to Colchester zoo, swimming or more recently catching a Disney film at the cinema. However, for one Saturday every month, Ed is delighted to attend Messy Church and often gets excited from the moment he sees the banner advertising the event which is hanging over the church wall.
So what is this thing called ‘Messy Church’………..well, for a minute, I invite you to conjure up in your mind what a traditional Church of England service may be like; hold onto that thought then swap it completely for a colourful kaleidoscope on a Saturday afternoon of fun, noise, laughter, creative and excited children, music, dance, cooked food, dynamic worship and a message of hope and encouragement for our children to ponder and take away. Messy church is a bombardment of our senses by planned creative activity that both mesmerises and excites our children and brings together a group of families who may not ordinarily attend church on Sundays.
From the moment I am pulled enthusiastically through the church doors by my eager and excited child Ed, I experience immediately a very warm welcome shortly followed by a smorgasbord of carefully and lovingly planned creative activity for Ed to immerse himself into. The two hours have been meticulously planned, and seemingly rehearsed but at the same time it feels very organic and unscripted. I come away from Messy Church feeling cared for and thankful that Ed has thoroughly enjoyed himself and expended enough energy for an early night and a well-earned glass of wine for dad!
The church building is set out with many individual stations of different activities (which broadly follow a Christian theme) that open our children’s minds to Christ’s ministry of love, redemption and protectiveness, through the medium of expressive art, crafts and music. So, for the first hour, expect to be pulled to each and every station by your thrilled child as you awkwardly juggle lots of finished artefacts, which of course end up proudly being showcased with the aid of fridge magnets and the like, as soon as you get home!
The second hour starts with the worship team leading some singing with often involves embarrassed and slightly reluctant parents trying to remember, then correctly execute specific signing to the words of the song! However, the children seem to love this abandonment and get stuck in! Following this worship, we then sit to catch our breath and are invited to listen and often take part in a short, informal and child friendly talk by one of the passionate and enthusiastic vicars (again following on from the particular programmed theme like family, friendship etc.). This is finished with a short prayer of thanks and reflection, before we all move over to the back of the church for a lovely home cooked hot meal. I have to say, I’m always impressed with the quality and attention to detail with tables neatly laid with bight tablecloths, freshly cut flowers in a vase, proper metal cutlery and a dinner service to eat and drink from and very helpful volunteers who bring the food to the tables. Forget, your flimsy paper plates and plastic knives and forks that snap, this is superior church dining and I think it communicates a lot to the children and their parents of being cared for and valued by their village community church. This for me is the Church in Action, which importantly enacts and models itself on Christ’s ministry here on earth.
Messy Church wouldn’t happen but for the countless volunteers who tirelessly give their time, and energy in supporting the senior leadership team of the church in making this such an enjoyable and well managed event. From me and Ed, we massively thank Steve and his excellent team in putting on such a rewarding and affirming event and we look forward to the next one.
Regardless of your faith, beliefs and relationship with the Church – I would strongly encourage you to come along and get messy!
Ed and Ed’s Dad (David Parke)