From 10.30am ‘til 12 noon on between four and six Saturday mornings throughout the year, about 40-60 children have fun making things, playing games, acting, hearing the gospel, exploring Bible stories and experiencing prayer and praise. They are all accompanied by a parent or other responsible adult who either mingle with the children or chat in the café area while it is all happening.
Churchwarden Anthea began Messy Church here in 2012 because she felt ‘the church was not reaching the young families’. Many people seemed to find the formal services a bit intimidating and so they and their children were missing hearing about Jesus and relating God. Anthea first went to experience Messy Church for herself and was immediately convinced. She got ideas from the website and book, put posters around the town and a huge banner outside the church and recruited helpers. At first 12 children came but word spread and it grew. Most who come are not Sunday worshippers.
The morning starts with an introduction on the theme, then children and adults move around different activity stations staffed by one of the helpers. Before everyone arrives, Anthea gives helpers specific instructions about the game, craft or prayer activity they are running and asks them to explain what Jesus did and why as they run it. They could be organizing a ‘treasure hunt’ to find stickers to put on a take-home card illustrating the story, organizing ‘pin-the-tale-on-the-donkey’ or encouraging the writing of prayers on paper hands then placed in water. Later all the children dress up and are directed in an impromptu play that tells the Bible story of the day. (Adults are encouraged to watch this.) The morning ends with active worship songs and the ‘messy grace’. Anthea is keen that Messy Church should not be just a craft club. It is noticeable that people feel they belong and can respond in this friendly, fun, comfortable environment. It is definitely viewed as the ‘Messy Church family’ – part of the wider church family of St James’.