“ Messy Church event in Keighley, West Yorkshire. „
For some time now I have seen posters at various religious establishments for something called 'Messy Church' and, to be honest, I have wondered what it was but never bothered to find out. A few weeks ago I was asked if I would like to go along to a Messy Church session at our local Methodist Church - St John's in Llandudno. Apparently the children (which are who the whole thing is aimed at) had been enjoying regular 'messy' afternoons for some time but some of the adults in the church had asked to see what was going on. So the lady in charge of organising the Messy Church decided to do a session especially for the adults to show them just what the children get up to. So I was to be a child again for an afternoon - no problem there then! But what exactly is Messy Church? Well there is a website that you take a look at - http://www.messychurch.org.uk/ - this will give you lots of information about the initiative. The general idea is to give the children somewhere to go and something to do whilst giving them the opportunity to learn about God in a fun environment. A quote from the website explains it thus: 'Messy Church is one church's attempt to be church for families who might want to meet Jesus, belong to their local church and bring up their children as Christians but can't cope with traditional Sunday morning church services.' Maybe it was originally 'one church' but it has caught on all over the country and churches and families are getting messy, usually once a month, all over the place. Let me tell you about my experience as an honorary child for an afternoon at our Messy Church. I admit that I was a bit dubious at first as I am not really one for 'organised enjoyment' and I wondered what I would be expected to do, but I decided to put my concerns to one side and throw myself into whatever was going to happen. When we arrived at the church hall (adjoining the church) there were various tables each laid out with a different craft such as painting, modelling etc. The ladies who usually look after the children were all there - one per table - so that we could get the true experience of Messy Church. Firstly we went to a table where we were given a white plastic plate and invited to make a picture of the sea on it using various shades of blue crepe paper, stickers and glue. I'm afraid I wasn't very good at this! I am not really artistic at all. Next we went to a table where we were given a little wooden candle holder complete with perfumed candle and invited to decorate it with stickers and write something meaningful on it. I stuck two little decorated crosses on mine and wrote the words 'God Bless!'. Then it was on to a table where we were given a little piece of wood with a heart shape cut out of it with white card behind and a little cord with which to hang it up. We had to decorate this with stickers and write something about God on the white panel. I decorated mine with stars and wrote 'Lord if I forget you today please don't forget me'. The final table that we had time to visit was one where we were given a plain black paper cross about six inches tall and a scratching tool. The idea was to scratch the black off the cross to reveal rainbow colours beneath it. Of course we were encouraged to do this as artistically as possible - to be fair mine did look quite good even though I say so myself. We then had to thread a piece of ribbon through a hole in the top so that it could be hung up and mine now has pride of place in the kitchen at home. As we went from table to table the atmosphere was one of great fun and we were all giggling like children as we tried to make our own crafts and watched others attempting theirs. At each table there was a lady from the church to tell us what to do and just generally chat about God or whatever we wanted to talk about. At a pre arranged time we were all called to accompany the organiser through into the main part of the church where we all sat on the front pews. Apparently the children sit round in a circle on the carpeted floor but she thought that if we all sat on the floor she might not get us all back up again! She then told us a story with a religious theme using props as illustration - this was exactly as she would have told it to the children which was really sweet! It reminded me of my Sunday school days all those years ago. We then sang a song - with actions of course! Then it was back into the church hall for refreshments and we all had a sandwich, a scone and a biscuit together with a cup of tea or coffee and it was all free. The whole thing was really enjoyable and I could see why it was so popular with the children and any parents who care to join them. The religious themes were definitely there but nothing was 'pushed down your throat'. In the main part the ladies were talking to us as they would have done to the children and the whole thing is very light hearted and it would give the children information about God and Jesus so that they could then make up their own minds about it all. The crafts change each month so that the experience is new and different each time. I was very impressed with the whole thing and told the rest of the family about it and how good it was for the children. My sister, who works for John Crane Limited, asked if the company could make a donation to Messy Church to which I obviously said yes! They were in the throes of moving offices so they needed to clear out a lot of stuff and had made various charitable donations. A box of all sorts of bits and pieces duly arrived and the members of the church were thrilled to bits! It just goes to show that what comes around goes around. If they hadn't invited me to join in that afternoon I would never have told my sister about it and they would never have got the donation of stuff from John Crane Limited. So there you are then. If your child has the chance to experience Messy Church let them go - or better still go with them - I promise you will have fun! By the way I did ask for a general category of Messy Church to be set up but it has been done with Keighley attached to the title - this particular review is about the general idea and specifically about the Llandudno one though.