As you may have gathered, Messy Church was featured on Radio 4’s Sunday programme this week. Originally this was going to be a full piece on Messy Church alone but we were reduced to being an example of a fresh expression of church when the important report came out last week about the effect of Fresh Expressions in ten dioceses. Of which more in another post.
Actually, originally the BBC contacted us with a request to find a selection of Messy Churches running in the following few days in a specific area and denomination who would be happy to have a reporter visiting them. We said that was impossible at that short notice.
The reporter chose to describe Messy Church in a particular way which, arguably, was not accurate: it was ‘for children’, the celebration was reduced to a patronising mention of ‘a bit of a church service’, there was no mention of a meal which is SUCH a crucial part of any Messy Church, and no mention of BRF at all, let alone that it is totally distinct from Fresh Expressions as an organisation.
Jane, whose Messy church was featured, wrote to the team:
‘The reporter really enjoyed himself and said he would stay until the end and eat with us. But he didn’t, despite my pleas. We chose Great Big God to sing because he wanted something to pick up with his microphone. We were enjoying all of the wonderful activities on Samson from the Get Messy! magazine, which I plugged three times, but he still reported that we were ‘colouring’! I mentioned BRF in every sentence but he left that out. I wished St Wilf’s Cowplain a Happy 10th Birthday! That was missed out too!’
This left Dr Alison Milbank free to say unchallenged by any all-age evidence from the reported piece: ‘Messy Church is great, but only 22% of them have had a baptism. so they’re incredible as a traditional Sunday School happening in the week, once a month, attracting people doing incredibly good work, but as your only thing of church in your life, they’re not an equivalent of the parish.’ (my italics).
In this particular case Messy Church was misrepresented to suit a preconceived idea for a story that the producer or perhaps the reporter already had. They told their story, not ours. I expect any publicity is better than no publicity, but when you next hear a report on Messy Church on the radio, caveat auditor!