It was very exciting to be invited by Graham Miles to join in the Messy Church that was running in the Church Tent at the Royal Norfolk Show.
In previous years, the church tent has been a welcoming place to have a free cup of tea and put your feet up in peace amidst the bustle of the Show, but as 2009 is the Year of the Child, Graham and others felt the time had come to try out a change of approach. The welcome and drinks remained, but a small stage area gave the opportunity to run occasional puppet shows and excellent sessions on storytelling and prayer; a reflective space was an ideal location in which to tell Godly Play stories, and three large tables gave us the chance to lay on a rolling programme of Messy Crafts for visitors. Tile painting went down well with young and old alike; hand printing was particularly popular with teenagers and biscuit decorating went down a storm with all sorts from the African refugee children to groups of school children accompanied by weary teachers.
There was a great deal of interest in what Messy Church is and we had some good conversations with people who were thinking about it or who were planning now on taking the idea back to their own church. More importantly, individual people had the chance to enjoy themselves in a church setting and to link their experiences of the wonderful world of Norfolk, as seen in the panoply of wonderful creatures on display, and God the Creator.
Messy Church needs to happen in places where people feel safe to go in and try it out, public spaces which can lead into more intimate relationships eventually. Messy liminal places like the Royal Norfolk Show, with its cacophony of human cannonballs, prize bulls, monstrous pigs and heavyweight tractors are ideal.