An enthusiastic email with excellent news from our old friend Grandma Claudia in Nova Scotia:
To the Messy Church Leaders
Hello. It’s Grandma from the Parish of Blandford in Nova Scotia again. Thought I would give you an update on a rural Canadian Messy Church again. I’m so proud of our minister, our young parents and of course the children. Oops, I must use the word YOUTH now.
You see our group of kids are growing up. We have teenagers now. That caused a slight change here that just keeps us all growing.
The older children found Messy Church jut a little juvenile. I admit everything was geared to the under 10 age group. So the last couple months we are learning to make things interesting for the older kids. We made them leaders.
It is just a start, but they liked the idea (Thank you Lord) Come fall they will be given “duties” for each meeting. They will be told to find new ideas to get a message across to the younger ones. Research the internet, talk to their friends, what activities can we get going here. From personal experience the last couple years, I learned there is no better way to learn a Bible lesson yourself, than to plan activities for others.
So what activities are we doing? Our Messy Church opens with a craft. I call it a gathering craft. The older children run to the tables with a “What are we making tonight?’ attitude. The parents come in, get their kids out of coats and let them run about a bit. We have a really relaxed attitude.
We have made the newspaper flowers for Valentines. Bishop’s hats were for the election at Synod. Then their were paper pockets to put in the rhyme for “little bags of happiness” Newspaper trash bins, newspaper envelopes, well, you can see a whole theme on newspaper, including the geodesic dome.
After the gathering craft we get into a circle for the lesson. Rev Marian or our lay minister Barbara takes the Bible lesson and puts it into modern day scenarios. Grandma usually has a smaller craft or activity that reinforces the lesson. When Mary was told of the birth of her son, the kids went home with angels made from three bell shapes and told everyone that Mary was pregnant so we have to get ready for a baby at Christmas time. Maybe that is a little too general, but, they got the idea.
Then it is time for a game that another Mary keeps them busy with. Then music lessons from Shauna. Did I mention that the whole time they are munching on popcorn.
Just as important are all the offshoot groups from Messy Church.
The Junior choir started in the New Year with Shauna teaching a few hymns. Accompanied by two Dads on guitars the children have come to Sunday church, sang anthems and better still, they sing during communion. My, did heads swing that first Sunday! We have a gallery upstairs in the back of one church. No one has really used it for years. Now it is their space. All the youth filed up for communion and then went back upstairs. The rest of us soberly came to the rail when suddenly the church was filled with these beautiful voices softly singing. Let’s just say we have gone from a congregation that didn’t want kids in Sunday church to people asking when the youth are coming to church again. Thanks be.
Messy Church kids were in the play called Medieval Feast. It was a dinner theatre which again raised funds. Meanwhile we all learned how scary it was to be an Anglican at the time of the Reformation.
We started a Do It Ourselves club last year. Local people teaching skills. Although first we thought it would be good for the older youth, they didn’t turn up. One gentleman offered to teach us woodworking at his home shop and six parishioners did an introduction to woodworking tools. We made cookbook stands, ear ring picture frame holders, animal food dish stands, and boot jacks. Starting soon will be window boxes and bird feeders.
This is how our village works. Six adults learned woodworking. Then a Messy Church father started to work with the teacher on a few projects. His wife runs the recreation group, which has the same kids as Messy Church and a few more. So for Earth Day events, the men made the bird feeders and houses and the kids painted them. These were installed around the trail by our community centre. Meanwhile the Do It Ourself group will be sent out to find their numbered project and duplicate the model by taking measurements, drawing pictures, etc. Some feeders and bird houses will be sold to raise funds for the projects. Others will go back to Messy Church to be painted again for use in other areas.
Come April 25th, we are having our 3rd annual Parish Garden planting night for Earth Day. Messy Church made 200 newspaper planting pots and saved another 200 yogurt and pudding cups to recycle for planting pods. Our goal is to pot 500 seedlings.
I suppose the biggest transformation in our Messy Church has become the workers and the attendance of the congregation. Messy Church is now a fourth POINT in our Parish, recognized with the equality to the congregations in any of the other three churches or points in our parish. What amuses me is that Messy Church often outnumbers the people at any Sunday church service.
When a job needs doing in the community, people now ask Messy Church people to lend a hand. In fact just helping out with a project you are branded a Messy Church parent, even if you don’t attend a meeting. The best part, the young parents LIKE THAT. There is pride in being a Messy Church person.
We have brought back ‘the Sunday School Picnic’ last summer and plan to redo the same thing this year. We had all the silly races, ending with the Fire Department setting up a water slide to finish off a hot afternoon on the fields.
Messy Church has brought a community without any Sunday School, without any children’s church of any kind and made us a Christian community of helpers.
Please, Messy Church leaders, know your worth. You started this simple little program. I wanted to be part of it so the children could learn their Bible stories. Together we are a vibrant Christian community. Just know how important being a Messy Church is. Everything grows from that.
On April 25th, the children will sing the chorus to a song written by a parishioner for our annual planting night. “It only takes one seed, to get a garden growing.” You were the seed. We are the fledgling transplants. Together we will grow strong.
Grandma (Claudia Zinck, Parish of Blandford, Nova Scotia, Canada)