Revd Stuart Stobart from St. Aidan’s Church. Hellifield and St. Mary’s Church, Long Preston emailed us about a very interesting rural expression of Messy Church: Messy Church in a home. We obviously wanted to know more, so here is Stuart’s story:
Its all a very experimental at the moment, but here goes……
18 months ago I moved from a large suburban church in Clayton, Bradford where I set up their Messy Church into two small deep rural villages in the Yorkshire Dales. Long Preston has 600 residents and Hellifield has 1400, so the dynamics are very different.
Each church has two young families but little contact with the rest of the village (at the moment!) and they were keen to do something outside the normal Sunday morning services. Neither churches have parish rooms or halls and we worship as all ages together though most are 70+. This seems to be the norm, certainly in the Dales.
So the idea of a scaled down Messy Church was discussed, starting with the 4 families coming together, meeting at one of the couples homes (a big converted barn) and running on the lines of a family home study group, doing crafts, celebration and a picnic style tea for the children. We would meet for an hour, doing the crafts in a round on the floor so that we could talk together as we did the crafts, the celebration would be the same, on the floor in the round.
And so, Messy Church at home evolved. At the moment we have run two sessions and limited it to the four families so we can see if it will work as a means of nurturing these families and as a place we can invite baptism families to.
As it has been a pilot with these four foundation couples we have not sorted out the practicalities of risk assessment or insurance etc, this will be our task before the next PCCs of each church in March where we will present the blueprint to them (they have already approved the pilot).
Our hope is that as the group grows, we can replicate the model and ‘spring up’ a new group at another home in one of the villages. We see the vision of a cell type structure with small messy groups meeting across the villages possibly coming together once a quarter for a bigger celebration in one of the village halls.
But small steps first, the pilot seems to suggest that our idea will work for our situation, we now need the PCCs to approve them into the mission of the churches.
I will keep you informed of our progress.
And when we (obviously) wanted to know even more, especially about the meal, the ever-patient Stuart was kind enough to email again:
Thanks for the email. I will keep you informed as we progress with pleasure, it’s all new to us too so quite exciting!
Regarding the meal, this is something we are definitely trying to work with as we only have a kitchen/diner to go at. At the moment the meal takes place around the kitchen table with the children sat to eat and the parents stood around the outside nibbling and talking. It actually works quite well with everyone gathered around the table, and conversations do happen within families and across families.
The dynamic which is new to me is that they all see each other everyday day at school (both parents and children) so the ‘family’ feel is very different to my city background where they probably don’t meet in normal life.
And please do use our story, I am sure there are many churches wondering how they can work with small numbers of families in churches with little or no meeting facilities like ours.