A wonderful group of Messy Church enthusiasts came to Lee Abbey last year to find out more about Messy Church. One was Alison Thurlow from Yate near Bristol. She emailed with some very good ideas right from the coalface:
Working with people from outside the church
I have been meaning to contact you for a while to let you know that Messy Church is now officially up and running in Yate! We have had three sessions so far with 52, 53 and 63 people attending – some of the same faces and some new people each time. Some people from the Sunday congregation come along, but many families are from the local community but not otherwise part of the church. We have purposely publicised very little as we as a team wanted to get a few ‘successful’ Messy Church sessions under our belt and build up our confidence before the numbers get too big – which we feel they may well do! That aim has certainly been fulfilled and the team is going from strength to strength.
Actually, one of the things I find most encouraging is the team – all 18 of them aged 12-70 ! Most of them have not done anything remotely like this before and they are all so enthusiastic! We meet once a month to plan the next session – homemade cakes included, of course! – and I am attempting to include a little bit of reflection / Bible study into each of these meetings as many people there have not been part of any sort of small group before. At the moment we are looking at the material on hospitality that you gave me at Lee Abbey. We take one of the five short sections each month and think about a couple of questions together.
Last month we thought about ‘threshold spaces’ and I thought you might be interested to read our answers to the question ‘What do you think of the concept of threshold spaces?’:
We think a threshold place is:
a place where we can see the meshing of two different cultures (churched and non-churched)
a place of reassurance
a place where friendship is offered
a place of new beginnings
a place of fun, where people can be part of a team within a bigger family
a place where people can look in and see what is going on
like a warm cloak around a person
part of a circle which everyone is welcome to join
a place of acceptance
Not bad for a group of novices!!
I have been reading with interest some of the correspondence about the pros and cons of having a cooked meal each time. It is very hard work to provide a hot meal each time and we are very fortunate to have an excellent kitchen team. However, we would say this is a crucial part of the evening – it is where everything seems to come together and many good conversations are had. I would go as far as to say that Messy Church is not really Messy Church without the meal!
Another topic I have seen discussed is the transition between the craft time and the celebration. We are fortunate in having a large modern church building where we can do the craft at the back of the church and then move to the front, around the altar, for the celebration. Five minutes before the end of the craft time we put the photos that have been taken up on the screen and start ot play a CD with one of the songs we are going to sing in the celebration time. This fulfils three purposes: it tells people that the craft time is coming to an end, it calms things down and makes for a good transition, and it starts to teach people the song they are soon to be singing.
Thank you for all your inspiration and encouragement with regards to Messy Church. We are having a great time and feel that we are doing the right thing at the right time in the right place and give all the glory to God for that!