Fresh Expressions: Messy Church, Meonstoke
SOPHIE Wills knows the Messy Church sessions in Meonstoke are the perfect way for her family to be involved with church.
She brings her two children to innovative Messy Church events in her local school each month. Volunteers organise exciting art and craft activities on a Biblical theme, lead a short act of worship and then offer a hot meal.
It’s the perfect combination for mums such as Sophie, as the timings and activities are geared towards families’ needs. Her children, Amelia, aged 8, and Joseph, 5, can join in with whichever painting, gluing or creating activity they fancy – and there’s no need to rush home in time for tea.
“The level of effort that the church puts in is astonishing,” said Sophie. “A lot of thought and preparation goes into the crafts, even though they only have 15 minutes to set it up after school finishes and before we all come in.
“We don’t go to church – I’ve previously felt that our children were too young for that. But this is a perfect way for us to have links with the church and to feel like we’re involved, even if we can’t make it on a Sunday.
“It works for us, as Amelia used to go to this school and she still loves to come back. There are always lots of inventive crafts for them to try and it’s fine for them to make a humongous mess!”
Worshippers from Meonstoke, Droxford, Corhampton and Exton have been organising Messy Church sessions since last summer. Up to 50 volunteers, parents and children squeeze into the dining hall at Meonstoke C of E Infant School, where art and craft activities are laid out invitingly for children to try.
For their session on Noah’s Ark, families were invited to paint animal masks, make rainbow-coloured windmills and create paper boats. Children splashed paint, glue and glitter around in a way they might not be able to do at home.
Their creations were left to dry as the children moved into a classroom to hear the curate, the Rev Samantha Martell, tell the story of Noah’s Ark with the children providing sound effects. Meanwhile, other volunteers wiped tables, cleared away paper and paints, and set up pasta and jacketed potatoes for the children’s tea.
Lucy Wakefield, who brings Lara, 6, and Oscar, 4, said: “The kids love it. It’s great fun for them to try the activities, and it’s a familiar environment, as Lara’s at school here.”
Becky Evans, who is mum to Molly, Rose and Harry, said: “They enjoy it because they are allowed to get messy, and I wouldn’t let them do this at home! Everything here is washable, so it’s fine.”
And Sharon Sherfield, whose daughter Rebecca is 5, said: “She was desperate to come again because she had such a good time last time. She loves doing all the crafts and seeing her friends.”
Many of our churches run Messy Churches on weekday tea-times, Saturday or Sunday afternoons. The concept began in St Wilfrid’s Church, Cowplain, back in 2004 and there are now hundreds of thousands of Messy Churches across the world. It's just one of the many Fresh Expressions of worship run by parishes in our diocese.