Diocese of Portsmouth

    Parents and children bonded in Messy Great Outdoors

    Children and Young People
    23 Oct. 2014

    PARENTS and children from across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight bonded over outdoor activities in a new departure for ‘Messy Church’.

    The Powell and Fowler families from St Wilfrid's Church, Cowplain, den-building at Messy Great Outdoors. Click here for more photos: http://on.fb.me/1y0risy

    Around 300 people came to the YMCA centre at Fairthorne Manor near Botley for a ‘Messy Great Outdoors’ event. They were able to build dens, light fires and whittle wood during a day designed to show how Messy Church activities could be transferred outdoors.

    As at regular Messy Church, the day included a mixture of family activities, a hot meal and a short act of worship. But instead of art and crafts, families were able to work together on making rope bridges or creating a family totem pole. They then enjoyed hot dogs and soup around the campfire.

    Bishop Christopher joined the team for the worship, pronouncing a blessing to those gathered around the fire. The day was organised jointly by staff and volunteers from Portsmouth and Winchester Church of England dioceses.

    Organiser Libby Norris, our diocese’s children and families work consultant, said: “It was great to see that it was genuinely an all-age event. Messy Church sometimes involves parents watching their children doing art and craft, but parents and children were working together on fire-lighting or making rope bridges.

    “We chose Fairthorne Manor as we wanted to bring church into a setting that families might choose to go to anyway, to explore the outdoors and discover new skills. But we wanted our helpers to run the day, rather than the YMCA staff, to show it could be done by volunteers.

    “One highlight was seeing Portsmouth and Winchester dioceses work together, and the team running the day were fantastic. There was a downpour in the morning, but the first activity involved families creating their own banners using mud and berries – so at least there was plenty of mud!

    “Part of the aim of the day was to role model what people could do back in their parishes. Another aim was to engage the boys more, as art and craft at Messy Church can be a bit girly. So it was good to see how we could do something like den-building, that boys and men could do together.

    “There was Israeli story-telling around the campfire, which emphasised that we all have a story to tell, and then hot dogs and soup for 300.”

    The afternoon began with the chance for families to make their own banner. Then they could choose between den-building, wood-whittling, making mud faces, fire-lighting and cooking outdoors.

    Also on offer were chances to design a family totem pole, to make bird seed cakes, create musical instruments from natural resources, and to fire balls and water bombs from home-made catapults. Toddlers had their own space to play in the sand.

    The celebration around the campfire included storytelling and music before a final blessing by the bishop.

    For more photos, click here.