Fitting for its first session of 2014, St. Andrew’s United Church held one of its very successful Messy Church services, entitled A New Start, on Jan. 10.
St. Andrew’s has been holding monthly sessions of Messy Church since October as a way to appeal to the younger members of its congregation.
Reverend Ross Smillie said the celebrations have proven to be a great way of getting not just young children, but the entire church community to come together.
“The great thing about it is, it’s very inter-generational,” said Smillie.
He said that young children are able to enjoy the games and activities while older children and adults help out by organizing, playing with the kids and cooking food for supper.
Larissa Woodrow, 16, is one such example of how all ages can enjoy Messy Church. She said she got involved with Messy Church through her aunt who was already involved in organizing the food end of Messy Church.
Woodrow said she was interested in volunteering because she enjoys working with young children.
She added that she has been volunteering for Messy Church since it began in October.
Both Woodrow and Smillie said it is fun to hang out and play with the younger children on occasion.
Woodrow said it allows her to relax in a different way and get away from her own peers every now and then.
Smillie said that he is happy to see that all ages can somehow enjoy and get involved in Messy Church as he believes it is an important thing for the church to bring all people of all ages together.
“Church is one of the few places left where different age groups mingle outside the family,” said Smillie.
St. Andrew’s has now held four sessions of Messy Church.
Smillie said they began to solve a problem the church was having regarding its younger members.
“We were finding the way we had been doing church wasn’t as appealing to as many of the younger families as it had been,” said Smillie.
He added that when looking to try new ideas, the church decided to give Messy Church a try after hearing about it and how popular it was elsewhere.
So far, it seems to be working.
“We’ve had a very enthusiastic response,” said Smillie. He added that Messy Church averages 60 participants each month.
He also said this month’s numbers were a bit down as some of the families that usually participate were also involved in the annual Farmers’ and Farmerettes’ Bonspiel.
According to Smillie, Messy Church is less about sharing the Bible’s message through preaching and more about having a sense of community within the church, which is also an important part of emulating the Christian lifestyle.
“I think that’s a big part of what Jesus came to do,” said Smillie.
He added that Messy Church appears to be successful in building that community.
“We hear that kids are asking to come back,” said Smillie.
“They feel valued, they feel cared about, they feel that they get involved.”
Messy Church is held at St. Andrew’s once a month, usually on the first Friday of the month.
Activities, games and crafts for children, usually surrounding a central theme, take up the first half of the evening. The latter half is a community meal at the church.
In between, there is a short service where Smillie shares a message with the children related to the Bible story.
As this month’s Messy Church was entitled A New Start, the service dealt with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and Smillie shared the story of Jesus’ baptism with the children.
Messy Church is an idea that originated in the Anglican churches of Britain in about 2007, said Smillie.
He added that the idea caught on very quickly and rapidly spread throughout the rest of the world.