New Messy Church - St. Oswald's Lower Peover

St Oswald's is set in footballer's wives territory on the edge of the Cheshire plain in what would once have been a rural parish. St Oswald’s although broad church, welcoming all those seeking the Kingdom of God, does still conduct 75% of its services through the Book of Common Prayer. From BCP to Messy Church was a leap of faith from our vicar Rev Dr Jane Lloyd and a collaborative initiative between our ministry team. The ministry team  has given me a role during my Foundation for Ministry course and a diversion from the tribulations as Churchwarden in a Grade 1 listed building.

 

Jane and I attended the Messy Church Training Day at Ashton-on-Mersey in Sale, a well spent day where we met Lucy Moore who was involved in creating the Messy Church movement through the Bible Reading Fellowship plus the Diocese of Chester Mission Team. We took the opportunity to purchase some materials and followed up quickly with Messy Church Registration for St Oswald's and obtained, at little expense, the immensly useful Quarterly Resource Guide. We invested in two reusable banners, initially targeting our associated Junior School parents. Jane has two children and plenty of craft experience and is closely involved with the school and their spiritual guidance. The timing was partly dictated by avoiding clashes with other services and facilitated by our Reader at our sister church stepping up to take services on her own, releasing Jane for our new venture.

 

On the morning of our first Messy Church, we waited in the school building with the crafts laid out and the food ready. The first car pulled in…a sigh of relief…then a rush with registration and setting children to the crafts… taking our breath away. God had decided that we should have plenty of challenges and blessings that morning! A month later, just before Christmas with a different mix of families, we were once more kept busy. 

 

We had already reflected on and reviewed the first session and learnt several things, which would make the second easier. It takes a lot of time and preparation to set up, it takes an equal amount of effort to clear up. Food preparation (sharing a meal being a vital part of this service) takes at least one person, delivering the service content another. We have cards on each table reminding people of the message behind the activity and this is enhanced by circulating and repeating the underlying Bible story. Keeping parents with their children is essential. Preventing a coffee club culture for adults and getting them on message, a challenge. The wish to extend attendance to a wider age profile and beyond the catchment of the school is understood and in our prayers.

 

Messy Church is actually very close to more traditional services - there is prayer, praise, song, teaching and joy. The resource pack we find makes it less demanding on resources and keeps our team focussed and able to get on with the delivery while praying and reflecting on the Kingdom of God and how we are fulfilling our mission. There has been minimal overlap of congregations and a mix of different families, most never seen in traditional services, and attendance at our monthly Hands Together Sunday School unaffected. We are already planning Messy Church at our sister church and have been asked to assist setting up Messy Church in other areas of the Diocese.