One Friday evening a few weeks before Christmas the basement hall at St. Peter’s Anglican Church was buzzing with craft activities, filled with the rich smell of spaghetti sauce cooking on the kitchen stove, and songs and prayers of thanks.
It was all part of the Messy Church activities leading up to the celebration of the birth of Christ coming up this Sunday.
The craft activities for this particular Messy Church gave participants the opportunity to enjoy a snack, make sock donkeys for a live nativity scene, add to an inspirational group colouring project, and for the smaller children in the group, play with toy nativity scenes and a sand box.
Participants also took home a kit with a base, tree boughs, candles and ribbons to make an advent table wreath.
The Rev. Keith Dobyns explained that the wreath is set with five candles. The lighting of each candle is accompanied by a special prayer, the first for hope, second for peace, third for joy, fourth for love and the fifth for the celebration of Christ’s birthday on Sunday, Dec. 25.
After the craft session the group moved to the small chapel in the basement hall for a worship service with a Bible story, songs, and candle lit offerings of thanks.
“The people present become engaged in the worship by singing, acting, offering a prayer as a candle is lit or many other creative activities,” says Messy Church event co-ordinator Jen Johnston. “We always sing special songs to go with our theme.”
After the service it was time to enjoy that spaghetti dinner together.
“To end the evening we enjoy a supper together which is provided by St. Peter’s and our kitchen staff of the month,” Johnston says. “Participants love an evening out when they do not have to prepare a meal. Each family is given a take home bag, at the end of the evening, to provide them with home activities.”
Messy Church activities are held at St. Peter’s Anglican Church on Carson Street on the last Friday of each month beginning at 5 p.m. and winding up at 7 p.m., with a different theme chosen each month.
The Messy Church is an alternative form of Christian worship for all ages that originated in England and is now offered in many Anglican churches throughout Canada and Australia.
The first Messy Church began in England in 2004 when a group at St. Wilfrid’s in Cowplain near Portsmouth were frustrated because, as a church, they were hardly reaching any children with God’s story.
They felt they had lovely buildings and facilities but weren’t using them enough.
They had creative people in the church, and the area needed as much community-building as possible, being a rather featureless suburb.
They decided very early on to try to do something for all ages together, that involved creativity, celebration and hospitality, and would bring together as many different people as possible.
The idea was to reach people who don’t already belong to another form of church, and help families to grow together in their walk of faith, and not see Christianity as something you grow out of when you’re 11.
Messy Church was started at St. Peter’s Anglican Church at 549 Carson Drive two years ago by The Reverends Keith and Kristen Dobyns, Jen Johnston, Jeannie Vant, and Carol Thiessen who are assisted by various congregation members.
The two-hour activity sessions are held once a month on Friday evenings.
“There is a whole team of us that make everything work.” Johnston says. There is also a Canadian news letter which provides helpful information and support for program organizers.
The next Messy Church is on Friday, Jan. 6 from 5 to 7 p.m. To learn more about Messy Church at St. Peter’s Anglican Church, call 250-392-4246 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/StPetersWL.