For parents who are busy working, rushing their children to after-school activities, making dinner and supervising homework, finding time for a spiritual life can be something that gets overlooked.
That’s where Messy Church comes in. It’s an opportunity for people of all ages to be together doing crafts and games, sharing in worship and eating dinner together.
It’s a new event at All Saints Anglican Church in Vernon, with the first one taking place Oct. 2 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The Rev. Jane Bourcet hopes it will be a fun and relaxed way for families to wind down at the end of a busy week and to take part in worship at a time that may be more convenient than a Sunday morning.
“We recognized that for busy working families, it is impossible to give up that one morning of your week that you don’t have to rush in order for families to learn about their faith, to experience God’s place in their life, so there’s got to be a time that is not Sunday morning,” she said. “We decided Friday was the time to do it — it’s after school, Mom is tired and ready for a free meal by the end of the week.
“People know that their children need to be developed in their thinking skills, and their physical skills, but where do they develop their spiritual skills in a community of faith?”
Messy Church got its start in England in 2004, when a group at St. Wilfrid’s near Portsmouth were frustrated because, as a church, they were hardly reaching any children with God’s story. They decided to try to do something for all ages together, from a desire to help families to grow together in their walk of faith.
“This has had a huge impact in Europe and in some cases has kept parishes going, and it’s now spread across North America,” said Bourcet.
Closer to home, the program has been running at St. Andrew’s in Kelowna for the past three years, with several All Saints families making the trip south to take part.
“They were amazingly generous in inviting our families to see if it’s something we wanted to do here,” said Bourcet. “We have some young families in our parish, but we also recognize that many families outside of the faith don’t know the Christian story — for many people, Christmas is about Santa, presents and a turkey dinner, while Easter is all about the bunny, chocolate eggs and another big dinner.”
For Jackie Graham, making the trek to Kelowna with her husband and three young children was a chance for the five of them to spend time together on a Friday evening.
“It just seemed like a good family event, something we can all do as a family, and we were warmly received,” she said. “It was great because there were different activities for all ages and interests — so for my son Daniel, who can be shy, there was a nice quiet area where he could spend time. There were craft stations for all ages that met everyone’s needs.”
Graham said she also appreciated the mix of ages, with older children happily doing crafts with her youngsters.
“And it was neat to see the message getting to kids in a kid-friendly way,” she said.
Bourcet said the goal of Messy Church is not to grow the main church, or for those families to begin attending Sunday services — though they are most welcome to do so — rather, it’s a chance for participants to form their own community.
“We are about developing a Messy Church community, where people develop relationships and become their own community and there is no expectation that people will turn up on Sunday because they have been to Messy Church,” she said. “We are going to grow into it because we are just starting out. But by keeping it simple and engaging, it can appeal to all ages. Even if you’re an adult and you haven’t been involved in a faith community, this may be all new to you and that’s OK.”
While there is no expectation of Sunday attendance, participants at Messy Church will be informed about special services, such as October’s annual blessing of the animals service for the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, where people are welcome to bring their pets for a blessing.
“It’s more about the experience,” said Bourcet. “It’s a gift to families and we’ve heard from the volunteers at St. Andrews that they get so much out of it, that it’s a blast and some of the older folks who perhaps have grandchildren who don’t live here, they enjoy spending time with the kids.”
All Saints’ first Messy Church is Oct. 2 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Children need to be accompanied by an adult, and parents need to be accompanied by a child. Arrive when you can so you can have plenty of time to explore the crafts and games. A simple worship will follow at 6 p.m. to hear the bible story for the evening, sing and pray. Dinner is served at about 6:30 p.m., with everything wrapped up by 7 p.m.
There is no charge, but Bourcet would like to know how many are coming to allow for meal planning, so please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All Saints Anglican Church is at 3205-27th St., across from Beairsto school. The parking lot for the church is on 26th Street and entrance is through the double glass doors.