Messy Church - April Inspire 2008

A Hampshire fellowship has come up with some crafty ideas to help people explore their faith. NEIL PUGMIRE reports

Surely it's what anyone creative would want church to be like.

‘Messy Church’ is a mixture of games, art and craft, food, worship – and quite a lot of mess. The monthly after-school event at St Wilfrid’s Church, Cowplain, draws together more than 60 children and adults for a new way of finding out about faith.

They learn not by listening to someone telling them what to think, but by choosing which activities to do and discovering for themselves.

It starts at the end of the school day. Children dash into the church hall to have a go at games and colouring laid out for them. Adults chat with them and with each other over Connect 4, Hungry Hippos and much-needed coffee.

When everyone is there, Messy Church starts properly. Around the hall are 10 or more tables, each of which features a different art or craft activity related to the theme, and each with a leader to help all-comers.

For Easter, this includes everything from creating a goblet for the Last Supper to making Maundy money pouches, from creating an Easter garden to cooking chocolate nests for Easter eggs.

Everyone chooses which activities they want to do, sometimes with the people they’ve come with, sometimes with friends or on their own and learn through cutting, pasting, creating and cooking.

The vicar takes digital photos of what’s happening, to be displayed later. By the time they’ve finished, everyone - old and young - may be covered in paint, glue or dirt as they show off their exquisite items of craft.
There’s a short act of worship in the church itself, including songs, prayers and a short epilogue.

Finally there’s tea. A hot meal is an important part of Messy Church as it expresses the church’s hospitality and means parents don’t have to go home and cook.

Pasta, potatoes with fillings, sausages, curries … everyone tries to guess what it’s going to be this time as the cooking smells fill the hall.
It’s a formula that has seen them featured on the first Fresh Expressions DVD, and has since spread to other churches around the UK and around the world.

A book has been published explaining the theology behind Messy Church and giving others some ideas about how to do it. There’s also a website that gives other Messy Churches a chance to share ideas and to build up a useful network of contacts all over the country, while Messy Fiestas, or training/ sharing days bring leaders face to face to develop skills and ideas.

Organiser and author Lucy Moore said: “Many children and adults just love being messy, so that’s a real attraction for them!

“We take a lot of care thinking about activities that will be fun, but that will also have a point to them. And they learn so much more by actually doing these things rather than being told about them.”

And mum Lesley Woodgate, said: “They love meeting their friends here, and the activities are fantastic. They really learn from them.”

  • Messy Church happens on the final Thursday of each month, 3.30-5.45pm. More information from or call (UK) 01865 319700.


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