The last few weeks have seen good conversation here about children, worship and Sunday school. Will Willimon discussed the dilemma of the children’s sermon, and Debra Bendis wondered about Sunday school and burnout. Many readers responded with ways that their churches have creatively engaged children.
England, a similar but distinct conversation has been going on for more
than five years. A small Anglican church near Portsmouth launched an
initiative called Messy Church.
Messy Church is an attempt to create a community-centered environment
in a church whose main ritual—mass—has come to seem strange, dull, long
and not conducive to families. During Messy Church, which is often
incorporated into Sunday worship, the sanctuary is organized into round
tables instead of pews. Heaps of craft supplies accompany lectionary
stories. Communion includes food beyond bread and wine. In all of this,
liturgy—the work of the people—takes on different meaning.
Church is different from both church and Sunday school in important
ways. Critical to its success, founders believe, is the participation
of people of all ages. Messy Church should have people, married and
single, old and young at the tables. A successful Messy Church will
have traditional stories coming alive through creation, celebration and
food. Organizers believe that people who want to incorporate Messy
Church into their own communities should do so by listening carefully
to the needs of their own people and being creative and flexible in its
execution. Messy Church, they say, should remain church—a sacred
community—and not become a craft club for children.
July is designated as Messy Month. Are there ways your church could get messy?