Since May 2017 the parish of Broxbourne with Wormley has been running a large Messy Church in Wormley CE Primary School, regularly attracting 120 children and their carers to their monthly gatherings.
Messy Church hopes to teach and demonstrate God’s love to all who attend, many of whom come from unchurched backgrounds. Anne Sentance, Lay Reader and leader of the Messy Church explains:
“Our main objective is to provide a firm basis of knowledge of faith and that God loves everyone and is there for each of us… just basic things like that really do need to be made clear and offered to these people who need that, and many have not come across that offer of love before”.
Modelling God-filled behaviour, whether it’s through demonstrating hospitality and kindness or resolving conflicts with grace, is an important part of discipleship at the Messy Church:
“It’s very easy to go to church and learn stuff. The difficult thing is putting it into action in our lives. So, I think the same applies to Messy Church as it does to traditional church: it’s no good just listening and just learning. That is no help to anyone. Not to the person themselves. They don’t feel God’s love through that, they only know about it, and they cannot share God’s love with those around them if it’s only in their head. So, we would very much hope that the head knowledge that we give at Messy Church is able to grow into their heart as well by as much our behaviour as by what our vicar says in the talk and the examples he gives.”
Anne hopes that Messy Church will be a place for discipleship, encouraging people to come regularly, “so that we feel that those who come are building on their faith, rather than each spontaneous time it’s a fresh look”. She also hopes discipleship may take place in spaces beyond the monthly gathering, as volunteers make personal connections with the families who attend.
Recently some of the mums who help prepare the food at Messy Church expressed an interest in exploring faith more deeply, so rather than confining interactions to the larger Messy Church gatherings two new meeting points have emerged.
The week before Messy Church, Anne and Associate Rector Revd. Malcolm Finlay host a Messy Breakfast. They meet at a local café, giving both a gathering with mums to plan the next Messy Church, and a chance to talk about their lives and pray together. A Messy Alpha course has also started during school hours where a small group of mums meet in Malcolm’s home to do the Alpha course. Emphasising how discipleship is enacted on scales ranging from large gatherings to the individual, Ann has also delivered Bibles and visited the homes of some mums who have expressed a personal desire to know more about Jesus through the Bible.