It's truly a family affair when crowds flock to the home of the original Messy Church in Hampshire. Babies, toddlers, teens and adults can all be found at the fresh expression of church in St Wilfrid's Church hall, Cowplain, but helper Lesley Baker also has much more of a personal interest in some of the venue's regulars.
Six years ago, Lucy Moore spoke to several of us at St Wilfrid's about the idea for a place where those on the fringes of church life would be happy to come without it being threatening in any way. It was a kind of pulling together of people who may come to the church building for a toddler group, for instance, but who had never actually looked at something God-centred as part of their life.
Soon after that Messy Church was born, Lucy began to oversee the whole thing and I got involved in the planning of the sessions. My mum Doreen, who will be 80 this year, was originally running an activity table where she would help the children to make things. She loved it. Unfortunately she can't do as much as she would like these days but she is still very much a part of what we do each month.
The wonderful thing is that my daughter Kathryn also comes to Messy Church with granddaughter Molly, aged three; and one-year-old grandson Joshua. That means four generations of 'girls' from our family (and Josh!) all get together to take part in the sessions and enjoy the food afterwards.
I have seen people come along, perhaps reluctantly, but once inside the door they are amazed. The atmosphere is great, and doing something across the generations is seen as returning to traditional values where people sit down and share a meal together, chat to one another and care about each other – no matter where they're from and whatever their age.
I don't take notice of any criticism that says "it's not real church" Our vicar, Paul Moore, is wonderful in that he says we are very blessed here to have three churches, St Wilfrid's, Westbrook, and Messy Church. This is a special place, for my family and for many others because it speaks of God and shows the love of God in action. To me, that's got to be church.
My husband Derek's involvement came to the fore when we took Messy Church on the road to Greenbelt. He's a churchwarden and is someone who likes a lot of tradition, so to be thrown in the deep end and set up on a site of that scale was a huge thing to do.
Kathryn is a teacher so she gets to the session as soon as she can after the end of the school day. Her husband Pete, who is diocesan youth adviser, also gets along when he can. It's a huge joy to be sharing something like this with not only my Christian family but also my mum, daughter, and grand-children. My special prayer? That Molly will know the Lord, and know that He is with her through life. I also want it to be her decision to follow Him, not just because four generations of her family happen to come together in the same place at the same time.