Tudeley Messy Church

Revd Pamela Ive is parish deacon at All Saints,Tudeley, and she is thrilled at the development of Messy Church in her area. She tells the story so far.

I attended the Fresh Expressions mission shaped ministry course from September 2008 to July 2009 in Rochester. It was really useful and made me rethink a lot of things about how we reach out to people and, in certain aspects, also helped me to be more realistic about which goals were achievable.

As a result we changed the style and format of midweek after-school activity we had been doing for quite a while and I have been surprised and delighted at the response we've had to it.

In the past we had a monthly meeting called Light on Thursday which was really a discussion time with a very few mums who had gone through confirmation, and a couple of others who had joined along the way. There was a minimal amount of worship while the children had tea but there was not much faith input for them. That folded after about four years when the volunteer helpers moved on.

Tudeley Messy Church - PentecostI prayed with a member of a local Baptist Church about the direction in which we were meant to go. A third person came along from Christians Together in Capel and she had a vision that we should set up Messy Church so we decided to pool our resources and put our energies into that.

We are in a Local Ecumenical Partnership (Tudeley cum Capel with Five Oak Green), and Messy Church really came together because of the involvement of a number of churches. We also have an Ecumenical Church Council and they were happy to support it financially.

We are meeting on the fourth Sunday of the month at Five Oak Green United Church, and decided to schedule 10 Messy Churches for this year. Helpers come from the Baptists, the Anglican/URC LEP and a local charismatic Free Church.

We decided to stick to Sundays because we are quite close to London and a lot of dads don't get back until 7pm or 8pm from work during the week. If the children are aged five or six, that’s no good for them on a weekday, so we opted for Sunday from 4.45pm for an hour. I think that time of day is perfect. They have had their Sunday lunch and they may be on their way back home after time out somewhere, this is dead time and we fill the gap.

Tudeley Messy Church - fishAt our first meeting we catered for 40, buying two hotdogs for each person expected so we got 80. Then somebody reminded me that we might have vegetarians there so we got veggie versions as well. Thankfully we did, with a crowd of 65 on the day!

We have a very small church. When everyone is sitting down packed into rows, the maximum we can hold is about 100. It was a huge surprise to see who came because there were a number of people we had never come across before, and lots of husbands accompanied their wives so there were actually men under 40 there.

One mum said that her husband had decided not to come because he didn't think there would be any men – she couldn't wait to tell him that lots had turned up in the hope that he'd come along next time. We were just overwhelmed, it was wonderful chaos. The people who were there said they felt they could invite others to come, it was fantastic.

Tudeley Messy Church - cake buildingCreation was the theme. We had a table game and word searches, and told a story with drama involving the children. It was so packed and so noisy, we had to stand on chairs to be heard and seen.

Numbers now average about 45. This feels much more comfortable for the size of building we're meeting in – especially when we are being active. Many aspects have been very encouraging. Friends have invited others; we are building relationships within the community; and Christians who worship in different places are catching up with each other and working together (especially in the kitchen).

At our Palm Sunday Messy Church, we invited people to the Good Friday Family Service which was in a similar format. We started off by making Hot Cross buns and then baked them during the service, which meant we had a very sociable time afterwards! The service also brought different congregations together and we involved a small teenage after-school group in leading it.

Tudeley Messy Church - group with cakeAs we knew that not everybody would be there on Easter Sunday we included the celebration of the Resurrection as part of that Good Friday service. There was a wonderful sense of having gone through Holy Week and to Easter with our Messy Church newcomers. We had linked things together for them in the previous Messy Church sessions by following the accounts of Creation, Noah and God’s promise, and then God’s Promise showing itself in the death and resurrection of Christ. A rainbow poster we made on our second session carried the theme through.

For Messy Church at Pentecost, we built a church with cake including gingerbread people to show that the Church is about the people – not the building itself. We then ate it!

Most people who came to the first Messy Church have been to a subsequent one and we've welcomed others too. The social aspect seems to be one of the most important to people – nobody's ever in a hurry to leave. We're very much looking forward to seeing what happens next.