Messy Mass: Engaging families in an alternative way
Sam shares his experience of attending an Anglo-Catholic church’s version of Messy Church.
One of the joys of my role is to go and see things in parishes. Whenever I hear of something new, innovative, or just plain interesting, I get a visit in the diary. Last week, it was time for Messy Mass – something I knew I had to visit as soon as I heard about it.
You might be familiar with the Messy Church format but for those at the back who haven’t been paying attention: Messy Church is an all-age fresh expression of church aimed specifically at families. It begins with a choice of crafts to help people reflect on that week’s theme, then there is a short all-age service, followed by a meal. It’s a simple and effective format. However, there is often a sense that it works best for churches from a particular context and tradition. I was glad to visit a church that proves this theory wrong and was unquestionably a Messy Church, but also faithfully Anglo-Catholic.
Mary was our theme, and she was all over the craft. We made Mary-themed cupcakes, made spring gardens for her, all contributed to a Mary banner and, on the table I ended up on, we made Rosary Beads. For the record, I can tell you we were the second most popular activity choice but by far the most fiddley. Also, if you run this table, you’ll spend a lot of time explaining that this isn’t making friendship bracelets!
After this was a thirty-minute service, which held nothing back from the tradition but included children in every way it could. We had children serving, doing readings and sung liturgy from a children’s choir. One thing that helped was having the priest focus on presiding alongside Tom, the children’s worker, acting like a guide. Tom regularly interjected with clear explanations as to what was going on. This was smooth and seemed better than the priest explaining, as it seemed to flow more this way.
Finally, we had dinner together. I had mine with some year fours, who loved Messy Mass and judged the jacket potato to be “better than a school one” – which may be a great example of damning something with faint praise! Mine was nice enough and I was willing to forgive the lack of butter because I had lots of cheese. I’m glad you asked.
Final points I’d take home? I’ve already given you one – having a ‘Mass Host’ worked well – but also:
- It’s great to see this happening post-pandemic. There was a great worker and a great team of volunteers, and although this kind of recruitment is now tough, it can still be done.
- I was reminded how flexible Messy Church is. It really can suit almost every context; you can control the themes and how you work the all-age service aspect, so you can make it feel strongly like a congregation of your church.
- Finally, there was magnificent confidence from the church in the way they worshipped with the children. They knew what they were about and welcomed the children into it, showing confidence that the children would cope. It sounds like semantics to say that this is different to making your worship child-friendly, but it really was!
If you enjoyed reading about this and want to try Messy Mass in your church, we’d love to support you however we can or connect you with people doing it so you can learn from them. Drop us an email at email@example.com or visit our main support page.