Messy St Paul’s
Yes, even St Paul’s Cathedral can get messy – but without involving either paint on the pillars or glitter in the gallery, you will be pleased to hear. But there was a tree under the dome!
Last month, we ran our third Messy Church at St Paul’s Cathedral – a joint venture between the Diocese of London, BRF’s Messy Church and the Cathedral’s Education and Families team. Over 500 people booked in for the morning of 29 May, filling the north and south transepts and the area under the Dome with a larger number of family groups than usual. Parties of tourists were surprised and pleased to see so many people enjoying this new style of messy worship, and indeed many joined in!
The aim of the morning was to showcase Messy Church as a way forward for local parish mission in the 21st century. There were 20 activity tables, each run by Cathedral teams and Messy Churches from around London, inviting visitors to explore the stories of Ascension and Pentecost in a creative, hands-on way. The event also picked up on the theme of the ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ initiative from the Archbishop of Canterbury, with several tables exploring the Lord’s Prayer and Jesus’s great commission to his disciples both then and today.
Messy Church has proved to be an effective way to set up a new worshipping community within an existing parish – one which particularly attracts adults and children who are not normally part of a Sunday morning congregation. Activities on a Bible theme are followed by a gathered time of storytelling and worship, which is then continued over a shared meal together. There are now over 3,500 Messy Churches in the UK registered on the website of the Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF), which encourages and nurtures Messy Church nationally. And Messy Church is also now global; at St Paul’s that morning we were pleased to meet up with leaders from a Messy Church in Sydney, Australia!
All this certainly added colour and life to the Cathedral on the day, as families brought their colourful Pentecost ribbons and head bands to the Holy Communion service, which was our shared celebration of the morning. With a dramatic reading of the Gospel, the singing of a new song learnt in the music workshops and dancing under the Dome, even the Eucharist was given a messy flavour! And afterwards many of the families stayed on to picnic either in the Crypt or out in the Cathedral gardens.
It was certainly a morning to remember and we also hope it was an inspiration that will encourage churches to do something similar on a smaller scale in their own parishes and thereby reach out to their communities as part of the mission of God. The London Diocese Capital Vision scheme offers a grant and support for any churches who wish to explore Messy Church. If you’re interested, get in touch with Sam Donoghue.
And the tree under the dome? Yes, there really was one – a small olive tree that over the course of the morning was slowly covered with beautiful ribbons to represent the prayers of the people and which then became a focus for our intercessions when we worshipped together.
Feedback so far has all been very positive. One participant wrote:
“It was wonderful taking part in Messy Cathedral yesterday. I loved it. Let’s face it, Messy Church is for adults with a hands-on learning style, as well as children!”
Clearly Messy St Paul’s was a great success once again and looks set to become an annual event in the Cathedral calendar! See you next year!
Martyn Payne is part of BRF’s Messy Church team and assists the Diocese in supporting Messy Churches throughout London.