Karina Cowan
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Times are changing, schedules are filling and priorities are drifting. It’s clear to see that in North America, and maybe even globally, culture is shifting. While the church is supposed to be at odds with culture, it’s no surprise that we have expanded the definition of what church is, to wrap our arms around culture and invite it in. Adapt or die, or so they say. “We’re really trying to reach into our community, and give them a reason to enter our building again,” says Jessie Gowan, a Threshold Ministries Evangelist who organized an Advent themed Messy Church in November, at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Hampton, NB. Jessie is the Children and Youth Ministry Coordinator at St. Paul’s. “We’re trying to help our neighbours feel comfortable (in our church), which is something that can seem foreign to a lot of people.” Opening their doors to their community, for a new kind of church held on a day other than Sunday, St. Paul’s is paving the way to reach families without a connection to church. “That’s the whole intention behind Messy Church,” Gowan commented.

“We’re trying to help our neighbours feel comfortable (in our church), which is something that can seem foreign to a lot of people.”

Spreading across many denominations and countries, Messy Church provides fresh ideas for building Christ-centered community. “It’s for both children and adults and is aimed at all ages, and all families... it’s about showing who Jesus is to families through craft, fellowship and informal learning. We wanted to create a space outside of regular church, to interact with people in the community and have a good time.” With various stations setup for people to get creative, the Gospel is incorporated in subtle, non-preaching ways. “We had a cookie decorating station, craft station, puppets, games…all with an Advent theme, so people are learning about the Christmas story, without sitting in the pews,” Jessie explained. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun. We’ve done it for 3 years in a row now, and this year alone we’re doing 5 different Messy Church programs.”

St. Paul’s isn’t the only church using this approach to dispel the stuffy opinions of church that culture emanates. In fact, it’s become somewhat of a trend. People are trying High Church, Low Church, Messy Church, Café Church, and the list goes on. In a May 2015 article, Diana Swift of the Anglican Journal wrote this in an article covering the surge of Messy Church in Canada:

“Jesus was a carpenter—a hands-on teacher with a common touch that brought the news of the kingdom to those on the messy fringes of society. It’s not hard to imagine his presence around a crafts table awash in paint, paste and pots of glue in Messy Church, the church of the unchurched.”

Messy Church values are about being Christ-centered, for all ages, based on creativity, hospitality and celebration. The people of St. Paul’s have fully embraced the new style of church, and everyone pitches in to make it happen. “We were already doing (the activities), we just hadn’t opened it up to the community. Once we did, it exploded. We’ve got everyone from youth to seniors helping out. Every group in the church contributes; the youth decorated welcome bags, small groups filled them, and we had volunteers leading stations. We’re just one big family, and we love getting together! Church isn’t about the building or a certain model, it’s about the meeting of God’s people, and our people love to serve!”

We’re just one big family, and we love getting together! Church isn’t about the building or a certain model, it’s about the meeting of God’s people, and our people love to serve!”

For the people at St. Paul’s, Messy Church hasn’t just transformed the way they do church, it has transformed their hearts, minds and attitudes too. “A lot of people know that this is building community. It’s living out the Gospel, not just preaching it.”

Serving over 25 families at their event in November, you can bet that Jessie and her team are looking forward to the next one. “People feel comfortable entering the building, and meeting people who are a part of the church. We’re building connections that can spring board into more community groups, and ultimately we’re growing engaged followers of Jesus, one delightfully messy craft at a time.”