After hearing lots about Messy Church, the Youth Committee at St. Patrick’s Ballymena were very interested in the concept and wondered if it might be the way ahead for them to support families in the parish and to reach out to unchurched families in the locality. The monthly family service took place in the church hall and had an informal, relaxed atmosphere and ended with tea and activities. The team felt it was important to build on this momentum.
So how did they go about getting started? Firstly they did some training. One of the Sunday School teachers completed a one day workshop in Bangor on Messy Church and 5 of the team then went to the Building Blocks conference in November 2014 which had Lucy Moore the founder of Messy Church as the keynote speaker. (Building Blocks is an annual training event for Christian children’s ministry leaders.)
Lucy McLoughlan one of the parish’s part time Children’s and Youth workers then went to see Messy Church at Christmas in Ahoghill Parish and was very impressed. The team decided to do their first Messy Church family service in the church hall in April with the theme “Eating and Drinking together” based on the story of Jesus feeding the 5000.
Lucy then organised a Messy Church taster evening for all the leaders and volunteers she had gathered together and Jill Hamilton, the Children’s Project Development Officer for Connor came along to lead the evening and share some ideas. Jill is the Messy Church regional co-ordinator for Northern Ireland.
The team also carried out a leaflet drop around the surrounding housing estates to inform people and encourage them to come along to Messy Church and this proved successful with some newcomers coming along on the day.
The Messy Church family service went ahead on Sunday 19th April with 104 people in total coming along. Lucy writes “We were happy to see some newcomers and some faces that hadn’t been with us for a while. It all went very well and we received very good feedback. We now hope to take it to St. Columba’s, our sister church and also hold another one in October at St. Patricks”.