Earlier this month, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Diocese of London welcomed families from across the city (and the south-east) to Messy Cathedral, a celebration for Messy Churches, children and families at the heart of London. The theme of the day was Paul’s journeys in Acts and there were lots of opportunities to engage with Paul’s exciting travels!
If you don’t know Messy Church, it’s a fun way of being church for families, a way of church that helps people encounter Jesus through a whole range of creative activities. It includes hospitality celebration and community, particularly for those who might find a regular church service difficult to attend. They often happen at times other than those used for existing church services and form part of the mission of churches from a range of different denominations. Many different Anglican dioceses have staged larger events in cathedrals and St Paul’s is an old hand, having hosted a Messy event for many years.
On the day, the St Paul’s welcomed more than 350 children and their families. Activity tables were devised and run by churches from around the diocese of London, by the cathedral and other linked organisations and museums. There were storytelling sessions and music workshops, as well as guided tours of the cathedral. The time together concluded with a Messy Eucharist under the magnificent dome.
The Bishop of Edmonton, the Rt Rev Rob Wickham, presided at the eucharist: “My parents tell me of the embarrassment of a family visit to Winchester Cathedral, when, as a small child, I sang ‘Nice One Cyril’ by Cockerel Chorus at the top of my voice,” he said. “I’m not sure whether their embarrassment concerned Spurs football club, or, more likely, the fact that I was singing loudly in a cathedral. How different, several decades later, with our own St Paul’s being filled with the sound of play, dance, artistic creativity, music, laughter and worship as hundreds of children of all ages thronged this hallowed centre of the City of London. My prayer for the day was that each person, aged between 1 and 101, met with Jesus Christ, and that such an encounter will help shape their Spirit-filled imagination and Godly ambition. I believe my prayer was answered. Our time together was a gospel of glitter, where Jesus danced.”
There were some special moments – Katie O’Conor, children’s ministry advisor for the Diocese of London, shared hers: “Seeing families gathered around the altar as Bishop Rob blessed the bread and wine, with children craning their necks to see what was happening, was a precious occasion.”
Messy Cathedral opened up St Paul’s Cathedral for children to interact with and explore in a way not often granted to them. What might you learn from such an event to apply to your own church?
Alex Taylor is resources editor for Premier Youth and Children’s Work.