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What is it that makes a pre- school boy ask repeatedly each Saturday morning “Is it Whatever Club today mummy?” and the quietest, most mild mannered little girl stamp her feet and shout “I’m very cross with you mummy; I missed Whatever Club”? The answer is a monthly form of Messy Church held every second Saturday of the month in the village of Hellifield, North Yorkshire.

Messy Church is one of the fresh expressions of church taking place across the denominations and across the country in both urban and rural situations. The Hellifield version finally started in mid 2007 where for two hours both young and not so young gather excitedly to discover more about the Christian faith in stories, crafts and games, and to share a meal and worship.

We have had many memorable sessions. In May 2008 we celebrated Pentecost in a room decorated for a party with balloons, banners and kites. Excited and lively children proudly explained about Whatever Club to visitors who had joined us that day from Leeds. Others spent time creating flame coloured coasters with Hama beads, or colouring flags that said ‘Praise the Lord’ in languages different from their own. The activity to make paper doves and windmills was popular with young and old alike. The sense of God’s presence was very real. When “time to tidy up” was called it was met with cries of “oh no!” and “not yet, please” - always a good sign! As befitting a party celebration, our meal that day was a birthday tea buffet before which grace was said by one of the youngsters, a first time experience for them. The meal ended with candles on the birthday cake being blown out expertly by one of the youngest members present after a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday to the church.

A few days later walking through the village it was a joy to see many of the paper doves hanging in windows. A little later I met a Grandma who couldn’t wait to tell me just how much her grandchildren had enjoyed telling her about the church’s birthday party. At the local school, staff members spoke of the large number of doves at the show and tell assembly, and how the children were eager to share all they had done.

We held our first Messy Church in July 2007 on a Monday evening. Eight nervous leaders set up the crafts, laid out the tea and waited…. and waited. After half an hour we decided to have tea and try out the crafts ourselves. At this point two ten-year olds popped their heads around the door so we invited them in. They tried everything, ate a little, joined in our worship and left, promising to tell others all about it. True to their word those boys became our first

ambassadors, even willing to talk about it in school assembly.

Reflecting on the general lack of support for our pilot occasion we concluded that the name, Messy Church, was an

impediment. For some the idea of

church being messy was offensive; for others the idea of church for two hours was a turn off! So we changed the name to “Whatever Club”, moved it to Saturday teatime and re-launched in the autumn.

Running Whatever Club in a

village is never an exact science. Numbers attending fluctuate wildly. While the children were happy to share this time with adults they were not so happy to have their parents present (much to the disappointment of some mums). So adjustments had to be made again, and we are still feeling our way. Some older


rural mission

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