Congratulations to Church of the Resurrection
During this month that we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus during Eastertide, we are excited to introduce you to Church of the Resurrection (COR) Episcopal Church from Alexandria, VA. During the January 2023 Forma conference in Alexandria, several team members from COR stopped by our Messy Church USA table and shared their story of Messy Church. Thank you Christine Yeannakis for sharing the story of Messy Church at COR!
How did you hear about Messy Church?
I (Chris) have been a Godly Play teacher since about 1996. After joining Facebook in about 2010, I began following other Godly Play and Christian Formation folk. I happened upon a church in the UK that was doing Messy Church (MC) and clicked around to learn more about it. Although not a match for at the time, I filed MC away mentally for possible future use.
Why did you decide to offer Messy Church at COR?
A bit more than a year ago as COR settled into our new building, we began thinking about our 9 AM service. Chris and her friend and fellow Christian Educator were discussing this during our first face to face visit since March 2020. We wondered how we might engage people who would otherwise be uninterested in our (lovely to us) traditional Episcopal service. We discussed the Godly Play format and thought about how we might adapt that to the entire service.
At that point Chris began recalling MC. As she pitched the idea to Rev. Jo Belser, COR rector, Chris described MC but decided we should not use the name as it could be proprietary. Rev. Jo gave us a big “GO!” and a date. Gay, Chris and others in the parish began planning via Zoom.
When did you start Messy Church?
Our first MC was in April 2022. We did not call it MC as we had not registered. Chris researched getting permission to use the MC name and logo and discovered they could register their MC on the Messy church USA website which granted permission to use the logo. Palm to forehead. We have been using the MC logo and resources beginning with our June 2022 MC. We have offered MC quarterly since then. (There are three level of membership levels with Messy Church USA)
What are some of your favorite Messy Church activities?
We may differ from “traditional” MC (if there can be such a thing?). We have six or so “stations” in our parish hall. Each station offers a variety of materials with which participants can create as they wish. Some creations are direct responses to the day’s Bible story. Others are not. We usually have one table with a more directed activity.
Most recently we told the story of the Exile and Return. We offered a table where participants could make people of God using toilet paper rolls and provided materials. Another table offered lots of cardboard and cardboard boxes. Adults had the box cutters. Some participants made temples into which others placed their people of God.
In addition to a specific craft or two, we have offered watercolor painting (a big hit as its mentored by a professional artist in our parish), paper and all kind of drawing materials, beading, clay, stickers (especially popular with the under 5 year olds), small bits for collage, glue (!), popsicle sticks, and more.
The first time we held a MC we assigned adults to each table. We found this was not necessary as adults tended to settle at tables that interested them. Others engaged their very young children with appropriate materials and sat with them at those tables. The atmosphere each time has been busy but focused and calm.
Pictures from COR Messy Church
What worked well in getting support from our parish?
The COR is always ready to try something new. Our recent parish history is beyond the scope of this report, but here’s a bit. COR, over the years, became a parish of older people. Children raised in the parish had grown and few young families were members. Our building was likewise aging. It was bigger than we needed and required costly repairs. After considerable deliberation and research, the parish voted to demolish the building and build an affordable apartment community on most of the land. We left our building in 2018 for temporary quarters at the nearby Virginia Theological Seminary.
We watched as our building came down and an apartment building, The Spire, emerged. Our small church was built behind the apartments. ( Learn more about this project Here)
COVID happened. Our worship went online, from the Seminary and then online and outdoors at the Seminary. We moved into the new building in April 2021. Many of us were still not attending group events. By Spring 2022 our in-person numbers had grown.
What have been your challenges in offering MC?
Meanwhile, via Zoom, the parish continued to plan and imagine what God might have us do in our new space. We particularly wanted to get to know our neighbors at the Spire. The parish was supportive of our efforts to publicize MC at the Spire. We had only a small handful of Spire residents at MC. (We have found other ways to engage with our Spire neighbors.)
We worried about participation. Would adult 9 AM worshippers attend MC? Would they watch and listen to the story telling? Would they sing? Would they enjoy the activities? Would there be any children?
Strategies we used to meet our challenges
- Asking adult parishioners to share a skill during MC
- Offering an activity table slightly apart from the business (older men like beeswax candles!)
- Inviting our tenant congregation which has many children
- Inviting Seminary families
- Using word of mouth invitations rather than traditional publicity
A few more stories from Chris
Although we do not have specific quotes about Messy Church, children have stated that they prefer church the MC way. Parents have asked for regular MC and other similar variations of the service.
We have had a “Mission Church” at 9 AM. A worship service will be wrapped around the packaging of diapers.
Earlier this year we held what I have privately thought of as “Messy Spire”. We offered snacks and tables full of art materials to Spire children as they exited their school bus. Parents with younger children joined us. Four parishioners and a Spire staff member participated with 25 plus children. We will offer this event monthly. Although not explicitly religious, for this writer, God was present in the love and joy we shared with the children.
Thank you Chris and members of COR for sharing your story!
Be sure to check out the website of COR listed below to learn more about building the Spire. The Spire apartment building is in back of the church in the above picture.
Contact Information for COR
Address: Church of the Resurrection, 2800 Hope Wy, Alexandria, VA 22311
Office Phone & Email: (703) 998-0888, [email protected]
Messy Church Contact: Christine Yeannakis, [email protected]
Social Media: https://www.facebook.com/welcometoresurrection/