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Bitterne Messy Church

  • Diocese Winchester
  • Context Suburban Anglican-Methodist LEP
  • Website Bitterne Parish
  • Growth Over 150 attending

Bitterne Messy Church is going from strength to... well... height! Families Worker and graphic design artist Barry Brand recently took the Messy Flag to 3261m above sea level in Snowdonia, literally raising the flag for Extreme Messiness.

But down on the ground, Bitterne Messy Church in Southampton might also be called extreme. In January 2012 members of the church heard about Messy Church at a New Wine seminar and felt it could be a good way forward to build links with the 'missing generations' from their church - the young adults and families who were gradually stopping coming to the Sunday services. They set about a process of listening and visited other local Messy Churches. A team from the church's existing congregations stepped forward happily. They already had excellent links with schools and preschools, and with prayer felt that planning a session for around 50 would be realistic. For their first Messy Church 155 people turned up. Some time later this email arrived at BRF's Messy Church office from the Diocesan Children's Work Adviser:

"I've just got an email from Barry Brand who runs the Messy Church at Bitterne in Southampton. At their last meeting just before Christmas they had 201 people in attendance, not including team, and I get the impression that he's rather at his wits' end!"

Numbers aren't everything, I agree. But perhaps numbers count for something when of the 150 people present at one of the Messy Church sessions, 70 left prayers in the 'prayer bin'. Or when children get upset if they can't come. Or when a mum who was going through a rough time 'felt she should come to church but didn't know why', started with Messy Church and continued with both Messy and the next Sunday all-age service. 'Some families do come on a Sunday, but that isn't the goal, just a bonus,' says Barry. 'They're less daunted about coming to church.' Angus the lead minister thinks Barry gives the large team confidence, makes things fun, inspires people and communicates brilliantly across the other church congregations so that they are delighted with the fact that more people are coming into the church, even if they're worshipping in a different way.

Click here to visit the Messy Church website.