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Getting messy

04 April 2014

THE words "Messy Church" conjure up an image of toddlers, sticky paper, and toys, but the Priest-in-Charge of St Ninian's, Aberdeen, the Revd Samantha Ferguson, has found that the same principle works well with people whose toddlerhood is well behind them.

St Ninian's, she says, is a tiny church in the middle of one of the most socially deprived areas of that oil-rich city. It has a small congregation, mostly of students and elderly people, in "a chameleon church" that has little liturgical tradition. She says that she is blessed in that they will tolerate anything she throws at them - as long as the service is on PowerPoint, and no books are involved.

Before she arrived, three years ago, a regular monthly service had been started in one of the surrounding high-rise tower-blocks of sheltered accommodation (right) for many of the elderly and infirm in the neighbourhood. It was intended to extend the outreach of St Ninian's, and "to bring God to those who may not have been reminded of the Presence for many, many decades".

They have regularly had a half-hour slot in the common room, where 20 to 30 residents habitually start with tea and sandwiches. This has been Mrs Ferguson's challenge, and what she has developed is "something I lovingly call Messy Church for wrinklies".

Along with the Church of Scotland minister, the Revd Elsie Fortune, she follows the liturgical year (to her colleague's amusement, she says), and, after the chatter and the clatter of teacups have died down, candles are lit, and large-print hymn-sheets are handed round.

"Prayer, music, Bible-reading, talk with 'crafty' stuff, and lots of laughter, prayer, more singing, and a blessing. . . Simple enough, yet there is, within those common-room walls, a sense of a worshipping community, growing in confidence and in love."

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