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
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."