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Messy outdoors

07 November 2014

BEING messy out of doors offers even more scope than being messy in church, as they found in Portsmouth diocese. The Messy Great Outdoors event was held at the YMCA Centre at Fairthorne Manor, near Botley, where they were able to build dens, light fires, whittle wood, and join in a whole mixture of family activities, as well as have a hot meal and a short act of worship. About 300 people came from both Portsmouth and Winchester dioceses. Instead of the usual arts and crafts, families were able to work together on making rope bridges or creating a family totem pole.

The day had been organised by Libby Norris, the Portsmouth diocesan children and families' work consultant. "It was great to see it was a genuine all-age event," she says. "Messy Church sometimes involved parents' watching their children doing art and craft, but parents and children were working together. We chose Fairthorne Manor, as we wanted to bring the church into a setting that families might choose to go to anyway, to explore outdoors and discover new skills. But we wanted our helpers to run the day, rather than the YMCA staff, to show it could be done by volunteers."

She says that one of the aims was to model what people could do back in their parishes. Another was to engage the boys more, "as art and craft in messy church can be a bit girly". So it was good to do something like den-building that boys and men could do together. "There was an Israeli storytelling round the camp fire, which emphasised that everyone has a story to tell, and then hot dogs and soup for 300."

They were joined by the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster, and the day ended with a celebration round the campfire, including storytelling and music, and a final blessing by the Bishop.

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