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Elderly church­goers given the chance to be messy

18 August 2017

Bible Reading Fellowship

Fellowship: a Messy Vintage afternoon in Philadelphie Messy Centre, in Jersey

Fellowship: a Messy Vintage afternoon in Philadelphie Messy Centre, in Jersey

MESSY VINTAGE, an offshoot of Messy Church, serving elderly or vulnerable church­goers, has crossed the sea from its founding church in Jersey to receive an enthusiastic re­­ception in the parish of Chidham, West Sussex.

The scheme was established by Philadelphie Methodist, St Peter, in Jersey (now known as Philadelphie Messy Centre), in February 2011. It takes the structure and principles of Messy Church — which has served young children and families with the support of the Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) since 2004 — to reach out to a different group of worshippers.

The co-ordinator of Messy Vintage for the BRF, Katie Norman, said: “We felt that same joy [of Messy Church] would be valued by those who, for various reasons, might find it dif­ficult to experience God through more formal styles of worship.”

St Mary’s, ChidhamAfternoon tea: the Vicar of St Mary’s, Chidham, the Revd Paul Matthews, offers cake to residents of a nursing home during the parish’s first Messy Vintage afternoon  The sessions are generally held on midweek afternoons for an hour, and may include hymns, Bible readings, craft activities, informal worship, and afternoon tea. Messy Vintage is hosted by both the Centre and care homes and dementia units across the island — and now across the Channel.

St Mary’s, Chidham, in West Sussex, hosted its first Messy Vintage in Kings Lodge, a care home, last month. The Vicar, the Revd Paul Matthews, who heard of the scheme through Messy Church, said that the “sheer joy, engagement, and fellowship” of the afternoon had exceeded all expectations.

“We all felt truly blessed. The conversation flowed freely, and there were lots of memories from childhood being shared. It is such a simple but lovely way for the Church to draw alongside the elderly where they are, and we had some lovely comments from the residents.”

One participant, Jack, aged 92, said that it was a “lovely way” to spend the afternoon. Another participant, Brenda, said that she was “speechless” with joy at the end of the day.

Fr Matthews plans to repeat Messy Vintage at Harvest to include other churchgoers, in­­clud­ing children from Chidham Parochial Primary School. “We always hoped that the service would be a lovely celebration of God’s love and — typical of God — it has grown back out from the home.”

Mr Matthews and his wife, Zena, had “cap­tured the vision” of the scheme, Ms Norman said. “All Messy ministry is highly dependent on a good team — even more so when taking Messy Vintage into residential care homes.

“The hour of creating something together while having a conversation, or simply having eye contact, is so special for both resident and team member alike. There is always much laughter, and sometimes tears, ever-listening ears, and gentle encouragement.”

Though there is no official record of Messy Vintage numbers across the UK, there is evidence of the scheme spreading, Ms Norman said. She noted pilots in a care home in Ports­mouth, and sessions in a church in London.

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