Messy Church by the River 

The diocesan events trailer was at the Riverside Festival in Nottingham at the weekend, being used as the focal point for Messy Church. Paul Howard, who runs the trailer programme, said it was a big hit with families enjoying one of the city’s most popular festivals. Here he describes what happened over the weekend. 

The Riverside Festival, on the Embankment, stretched from Trent Bridge, past the war Memorial and half way up the playing fields. It throbbed with the sound of music, generators and children screaming with delight. The music was not just from the fairground rides but from the various stages dotted throughout the festival, bhangra, soul, reggae, country and western, mixed with pop and R’n’B.

But we were not sightseeing this weekend, no, we were running Messy Church in the diocesan events trailer. That’s a strange place to do Church of any kind I hear you saying but, in fact it is a great place to serve the community. The Embankment was packed with people, mostly families, enjoying the weekend and dodging the showers.

We offered badge making, drawing, playdough, stilts, hoola hoops, giant Jenga, skipping ropes, a play kitchen, and parachute dancing. Compared with the high-tech world we live in, who would bother with such old-fashioned activities? Well, hundreds came and enjoyed themselves, parents remembering toys from their past and wanting to show their children how to play with them. Some children would not leave, they spent ages going from one toy to the next. Mums and dads gave in and sat on the grass and enjoyed the rest and the river, which was full of boats, and the passing actors in various comic costumes, including two in a punt on wheels and a lady with a wheelbarrow full of rubber eels.

We had a great reaction from people who had seen that their local church offered Messy Church and, after having a great time with us, said they would try the local one.

Families thanked us for our efforts and, bearing in mind the prices at the fair, were able to stay longer because there was no charge for our activities. We spoke about faith and church and prayed with one 10-year-old boy whose grandad had died.

One family asked about going to Southwell Minster and how could they get there on the bus – thanks to the power of the internet we gave them times and where to catch and get off the bus.

I want to say thank you to Jill my wife, who supported me all weekend, and my grandchildren who helped other children at Messy Church by the River.

I will leave you with a quote from a bemused Father: “I have spent a fortune on that fair and the only thing my children thought was fantastic was being able to make a badge”.