So what does “church” mean to most people?
For many, probably an hour or two on Sunday morning, sitting in one’s best clothes in a wooden pew, listening to a formal service, often conducted in formal language.
That is, if one goes to church at all.
In these days of harried and busy households, parents working, kids signed up to sports and lessons, too few hours in the week as it is, most churches are facing a grim reality: seriously declining numbers. Only seniors in the pews. Few, if any, young families coming out.
That is why a new concept, The Messy Church, has taken many parishes by storm, and why Lakeshore Drive United Church in Morrisburg has embarked on what they hope will become a new, and vigorous approach to faith for people in South Dundas.
On a Saturday evening, between 5 and 6:30 p.m., passersby might hear the sounds of hammers from the church hall. Children are building bird houses. In the back yard, young parents and their children, some grandparents too, are racing around playing games, or ducking under a bright, billowing parachute cloth. Others are using magnifying glasses to examine spring plants or occasional passing bugs.
Inside the church a white-haired man is patiently demonstrating how to plant seeds in egg shells for home gardens and small hands are getting happily dirty. Some seniors are tearing up newsprint for papier maché. No one minds the boys and girls racing around, asking questions, lending a hand.
In the kitchen, men and women, some young, some much older are putting together a home-made spaghetti dinner, that everyone will sit down to share. Before the meal, adults and children join hands in a great circle to say grace. Later, exuberant hymns are sung, with lots of freedom to move, even dance in the aisles, as part of the short worship service.
This isn’t traditional church: rather messy church is a complement to, a companion to, traditional forms of worship.
“The ‘messy church’ offers a lot of flexibility,” said the Reverend Arlyce Schiebout, of Lakeshore Drive United Church. “When a church decides to adopt this program, you look around at the gifts the members of the congregation have, the facilities available in the church.
Then we approached area families with children, and asked them what they wanted.
And it turned out that what they wanted was a ‘service’ on Saturday night (which surprised me) because they said that that was the one evening of the week, at supper time, that the family was all together. Our Saturday night messy church program is the result.”
The concept of the Messy Church began 10 years ago with Lucy Moore, who created the first Messy Church program with her husband’s Anglican congregation in Portsmouth, England.
She felt that the church had lost one, perhaps two generations, and there was a real need to bring people back to their faith. Her scheme involved an all age event, with activities like “making things, blowing things up and exploring a Bible theme through all those activities.”
A session is brought together in celebration with story, song and prayer and a meal together. Activities are always child friendly and the feedback from parents exceptional.
Moore once said, “There are lovely stories of people rediscovering what Christianity is all about, or finding it for the first time.”
The Messy Church program is spreading in Canada.
“The core values stressed in the program are creativity (lots of activities), celebration, and eating together,” explained Rev. Schiebout. “And it must be intergenerational.” At Lakeshore, 30 members of the congregation have become involved.
At the Easter event, Morrisburg’s messy church helped the children create newspaper palm branches, and foam crosses with magnets and flowers they could take home.
No one has to worry about dressing up for messy church.
“I find that I can talk to individuals and families in a more intimate manner than at Sunday worship,” Schiebout said. “We have a values and virtues thumb ball, that lists words like dignified and kind and wise. Where a kid’s thumb lands, that’s what we talk about. For some children, this is a special time to think, discuss and reflect.”
She feels that Messy Church is a good idea, although it takes a lot of energy and commitment from a faith community to make it work.
“Messy church is a way to share the gospel message in a more relaxed format.
A church needs to be instantly responsive to young families and people. We must leap in and accept the challenge.”
Messy Church will meet again on June 2, at Lakeshore United Church at 5 p.m.
There is always room.
Serving members of the SD&G Highlanders stopped off in Morrisburg November 5 to see the new South Dundas Community Playground named in their honour by the Playground committee in September. On hand to greet the soldiers and to share something about the construction of the Playground were committee members Rosemary Laurin and Mike Domanko. The Glens had also spent some time at the memorial honouring the Battles of Crysler’s Farm and Hoople Creek with former honorary colonel, Bill Shearing. “You have a beautiful park here,” said Lieutenant Alain Grenier. “We wanted to learn more about our regiment’s history as part of our professional development. It is important to stay in tune with our past.” “I hope these visitors spread the message about what a group from South Dundas can do and how they honoured the Highlanders,” said Shearing. Left to right, at the Playground, are Shearing, 2nd Lieutenant Matthew Eamer, Captain Jean Tessier, Major Jim Mills, padre Captain Andrea Harrison, Lieutenant Grenier and Rosemany Laurin.
If there had been as many people, in 1813, able to take up arms as there were people gathered to watch a recreation of the Chrysler’s Farm Battle in 2013, well, no Americans would have dared to invade this nation.
Upper Canada Village Saturday, July 13, and Sunday, July 14, drew some of the largest crowds ever seen at the heritage site. By any standards, the much anticipated re-enactment of the battle which saved Upper Canada 200 years ago during the War of 1812 was an unqualified success. According to Village authorities, over 7,200 people attended the battle, toured the Village, or took in both activities.
The success of the bicentennial re-enactment was also due to the tireless efforts of the Friends of the Crysler’s Farm Battlefield, who have hosted the event for the last 13 years. The committee is made up entirely of volunteers who spent long weeks organizing events, contacting other key groups and co-ordinating the hundreds of living history re-enactors who came to South Dundas for the weekend from all over Ontario, Quebec and from the States. Working in partnership with the Village, Robin Morris, Bob Irvine and the Friends helped make the 200th anniversary one that visitors were eager to praise.
“It was a really strong event for the Village,” said Jancis Sommerville, Special Events Officer at UCV. “We may all be a little tired today on the site, but it was a wonderful weekend.”
The recreation of the pivotal battle drew over 850 re-enactors to the South Dundas area. Nearly 500 of them actually took part in three weekend battles.
These re-enactors camped in the fields below the Crysler Memorial in tents that imitated those that soldiers, officers, their families and camp followers would have shared 200 years ago. They dress, walk, ride, cook and carry the arms and colours of those who actually served in the War with the United States.
Visitors were invited to step back in time and see blacksmithing, 1800’s military surgery, tinsmithing, rope making, itinerant medicine men hawking their wares, lively games of cricket, dress making and military parades.
Throughout the weekend, noted historians held talks on the local Battle and the origin and nature of the events of the War of 1812 in general.
Also present, reminding visitors of the enormous contribution to the survival of Canada made by the First Nations warriors, were singers and dancers from Akwesasne.
“Represented here today are the Awkwesasne Spirit Singers with dancers from the North American Indian Travelling College,” said Mohawk Jerry MacDonald. “We have 12 young dancers with us who are proud to perform the ancient dances, proud of learning about their culture and heritage.”
Accepting 1812 honours on behalf of all Francophone militia from Lower Canada who fought in battles like Chateauguay, were the Voltigeurs de Quebec. South Dundas mayor Steven Byvelds accepted the salute and inspected the troops at the base of the Memorial during the ceremony. The Voltigeurs are one of the oldest French Canadian regiments, having served in many major conflicts from the 1850s to modern day.
The full flavour of the War was brought to bear with the participation in the battles of the tall ships Fair Jeanne and La Revenante, as well as seven gunboats of the era. Cannons firing over the water formed a powerful backdrop to the cannonades on shore.
Definitely the high lights of weekend were the re-enactments of the actual Battle of Crysler’s Farm. As a narrator described the action, the British troops, Canadian militia and Native allies took to the field in a powerful struggle against the invading Americans. The crowds packed on to the hill, cheered loudly and long as the ‘enemy’ was finally repulsed.
All in all, 1813 was a year to remember. And Upper Canada Village and the Friends of the Crysler’s Farm Battlefield staged an historical event to remember.