Sunday 2 November 2014
Five people are on the veranda outside Melville Uniting Church hall tie-dying t-shirts. Inside the hall, others are sticking strips of coloured cloth to wooden dolls while another group is painting pictures of stars and wheat. Meanwhile there is deep discussion all around the building about the story of Joseph: about humility, ambition, and favouritism in families.
This is Craft Church, an all age worship experience where art and craft provide the means for genuine engagement with the scriptures, with each other, and with God.
One Sunday each month at Melville Uniting Church, we don’t sing hymns or hear a sermon. We begin together with prayers and the Bible reading, but then we split into groups to talk about the story as we do our different craft activities (a diversity to suit the different interests and abilities) before joining back again for a big group discussion, a closing prayer and a sending out. The basic elements of worship are still there, but they look a bit different.
So how did this come about? Let’s rewind.
Synod Meeting September 2011
Brenton Prigge is given 10 minutes to describe Messy Church. It’s not enough time to fully explain it but it’s enough to pique the interest, especially for a minister who is increasingly aware of how difficult it is for young families to come to church and how little the present worship format meets the needs of children.
Sunday 30 October 2011
It’s a fifth Sunday so I decide to try Messy Church at Melville. I’ve only got a 10 minute summary to go on, so I fill in a lot of the gaps myself and we opt for the name Craft Church instead (after all, the carpets were still new). The final result looks very different to Messy Church, but God makes it work.
Fast forward to today and it’s now something we do once a month. There’s still a mixed response to it.
As one elder said to me, “Ivan, I don’t really understand Craft Church, and it doesn’t do much for me; but there are young families who come to this who don’t come any other time, so I’m going to keep supporting it. Please don’t do it every week.”
And in the words of one young mum: “I don’t have much time for church. It’s not really relevant. But I like what you do here.”
If we can offer a way for a few young families to connect into God, then it’s worth the discomfort of the occasional break with tradition. At least, we seem to think so.
Rev Ivan Clark is a minister of the Word at Melville Uniting Church