For almost ten years, Messy Church at Bunbury St Augustine Uniting Church has been an all-ages worship connecting families to the message of Jesus. The monthly gathering usually consists of craft, songs, a story, prayers and a shared meal.
This month, however, due to COVID-19, Messy Church in Bunbury looked a little different. Instead of gathering at the church, people ran Messy Church activities in their own homes over the Easter long weekend, connecting as a group via live stream to share in some of the activities together.
‘Messy Church Packs’ were delivered to those houses who lived in the City of Bunbury, and were also available to download for those who lived further away. Each pack contained a recipe, a planter with some seeds and soil, resources to make Easter cards, instructions, and a story book and puzzle. Twenty seven packs were personally delivered, with a further ten emailed to families.
Families were invited to share photos of their crafts online so that the community were still engaging with each other. The approach meant that families were not only leading the activities themselves within their homes (with the guidance of the resources), but that they were able to participate in the activities at their own pace.
Rev Greg Ross, Minister at Bunbury St Augustine Uniting Church, said about 80 to 90 percent of their regular Messy Church families got involved in the virtual experience. Not only that, but they were extremely grateful for it.
One family shared that doing Messy Church in the home was one of the few ways they were able to bring their blended family together over Easter. Others have loved the casual nature of church, and being able to share the experience online with extended family.
“One of the young families who comes along with their little boy, who is about 14 months, the mum said the coolest thing was that – because it was so hot on that day – she said ‘we had Messy Church in our nappy!’
“A couple of the other families got together online. We delivered a packet to the grandparents as well so they could share it together on Facetime, which was really cool. They were reading the stories to each other, it was really good.”
The congregation have also been live streaming their traditional Sunday morning worship services, which have been gaining up to 500 views from people all over the state, and even the world – reaching as far as New Zealand and Canada. For people who can’t access the online technology, the congregation send out DVDs of the worship for people to watch at their leisure.
“The good thing for us is that we’ve been mailing out DVDs of every Sunday service for eight or nine years,” Greg said. “We’ve been mailing out between 12 and 20 depending on how many families are feeling separated or isolated.
“It was just one of the things that arose because we became aware that people were either looking after loved ones or could no longer get to church in the morning.
“So I think in some ways it’s been an easier transition for us than for other people because we’ve been doing that and we had a bunch of equipment to do that already.”
As we begin to settle into a ‘new normal’ of physical distancing, Greg said he is interested to see how church evolves once the restrictions put in place to deal with COVID-19 are lifted.
“One of the things I’ve begun thinking about is how we use this space to imagine a different future. I think that’s really important.”
Greg believes some of the ideas on how, and when, we attend worship can be redefined, as so many churches have been pushed online.
“I think that our understanding of church membership will change,” he said. “And hopefully people will still be generous in sharing resources – as long as churches make sure they’ve got their copyright licences.”
For more info on staying up-to-date on copyright requirements click here.