It’s not your typical church service, and that’s the point. Starting in April, on the first Thursday of each month, Trinity United Church will host ‘Messy Church,’ an initiative aimed at facilitating family interaction between children and their parents.

While many people may be used to thinking of church as a paint-by-numbers process, where an emphasis is placed on doing it properly and as instructed within the lines, messy church — as the name indicates — is more like finger painting.

“This is part of a whole movement that says the old church was one of expecting people to come in and conform to what was established… in other words, [saying] this is the way church is — fit in,” explained Rev. Nick Judson. “[Messy church] is much more free. While saying we’ve still got the core the same, we’re still following God and an expression of God in Jesus — however we understand Jesus — there’s no need to conform to the way the church has been since the 19th century.”

The way it works is that at 5 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month, children, accompanied by a parent or guardian, will register for ‘Messy Church.’ The fee will be by donation. There will be different craft stations set up around the room, and they move from one to the next together.

“It’s not somebody cutting out and saying now you must put that there — it’s creative,” said organizer Linda Baird. “Heaven only knows what it will look like! If it’s a mess, it’s a mess.”

Following the crafts, there will be a short message, a song, and then a shared meal together.

“The meal will often be a pasta meal, a soup and a sandwich, or at times hot dogs — something simple, but still nutritious — and a kid-approved dessert,” explained Gloria Michayluk, one of the organizers. “It’ll tie in with the whole theme.”

Judson said there was a need for such a program here in Merritt.

“There’s a lot of brokenness,” he said. “There are family dynamics that we see all the time that seem to be less than ideal. Not that we want to be prescriptive, that you’ve all got to have cute little middle class kids in the Victorian model, but to say you know what, people are hurting.

“Here’s an opportunity to sit together and have a meal that’s prepared, so don’t stress out that you’re getting off work at 4:30 and nothing is ready to eat.”

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