Showing churches how they can reach out to families

A Messy Celebration


An exciting event for churches of all denominations across the diocese at Southwark Cathedral, 'Messy Celebration' encouraged rich and varied expressions of worship with children and young people. The partnership between the Diocese of Southwark and Messy Church was made because of its status as one of the leading fresh expressions of church. Messy Celebration also offered a chance to explore how sacramental worship can be conducted in creative ways.

Who came and what did they do?

The event was attended by over 500 people of all ages taking part in 25 different activities on the theme of meeting Jesus. Messy Church teams from across London helped the families to produce items for the celebration. 

Breaking bread together

Bringing Holy Communion into Messy Celebration was a challenge with so many people, but it was designed to be both participative and accessible. The teams used the bread baked in one of the activities, an altar cloth decorated that morning, and candles made by children and adults together as one of the earlier activities. The Bishop celebrated the communion wearing robes beautifully designed and painted by the Messy congregation, so everyone was involved in what was going on. Several people commented that the packed cathedral felt like ‘the feeding of the 5,000’ as everyone broke bread and shared wine in groups of 20 all around the building.  

Some comments from families after the event:

'What a well-organised and fantastic event!’

'Thank you for such a wonderful day on Saturday - it was amazing to see so many people gather together for the Messy Eucharist!'

'I just want you to know how much we enjoyed Messy Church at Southwark Cathedral.  We are looking into how we can do the same on a smaller scale.'


Messy Celebration @ Southwark (69).jpg


The event was supported by Martyn Payne from BRF's Messy Church team and Aike Kennett-Brown and Michelle O'Connor, who are local Messy Church regional coordinators. (This volunteer role is to support and resource Messy Churches in various regions, and there are now over 100 worldwide.) Hugh Risdill-Smith, the children's and youth training officer for the diocese, worked with the core team to plan and run this special day. 

Everything came together so well: the prayers and communion activities fed into the Eucharist as well as all the stations around the Nave and elsewhere, which explored Bible stories about Jesus.  The aim was to model something very possible that many parishes might try in order to reach out to new children, young people and adults with the good news of Christ.

Martyn Payne


Martyn Payne

What might come next?

The event was set up to encourage further development of mission and ministry to children and young people, to extend and diversify ministries with children and young people, and maybe to start up Messy Churches. As well as support and consultancy, there will be follow-up training events open to all. 


How you can get involved

Find out more about Messy Church

Pray for the work of Messy Church and the growing partnerships between different areas of the church and families.