Grande Prairie has an intriguing demographic profile: it has the youngest average age in all of Canada. This knowledge has sharpened the focus of Christ Church, the local Anglican congregation, located 456 km NW of Edmonton in the Diocese of Athabasca. The Rev. Janice Orr, Vocational Deacon, says: “We have Sunday School on Sunday mornings as well as a Children’s Time… We love these events—and we love the children—but find that few parents, despite best intentions, actually get to church on a Sunday morning.” Another concern Orr has is for the development of inter-generational relationships.

A young girl in Grande Prairie, enjoying Messy Church
A young girl in Grande Prairie, enjoying Messy Church

In order to meet these needs, the parish was careful not to focus only on programs that have “kid-appeal,” but rather on those that would also draw family groups and people of all ages to worship. And several recent Messy Church events have fit the bill.

Messy Church, a movement that started in the UK in 2004 in order to address the diminishing numbers of young families attending worship, has three basic values: hospitality, creativity and celebration.

Orr says that their Messy Church events, “while seeking to attract young families who do not come to Sunday morning services, are intentionally multi-generational”—and what better way to draw the generations together than starting with a delicious hot meal. One Friday evening per month the parish hosts a potluck supper (hospitality), followed by a craft or artistic activity (creativity) and a time of worship (celebration).

The parish’s first Messy Church theme was “Jonah and The Whale” and a recent one was focused on Christmas. Parishioner Tammy O’Toole says the events are “great fun” and have been well received.

“We want our older parishioners, singles, young adults, and children to have the opportunity to develop relationships and thus build a support group in matters of faith and life,” says Deacon Orr, and notes, “This is happening!”

The innovative ministry of parishes like Christ Church in Grande Prairie is strengthened through your generous and sacrificial support for the Council of the North.

Sharon Dewey Hetke
Council of the North Communications

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