Children and parents giggled and waved pool noodles during a game of socially-distanced freeze tag at the kick-off for Christ Church, Edmonton’s “Messy Summer Pigs, Parties, and Prayer: Discovering God’s Love Through the Parables.”
“Thinking up ways to keep kids engaged and learning, while at the same time not eating, drinking, singing or touching the same things or one another, was a tall order,” said the Rev. Susan Oliver, rector.
In addition to pool noodle tag, Messy Church-goers danced to the Village People's “Y.M.C.A.” and completed a self-guided scavenger hunt in the church gardens on Wednesday evening, July 8. The children were then invited to sit in circles on the lawn, at a safe social distance of two metres apart, to listen to Rev. Sue tell Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan.
“Kids have missed church a lot and this is a wonderful way to have them back in the garden running around like they own the joint,” she said.
As Messy Church wound down, people toting lawn chairs, some with canine companions, strolled amidst trees and flowers still glistening with freshly fallen rain. They were welcomed to Wednesday evening vespers by the sweet sound of Jodi Penner, joined by daughters Abigail and Isabella, singing in the gardens. The Penner family was accompanied on guitar by special guest Jorge Vargas, Isabella’s high school Spanish teacher and band leader.
Church marshals (volunteers trained to help participants follow COVID safety protocol), greeted members of the parish, as well as several neighbours who were drawn to the gardens by the enchanting music.
“I’ve been praying for this moment since COVID started,” said Oliver, jubilant in the opportunity to lead in-person worship gatherings for the first time since March.
Summer Garden Church offerings also include clergy chats with Rev. Sue (July) Canon Chelsy Bouwman (August) on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. During this time, the church building will be open for quiet prayer and a weekly, self-guided meditation on The Parables. As well, the garden features creative outdoor prayer stations. Messy Summer Church is offered Wednesday mornings and evenings. Sunday services are pre-recorded for the parish YouTube channel, while Morning Prayer continues every weekday morning via Zoom.