Praise through play as hundreds of children join in creative church session

Bishop Mark gets messy with children and families thinking about hand printing to symbolise Friends of Jesus.
Bishop Mark gets messy with children and families thinking about hand printing to symbolise Friends of Jesus.
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Youngsters joined in one last Sunday of fun before returning to school with a packed session of crafts.

More than 200 children and families from the Diocese of Durham descended on Herrington Country Park to celebrate in play, crafts, food and a chance for families to do one more thing together before children return to school.

Children get crafty during an afternoon in the park.

Children get crafty during an afternoon in the park.

The event organised by churches in the Houghton Area of Sunderland as an extension of Messy Church, which seeks to allow children and families to ‘be church’ through play, stories, creativity and sharing of food.

The Reverend Glen MacKnight - curate in Herrington, Penshaw and Shiney Row Benefice, who came up with the idea, said: “We know people love Messy Church and I thought it would be wonderful to take Messy Church out of the Church and into a different setting.

"I chatted to friends at other churches in the area and together we agreed that we wanted to share God’s love with the whole community by putting on this free event in the park.

“Messy Church is commonplace in churches across the Diocese and across the country - but this was the first time it had been done in a park setting in the North East.”

Curate the Reverend Bryony Taylor shows off her juggling skills.

Curate the Reverend Bryony Taylor shows off her juggling skills.

The event was attended by the Right Reverend Mark Bryant, Bishop of Jarrow, who spoke with the children and families on the theme of Friends of Jesus.

He also got involved in some of the activities and then told the the story of St Martin's friendship when he shared his cloak with a beggar, relating to the story to how someone at Kynren had done the same thing the previous night when he was there.

Bishop Mark said: “It's been a great afternoon with lots of people having so much fun, learning about Jesus.
"This is a really good way to remind us of the joy of gospel.”

The event was one of the last in a series of ‘Holiday Club’ activities held in the Diocese of Durham this summer.

Eight-year-old Robson cream pies Bishop Mark.

Eight-year-old Robson cream pies Bishop Mark.

The activities saw more than 28 churches opening their doors to provide an extensive programme of activities for children and their families.

Pictures by Keith Blundy.