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The Mess

The Mess is a ministry that provides opportunities to create art and relationships with those who struggle with issues of brokenness. The Mess, which is supported in part by Diaconal Ministries Canada, walks alongside people, giving hope and empowering healthier life choices.

Christian witness is in full evidence at The Mess. It provides a safe place where people are accepted for who they are: made in God’s image. The environment is caring, warm, and welcoming. People are encouraged to treat each other with respect and dignity. There is a real sense of community growing at The Mess. Building relationships through art, people have shared some of their needs. People respond in a loving way, offering assistance when possible and showing people who generally feel abandoned and marginalized that people care and look forward to spending time creating with them.  

Christian witness also takes place at The Mess through our lunchtime. We open in prayer, sharing our praises and concerns. This has been a wonderful time of sharing and openness. This year we have had a few events outside of our days of creating. We had a picnic in June and many people commented how wonderful it was to have a “family” picnic. We also spent a day at the lake to celebrate our community. Volunteers have been getting involved in people’s personal lives and visiting each other at their homes.

At The Mess we try to recognize people’s strengths and encourage them to use them. As artists learn new skills and techniques in creating, they are very willing to patiently share what they have learned with others. When supplies are needed we often take a “road trip” downtown and bring some of our friends along to have a say in which supplies are purchased for The Mess. We use this time to learn about different supplies and how to know what to buy. This has really developed a healthy sense of ownership. Before we moved our Thursday location we discussed the move of location as a group and valued input from everyone.

When someone from The Mess community is hospitalized we visit them. As relationships grow, this is one way in which people are feeling cared for outside of The Mess’ operating hours. People appreciate the visit and those that go for the visit feel great about going. It has really helped develop a growing sense of genuine love for one another. Participants are asking for prayer for one another and themselves. Our prayer times are growing deeper as well. We have begun meeting an hour before we begin creating art to spend time in prayer over The Mess and all those involved. Sandi and I have invited anyone who would like to spend time in prayer with us or are curious about prayer to join us. It has been rich and exciting to witness the growth in this area.

Promoting sustainable change has been an area of growth in many of our participants’ lives. We have seen people move to healthier areas of Kingston through the support of The Mess. Some of our participants have gone back to school part-time. Some people have found employment. Others celebrate having stayed out of prison. People are proud of having resisted substance abuse for longer stretches of time. A number of people are exploring the faith and have found church communities other than The Mess. People have asked for Bibles and received them from us. We’ve also seen lonely people become less emotionally needy. We are fostering independence and healthy behavior in those who are involved in The Mess, both in volunteers and participants.

To speak about how the participants (not volunteers) have been involved in this ministry is difficult. What we have seen happen this past year is that many of the participants have become volunteers and many of the volunteers have become participants too. The mission of The Mess is clear but the lines between participants and volunteers are blurry.

Participants have even contributed to the actual running of the program. For example, participants have brought in frames that they have found at the road. We then fix them up and make them available for anyone’s use. Participants have purchased paints, canvases and paint brushes. This is particularly appreciated as many people live in poverty and don’t have enough to make it to the end of the month. Participants help with and sometimes contribute to the lunches and snacks on Thursdays, and even help with promotion and fundraising for The Mess. Most participants have signed a release form granting The Mess permission to make copies of their work to be printed into cards and/posters. All the proceeds from the sale of this work go back into The Mess to assist with operating costs. Participants want to give back to The Mess because they also believe that this is an important ministry.

We are unaware of any other programs like this in the city of Kingston, ON that are open to anyone attending. Whether you are struggling with poverty or loneliness, have a mental illness, or are a new immigrant looking for a place to belong, we can provide a safe place for people to come, connect, and create. At present we have a number of people participating from various socioeconomic backgrounds on a regular basis. These participants add stability to our group and truly contribute to the calm, creative atmosphere.


[Photos: top from flickr user Greencolander, bottom from Gary vanLoon]

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