The Messy Church Song

Listen everybody, here’s a plan for you,
Something so exciting we all can do.
Let’s get ready for Messy Church.
It really doesn’t matter if you’re big or small.
Everyone’s invited, short or tall.
Let’s get ready for Messy Church.
Let’s get ready for Messy Church.

We’re all messy people,
And we need our God to help us out.
If you’re messy people,
Let’s see you move and hear you shout.
Hey, hey, hey, come on, let’s let our messiness out.

© 2022 JG Songs
CCLI Song # 7207119

Messy Church is a form of church that is aimed at the unchurched. As part of the event, there’s a transition from people exploring activities at various tables around the venue to sitting together for the ‘Celebration’ part of the event. I wrote this song so we could use it as a signal for that transition to take place.

In the first meeting I attended when I joined our church’s Messy Church team, I offered to write a song that would encapsulate what Messy Church was about and to use at our messy church events. On the 5 minute walk home from the meeting, I started singing a rhythm and came up with the hook “Let’s get ready for Messy Church”. This was the foundation of the whole song.

Generating the hook

The verse came really quickly, with the lyrics expressing the theme of an invitation for anyone and everyone to get involved. But it was where I felt the melody needed to go at the end of that which really started something original for me. I’d never written a song with a verse and chorus in different keys, but the verse was in G and at the end of it, I felt the melody move somewhere I couldn’t quite figure out in my first attempt to sing it. I got the melody note OK, but the chord (which turned out to be a D) eluded me as you can hear in this extract.

The melody modulates to a different key

This was a good example of going with your gut feeling when composing a new melody. I’d felt the melody move and gone with it. I hadn’t quite got the transition right, but I realised I’d now be in a different key of A for the chorus and tried to improvise something for that. What I started with bore no resemblance to the final song as you can hear next.

Trying to come up with a chorus in A

I then figured out that to get to the chorus, I’d need to hit a D and go to the A. My next bit of improv focussed on doing that and seeing where the melody went. This was crucial for the song, because it provided the rhthymic contrast between verse and chorus. I wanted the lyrics to express something of the messiness of our lives at this point, and that Messy Church should be a safe place to share that messiness. In this next clip, you’ll hear me come up with the first part of the chorus lyrics and the chorus melody as I jam.

Generating the start of the chorus

I then came up with the second part of the chorus and this led me to thinking about how I wanted a section where especially children could go a bit mad and be ‘messy’. I hadn’t quite got the final lyrics here but you can hear where I’m going in the next clip. What you can’t hear is me solving the issue of getting back to a verse in G from a chorus in A. I was well and truly stuck!

Generating the second part of the chorus

Now I was a bit out of my depth. Having never written a song where the verse is in a different key from the chorus, I didn’t have a clue how to go back down from a key I’d gone up to. In the past, I might have modulated up for a final chorus in songs (for example in We Will All Be Changed or Boop di Boop) but then I’d end it there. I’d never had the issue of going back down to the key I’d come from before.

I tried a couple of things involving an F, but they didn’t really sound right to me.

Trying to find the natural path back to the verse

It seemed like both these options left people standing around for a while before singing again and kind of broke up the pace of the song.

In fact, despite asking a group of skilled musicians for answers, I didn’t figure it out until I was actually producing the final recording of the song. Because I was using EZKeys, a plugin I’d just bought, I was able to use this to experiment with different sequences of piano chords and finally generate the sequence of chords A- E-F-C-D-G.

At the same time I was playing with the melody. As you can hear from the last two clips above, I had originally thought the last line of the chorus “Come on let’s let our messiness out” would be sung before the modulation (key change) from the chorus to the verse started. But this was what was causing my attempts to sound so long and drawn out.

It was only when I started to sing the lyrics over the modulation that the last piece of the puzzle slotted into place. The last line then began on the F and ran through to the D and this tied the whole modulation together. Achieving that was truly a eureka moment for me and came about purely through experimenting with chords and melody all at the same time.

It amazes me how a song that seems really simple can actually be pretty complex!

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  1. Thank you so much for the Messy Church song – we are promoting it on the Australian Messy Church Facebook site

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