Embracing The Mess: Life is messy and God is to be found working at the messy edges of life.

by The Rev’d Nancy Rowe

In February there was an International Consultation on Messy Church held in Abingdon England. Lucy Moore, the founder of Messy Church, as well as representatives from Canada and Australia, participated. With Messy Church becoming a world wide phenomenon, this consultation was a first step in addressing issues and concerns.

What is Messy Church you might ask? Messy Church is one of the Fresh Expressions of Worship. It is not a program, but an innovative worship, that is focused on families and particularly the vast numbers of people who are third and fourth generation away from having any Church experience (apart from the odd wedding). Church is just not something that comes up on the radar for many. Messy Church is Christ centered and offers a way of connecting with the Creator by creating together as a family, coming together in a lively worship that does not presuppose any familiarity with churchiness, and finally interacting as a community to share a meal. Messy Church recognizes that carving out family time together within the busy schedules of work, school and activities is difficult and Sunday may be the only day that the family can be together. So Messy Church often happens on a weekday, where Mom or Dad can pick up the kids after work, meet at Messy Church and have fun family time together exploring faith and enjoying a good meal (no one has to cook Messy Church night!).

From its humble beginnings in Lucy Moore’s Church 8 years ago, Messy Church has spread outward and can be found in the UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, United States. It is not affiliated with any one denomination. In the UK alone, on any give month, there are 100,000 people worshipping at Messy Church and for many Churches in the UK and abroad, there are more people at a Church’s Messy Church than there are at Sunday worship. Messy Church is expanding rapidly and It was time to gather to look at international issues.

Elizabeth Northcott from Vancouver, Thomas Brauer from Edmonton, Nancy Rowe from Niagara, along with Chris Barnett from Australia, (the representatives from New Zealand were unable to attend) Lucy Moore, Richard Fisher the CEO of BRF and Jane Leadbetter (Lucy’s Messy Church co-worker) gathered in the BRF offices in Abingdon. BRF is a a non-profit organization promoting faith development and Messy Church is one of the core ministries of BRF. Four basic issues were addressed: principles for sustaining international network, strategies for growth within a country, practical ideas for harnessing the international network and finally, resources.

We shared our stories and explored what Messy Church would look like as an international network. The consensus was that Messy Church is organic and needs to remain so. There is no ‘policing’ aspect to Messy Church although the core values of Messy Church, Christ-centered, family oriented, church for all ages, creativity and fun are essential. BRF has Messy Church resources that they will gladly share and once a Messy Church has registered there would be access to online resources and sharing on an international level. Messy Church internationally is relational in nature. Each country is encouraged to work at developing resources that address the needs within that country, while maintaining the core values. Ideas, relationships and concrete steps were developed as first steps to allow Messy Church to prosper organically in the international context.

One of the core values of Messy Church is hospitality and this was abundantly evident in the time we spent with the BRF/Messy Church team. We were welcomed and deeply cared for. There was intense work time, that was nicely balanced by time to reflect while engaged in leisurely ‘touring’ activities. We were feasted and treated as honoured guests.

Messy Church is not traditional and will no doubt cause some ‘head scratching’, but it’s ability to reach those who have seemed unreachable, cannot be ignored. The Spirit will do what the Spirit needs to do to bring forth the new life of the kingdom for all God’s children.

Visit us on facebook at Messy Church at St. George’s