Rev Greg Ross, minister with the Wellington Regional Mission, has recently returned from the Mission Shaped Ministry Intensive and the International Messy Church Conference in England, UK. While there, Greg, with travel companion Rev David Kriel, mission planner for the Uniting Church WA, spent time with Dave Male, national adviser for pioneer development for the Church of England and also a member of the Fresh Expressions team, and Lucy Moore, founder of Messy Church.
Both conferences were run by Fresh Expressions, an ecumenical organisation resourcing new ways of being church.
Bunbury St Augustine Uniting Church, part of the Wellington Regional Mission, has been running a vibrant and popular Messy Church congregation for the last seven years.
Messy Church is a welcoming gathering for people of all ages inviting people to explore Bible stories, create craft, join in meaningful conversation and share a meal together. It’s a Fresh Expression of church which is reaching out to people across the world.
In Bunbury, the congregation started with about 25 people attending, and has now grown to about 50–70 attendees at each monthly gathering. Many of those had either never previously attended church, or had left the church for a significant period of time and have started attending again.
Greg said that Messy Church is not just for kids. While it is more of a challenge to engage with teenagers, it can be done. Bunbury St Augustine’s Messy Church has recently started an aeronautics class. Eleven teenagers are learning the basics of aeronautics from a member of the Bunbury St Augustine Sunday morning congregation with gifts and skills in flying planes.
The congregation has also recently established a Messy Church twin relationship with another congregation: Hadley Holy Trinity Church of England, UK. Members in Bunbury have written letters and spoken over Skype to Messy Church members in Hadley.
Greg feels that Messy Church in Bunbury has created a place where people feel inspired to each out to the community.
“People who’ve started when we first started have become part of the team. They’re actually engaging in different community mission stuff; [like] Centre for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees (CARAD) and making people feel welcome,” Greg said. “One of them [came] to me last week saying the issue of homelessness is really high, what can we do to help?”
Greg was able to put them in the loop with people in the community who are providing support to local people.
“All of those things are a sign for me that the spirit of God is moving in Messy Church. These people would not come to morning church. They’re all really good signs of a healthy congregation.
“It’s having a major impact on the life of the church across the world.
“Don’t ever think that you’ve got to keep doing things that we’ve always done,” Greg said. “Keep pushing the boundaries. This is a real gift of the spirit.”