Being messy, being church

With the full support of Rockingham Uniting Church, my home congregation, I flew to Melbourne to attend the Australasian Messy Church Gathering, in February. Having only a small idea as to what Messy Church was about, along with fellow youth leader, Kelly Crothers, I was keen to find out more with the hope of bringing this concept back to our church.

The gathering was held in the Centre for Theology and Ministry in Parkville, a magnificent heritage building that was itself inspiring. In attendance were people from all over Australia, New Zealand, UK and Malaysia. We were very blessed to have Canon Lucy Moore, the founder of Messy Church from The Church of England, as the special guest and keynote speaker. Lucy’s enthusiasm was infectious.

The other keynote speakers were Rev Greg Ross, a Uniting Church WA Minister who has a long established Messy Church in Bunbury; the talented Rev Brenton Prigge a former Uniting Church WA Minister who played guitar and sang hymns that he had written; and Rev Debbie Smith from New Zealand who spoke to us about maximising the potential of your Messy Team. At this point, I realised how important having help and working as a team will be.

We learnt the values of Messy Church and that it is not just for children. It is a Christ centred church in its own right for all ages, gathering together to enjoy creativity, celebration and hospitality. Sharing a meal isan important part, as Lucy said, “You can’t share the abundance of Godwith a biscuit.”

There were plenty of electives to choose from during the weekend; it was hard to pick as all were relevant and full of information. I chose to learn about: What is Creativity and What is Not, Being Missional, Messy Discipleship, All-inclusive activities (not just sequins and glue) and Choosing and Writing songs for Messy Church. Every presenter gave their all to pass on their knowledge in the time frame available.

On the Saturday night, we experienced Messy Church in action. The hall was set-up with activity tables, the people arrived and fun was had. Amongst the many activities, we decorated bottles,  made something beautiful out of broken pieces of china and created an edible picture of The Last Supper. Another activity was to make a table from a pile of wood, which we would use that evening for our Holy Communion. After lots of laughter, sawing and hammering a very functional piece of furniture was created.

Rev Debbie Smith told the story of The Good Shepherd, Godly Play style, using the new table followed by an ‘all are welcome’ Holy Communion, with wine and wheat crackers or grape juice and gluten free rice crackers. All dietary needs were catered for.

It was a wonderful and welcoming event that was well organised and fully catered. For me, the fellowship I encountered there was the best part. So many people from various denominations who are experienced in running their Messy Gatherings were willing to give great advice and offer their help and support. I left with new friendships, email addresses, phone numbers and invitations to visit many Messy Churches. Knowing that the wisdom and help is readily available makes the task ahead not so daunting.

Lucy Moore has written many books about Messy Church which could be purchased at the conference. Kelly and I have the books, the t-shirt and much more knowledge than before this event along with our Minister, Rev Toby Keva behind us. I am now looking forward to being part of a team that will bring Messy Church to Rockingham.

Laurie Freeman

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