Last night, Jenny, Robin and myself hopped (well, waddled) across the Diocese borders and took a trip to Wolvesey Castle, home of the Bishop of Winchester. We were delighted to have been invited to an event celebrating Messy Church and other Fresh Expressions, whilst exploring the way in which these expressions of church would be part of the Diocese-wide mission action plan moving forwards.
Being part of the Diocese of Portsmouth, you may wonder why we had been invited along. St Wilfrid’s Church, Cowplain, where I currently attend, was actually the church where the very first Messy Church began! Jenny and Robin had been invited along to represent the St Wilfrid’s Messy Church (I just snuck into Jenny’s bag for the free, and delicious, buffet!).
The evening began with drinks and networking among other Messy Church leaders before we settled into the marquee. We were then met with short, but extremely encouraging, talks from both Bishop Tim and Paul Moore, Archdeacon for Mission. Bishop Tim spoke of the diocesan mission action plan, within which Messy Church and other fresh expressions play a vital role. He also discussed the importance of “Reproducing Churches” – being able to release members of your congregation to create another church in a different community.
We then shared a wonderful buffet meal together whilst chatting to those around us. We were able to discuss the different ways in which people go about running Messy Church within their parishes and how this changes based upon the people, gifts, skills, space, facilities and helpers that God has blessed them with. It was extremely interesting and encouraging to see the excitement everyone appeared to have for Messy Church and the way in we grapple with questions of How can we do this ever better? What can we do to engage better with every single age group? What more can we do?
Upon finishing our meals, Lucy Moore took the stage to answer questions about Messy Church and fresh expressions. Through this time of questions and answers, I learnt huge amounts about the vast variety of ways in which Messy Church is working: Messy Men, in prisons; Messy Vintage, going into care homes and dementia wards in hospitals; Messy Church does Science and taking Messy Church outdoors. Lucy then discussed the ways in which Messy Church can ensure that we are discipling our congregations to the best of our abilities (spoiler alert: it can include encouraging discipleship at home and questioning what more we can do: Messy socials, Messy Café, Messy Walks?). We then finished with the very popular question regarding engaging with teenagers and older children. Lucy’s two key points here were allowing teenagers to take responsibility for jobs – not just token roles but jobs where they could actually make a difference and feel like an important part of the Messy Church family, and ensuring that space is provided for these age groups, that there are activities aimed at older children (and adults – Messy Church is ALL age, not just all ages of children!) as well as tiny ones; activities with risk, danger, excitement and lots of mess!
Joy and passion for Messy Church could be seen so vividly from Lucy, that her excitement was contagious. She was a joy to watch and spoke in such an engaging way that I wanted to be involved in every single thing she mentioned, despite not even living within the Diocese!
So, why am I writing about this in a blog all about prayer? Well, there is so much going on in this area, so much excitement, passion, love, that I just felt so inspired to pray for every single one of these Messy Churches and fresh expressions across the world. I pray for the leaders, the helpers, the kitchen teams, the congregations. I pray for those starting new Messy Churches, for those God is calling to prioritise Messy Church even more. Seeing the different people Messy Church is reaching out to, I can see so clearly that God is moving and I just pray that this work will continue, that Messy Churches will continue welcoming more and more people into God’s family and teaching them so much about him.