In the space of just 15 years, Messy Church has become a worldwide phenomenon, something that was plain to see at a recent international conference in the UK.
Over 200 people from as far afield as the US, Canada, Europe, New Zealand and Australia attended the Messy Church International Conference at the southeast English village of Hoddesdon, including five from our Synod.
One of those attendees was Western Heights Uniting Church Children and Families Coordinator Karen Morgan, who said the conference, held on 2-5 May, was a chance to “share challenges and joys and whatever is going on in Messy Church”.
It was also a chance to “just be human and be real and honest together”.
“We heard Messy Church stories from all around the world and in turn we were able to share our stories,” Karen said.
Karen said some of the most memorable stories were about how Messy Church had helped bridge the bilingual divide in Canada and, in the UK, was being conducted for prison inmates and their families.
Messy Church is the brainchild of Lucy Moore, who held the first gathering in 2004 in an attempt to get more children involved with her Anglican congregations by trying a non-traditional more activity-focused approach, which included sharing meals.
Karen said the conference reinforced the values of Messy Church, which were to grow relationships with people, to celebrate God’s love, to be all-age, to show hospitality in whatever you do and to be Christ-centred.
“Messy Church provides connections, creativity and hospitality to people, sometimes at the fringes of the community, who have not experienced faith or experienced faith communities before,” Karen said.
“It provides faith opportunities for people to experience God in creative and different, informal ways.”
A Synod-wide survey in 2017 found that more than half of the reported 50 new faith communities were Messy Church. This did not surprise Karen.
“Growth in the Church is coming through fresh expressions and one fresh expression is Messy Church,” she said.
“I am really positive about the Messy Church I belong to. I am filled with such joy and anticipation and hope for the (Uniting) Church because of fresh expressions like Messy Church.
“It is really exciting to see these sprouting up and growing, it’s amazing.”
Karen was one of five people from our Synod who attended the conference. The other four were Intergenerational Ministry – Children and Families worker Chris Barnett, Manningham UC minister Claire Dawe, Banyule network minister Sandy Brodine, and Western Heights member Jan Grigg.