May News from Messy Church USA
A Blog Post by Roberta J. Egli
How important are rituals in forming community? At Wesley United Methodist Church in Eugene, OR we begin our Sunday morning traditional worship with a ‘ritual of welcome’. As we pause to light the Christ candle recognizing Christ’s presence with us the entire congregation is called to; look at the person beside us and see God in them, look across the aisle and recognize that in worship we are connected to the ‘other’ person across the aisle even if we disagree with them, look out the window and commit to break down any walls in our neighborhood and look inside reflecting on what may be blocking us from living as God’s beloved children. This weekly ritual pulls us together as a community centered in Christ, as we continue to worship the living God who is seeking us. I wonder, what would a ritual of welcome look like at our Messy Churches?
I am in London preparing for the second ever Messy Church International Conference (MCIC) Three years ago, I was extravagantly welcomed at the first international conference where I met new friends from all over the world as well three people from the United States who were involved in Messy Church. Prior to the conference I was feeling a bit isolated as I knew of no other practicing Messy Churches in my geographical area. Being in the same room with other leaders who led both small and large Messy Churches, hearing stories of messy failures and messy joys, experiencing several Messy Church full worship experiences were highlights of the weekend.
Towards the end of our time together, there was one gathering that has transformed my life of ministry. Delegates from the various countries represented at the conference met in the country group with a representative from Messy Church /Bible Reading Fellowship. The four of us from the USA were delighted to meet with Lucy Moore, the founder of messy Church, to start a conversation regarding ways we could encourage and support the organic growth of a Messy Church Network in the United States.
Little did we know that that brief conversation would lead to a Messy Church USA conference in October 2017 and the formation of a nonprofit organization that launched in January 2018. Our mission for starting Messy Church USA grew out of that initial conversation three years ago: to equip local churches to start, sustain and connect with other Messy Churches in the USA.
As a very young organization, we have many messy joys and messy challenges to share with the global Messy Church Community this time around. In the year since we started the membership network we have close to 110 Messy Churches that have signed up on our website. Our regional coordinators have grown from three people to sixteen who meet monthly via zoom calls to share experiences as we live into our mission. I am excited that there is an extra day this year for all the delegates from outside of the UK to meet. Learning how other countries organize their Messy Church country Networks will help us as we move forward as an organization.
Pray for the seven of us who have traveled to the UK as we continue to think, dream and enact to create space for local churches to experience an extravagant welcome to the Messy Church USA Network. Our team includes Maureen Carey-Back, Marty Drake, Lynn Egli, Crystal Goetz, Steve Kim, Leyla Wagner and myself.