All Ages Together
On a recent Sunday morning, rather than attending an indoor worship experience, I found myself deeply worshipping God with a bunch of strangers walking ‘Circles in the Sand’ in Bandon, Oregon. During the warmest months of the year, during the lowest tides, a team of people gather at daybreak, rain or shine, to create a public labyrinth. Denny Dyke hand draws each design using what the beach as a fresh canvas. After the initial design is created, volunteers join in with rakes to indicate the continuous path and create surprise saying and art along the way. Their simple goal is to create space for people to share love, joy and kindness. Everyone is invited to enjoy a walk on the sandy path that a few hours later will be erased by the rising tide.
As I walked with people of all ages and a few barking dogs, I thought of the Messy Church foundational value of All Ages Together. I stopped and let a group of youth pass by as they were walking much faster. I smiled at the young child who joyfully skipped in joy with their siblings, mother and grandmother. Everyone who walked the labyrinth that day brought their own thoughts and previous experiences yet we joined in together in one activity. Even though we all walked at our own pace, we were all valued and part of the communal experience.
What similarities were present in that morning walk and Messy Church?
A team of people gathered early to intentionally draw the labyrinth and create the space for the larger group. In Messy Church, we intentionally work together planning a worship experience that invites all people, young and old to learn about the way of following Christ and creatively worship God with their whole self.
As each person enters the labyrinth, they are welcomed to the circle and offered a rock to carry in their experience. Those holding the basket of rocks didn’t share instructions of what to do with the rock. I decided to hold onto it and think of the items I needed to release into God’s care during my walk. As Messy Church leaders, we create space and invite people in to discover God’s grace but then it is time to let go of our own expectations for what will happen at Messy Church. We do not know how God’s Spirit will move in individual lives.
Prepare to be Surprised:
Throughout the labyrinth walk, I was surprised by different words that were written in the sand… love…hope…trust…etc. In Messy Church, there are many surprises that arise. A science activity doesn’t go as planned, too many people show up which means we need to order some more food, or a child gives the entire group a theological example of love. Surprises happen when we get all ages together in one space… prepare for it!
I came to the labyrinth by walking on the beach so I did not see the entire design. I simply began at the beginning and took one step at a time. It wasn’t until later, when I walked up to the parking lot that I saw the entire design. In Messy Church, I encourage you to take one step at a time, trusting in the Spirit of God to lead you. You may need to step back at times to see how God is at work in your Messy Church. When you gain perspective, give God thanks!
Where are you experiencing God in your Messy Church?
My friends, be intentional in making your plans for Messy Church, release your expectations, prepare to be surprised and take time to gain perspective as you celebrate the steps you have taken in Messy Church to faithfully share God’s love with all ages who come!
Peace to you all,