By Roberta J. Egli
Over 90 people gathered in sunny California for the Getting Messy in the USA conference on October 20-22. We came from nine different states and two continents to connect, discover and expand our network of messy friends and colleagues. We experienced extravagant hospitality from many volunteers from Community UMC in Huntington Beach as we gathered in their beautiful courtyard enjoying snacks and meals on the new furniture that was bedecked with twinkle lights in the evening. In addition to the twinkle lights, many were impressed by the awesome shoes of Lucy!
Lucy Moore, Martyn Payne and Stephen Fischbacher gave three energetic presentations for all those gathered. On Friday night we explored some basics of Messy Church including the five foundational values and the usual flow of each Messy Church. The parable of the seeds was the foundational story and I know that I will never hear that story again without hearing Lucy sing the parable in rhyme to the tune of ‘Old MacDonald’.
We started Saturday morning focusing on one of values of Messy church: Messy Hospitality. How do we practice hospitality in our Messy Churches at the welcome table or the activity table or the games or the celebration time or the meal? In addition to the story of Mary and Martha a quote from Henri Nouwen shaped our focus: “Hospitality is not to change people but to offer them space where change can take place.” (Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out) As we engage in Messy hospitality our primary task is to create an empty space for people to engage with the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Our final general session on Saturday afternoon was dedicated to Messy Discipleship. In exploring the story of the Jesus instructing the fisher disciples to put out into deep water for a catch, Lucy also challenged us to consider that both shallow and deep experiences are needed in the journey of discipleship. Lucy and Martyn left us with a challenge to be with each other on the discipleship journey: “Messy Discipleship is about us, the team. If it isn’t church for us too, we’ll always be doing church ‘at’ or ‘for’ others- it will remain an event.”
Each general session was highlighted with the music of Stephen Fischbacher who got all ninety people up out of their seats and moving! The music, the stories and the lecture all flowed together in a powerful way. Prior to the conference, Stephen collaborated with Lucy and Martyn to write a short new song that we used in our closing prayer and commitment at the end of each of the general sessions.
If you would like a pdf copy (minus pictures) of the PPT presentations for the general sessions, let me know via email.