Blog post by Lindsey Goodyear who interviewed Leyla Wagner, Messy Church USA Board of Directors, California Messy Church USA Regional Co-Coordinator.
Last month, some of our Messy team members attended the highly anticipated Messy Church International Conference in London. Because I was unable to attend, I decided to pick the brain of one of my favorite Messy friends and see just how much fun I missed out on. Please enjoy this interview with Leyla Wagner from Community United Methodist Church (CUMC) in Huntington Beach, CA!
Lindsey: This is your second trip across the pond for Messy Church, how was this time different from the last?
Leyla: Three Years ago, we had only been doing Messy Church for three years when we went. There weren’t really any other Messy Churches around, and, it was before MCUSA was even a thought, so our CUMC team was really on our own. We were drawing from training and using print and online resources in figuring out Messy Church. It was amazing being around the energy and excitement of others hosting Messy Churches and realizing we were part of a bigger community. We learned so much and realized that our joys and challenges were similar to many. This time I didn’t expect as much excitement. We’ve had Messy Church at CUMC for 6 years now…and the oldest Messy Churches in the UK are celebrating 15 years! I was amazed because the excitement and energy was not only still there, but it was just as high. Rather than just talking about the nuts and bolts of Messy Church, this time conversations focused on sharing stories of seeing how Messy Church is transforming the lives of people who are attending and how it is making an impact worldwide.
Lindsey: I’m sure there were familiar faces, were you able to network with any new Messy friends?
Leyla: It’s funny…I only saw a couple of people that I had met the first time even though I heard many times from people I was in conversation with that they had also been there for the first conference….we hadn’t connected. So actually, this time I feel like I made many more Messy Friends than before. I even met two more people from the US. I felt a stronger connection to people this time and I think it’s because we were sharing deeper stories, not just nuts and bolts stories…and many were part of leadership teams for their countries so it was interesting to learn more about their experiences with the bigger church, as well.
Lindsey: You’ve mentioned to me that this convention was rejuvenating. What do you, personally, feel fueled your passion for Messy Church the most?
Leyla: I was rejuvenated by so many things! I loved hearing the research that supports what we are what the leading Messy Churches are seeing…that what we are doing is making a difference, making disciples and that Messy Church is church! We are re-imagining church…possibly changing it to be something God can use to reach people today. I also liked hearing the journey of the past 15 years and realizing how much has been accomplished from this “Grass Roots/organic” movement in such a short time. Lastly, I feel called to be a part of Messy church but often worry that I don’t have a background or enough bible/theological knowledge to be “leading” Messy Church. During one reflection, Martyn Payne told the story of Moses and the burning bush and we sang a wonderful Fischy Music song so I left feeling that I have everything I need to do what I’m being called to do because God is behind me, beside me and in front of me.
“God is at the Center of this Messy Church journey”Leyla Wagner
Lindsey: What was your favorite activity at the international conference?
Leyla: Again, there were many activities I really liked. I loved the key speakers, reflections, prayer stations and, I enjoyed meeting people and sharing stories. But, my favorite activity was the add-on day (Monday) that was only for leadership teams from all the different countries. We broke into small groups being made up of representatives from all countries there and gave input on questions Messy Church BRF asked. It really felt like an International experience and I liked hearing perspectives from all over the world.
Lindsey: Anything you’re planning on using at our own Messy Church that you learned while there?
Leyla: Andrew Roberts is the author of a book called Holy Habits. It’s based on the passage written by Luke in Acts 2 42-47 and focus’ on creating deep and committed disciples by practicing and living out the 10 Holy Habits. These include: Biblical Teaching, Breaking Bread, Eating Together, Fellowship, Gladness and Generosity, Making more Disciples, Prayer, Serving, Sharing Resources and Worship. These Holy Habits align with the values of Messy Church, and are applicable and easily accessible to all-ages. This year the Get Messy Magazine, which provides monthly curriculum resources to Messy Churches, will be focusing on a different Holy Habit each month. We will most likely use these and the other supplemental for deepening the quality of our own Messy Church.
Lindsey: I know Steven Fischbacher founder of Fischy Music was there rocking and rolling! Any new Fischy Music that’s a must have?
Lindsey: What was your biggest takeaway from your experience in London?
Leyla: That God is at the Center of this Messy Church journey.
Lindsey: Do you think you’ll attend the next overseas international convention?
Leyla: Well, I would love to be able to attend the next International Conference in 3 years. So much has happened in the three years since the last International Conference it’s hard to imagine where we’ll be in 3 more years. Marty and I met Roberta and Julie at that first International Conference. We came home and hosted the first National Messy Church Conference a year and a half later while working with Robera, Julie, Lynn, Nicole and Lucy to start MCUSA. Anyway…..I think attending an International Conference helps us as local Messy Church leaders to feel connected to the bigger Messy Church organization and share in the excitement. But, it’s also helpful for our roles in Messy Church USA.
Lindsey: We will host one in the states before then. Is there anything you particularly loved that we will see incorporated into out next convention?
Leyla: Yes, we are hoping to host a National Conference in the Fall of 2020 and there are definitely things that we will incorporate but those will be decided by the MCUSA team and Conference Planning Team. One thing that came out of this International Conference that will be incorporated into our National Conference, and highlighted even more in training across the US, is the best practices for starting a sustaining a Messy Church…which starts with training. (Check out Messychurchusa.org for a training near you!) Haha!
Lindsey: I was so sad to miss the trip so, just for fun, what was your favorite meal while there?
Leyla: Ah, we were really sad that you couldn’t make it, too. My favorite meal was the last one of the trip. Roberta and I both had Fish and Chips. So good! (She has a great picture of them.) Hey…just wondering…will YOU make the trip in three years?
Lindsey: Given how much time I spent stalking the conference on Facebook, I think it’s a definite yes!