Several weeks ago we experienced a snow storm…it was an oddity for us in the Willamette Valley of Oregon where I live. We woke up to 11 inches of snow on the ground and over 48 hours an additional four inches of snow fell. We were not ready for this snow…the small daffodils had already begun to bloom. The unexpected snowfall brought the whole area to a standstill for several days. We were ready to celebrate the arrival of spring rather than dig out from a record breaking amount of snow. For several days we lived within the Messy in-between.
How are you living in the Messy in-between as you finalize plans for your Easter Messy Church while also inviting your Messy Churches to walk through the season of Lent? This topic of observing lent while also preparing for Easter has been discussed on the Messy Church USA Team Leaders FB group page (click here to join). Messy Churches across the US live in the Messy in-between by having a prayer focused Lenten messy church or a Journey through Holy Week with activities focused on Palm Sunday, the prayers of Gethsemane, the walk toward the cross with feet or hand painted to create a colorful paper cross. Sharing the story of the weeks leading up the big Easter Celebration is vital for our families who are new to the story of Jesus.
Jenna Reinke shared this lovely altar piece created at her Messy Church in Crowley, Texas. She writes that creating the altar decoration helped to build connections between their Messy Church and traditional ‘Sunday Church’ communities.
Another great idea of incorporating prayers into both Messy
Church and traditional church is illustrated by Heather Johnson, a pastor from
Minnesota. Check out these beautiful paper Lenten paraments created by written
prayers on strips of purple paper that are pictured below.
May you find ways to enter deeply into the season of prayer and preparation this Lent as you also live in the messy in-between of looking forward making detailed plans for your Easter Messy Church! We celebrate the joy of the resurrection by preparing ourselves and our Messy communities. I know that Easter is the largest Messy Church for many communities so prayers for patience and happy volunteers!
Be sure to share your stories of your Lent and Easter stories on our Facebook page, the team leaders group or better yet, send a story or a short video to our Messy Church USA Communications Team lead Robin Cannon from Ohio.
Messy blessings to you as you live in this Messy in-between time. Love and blessings, Roberta
“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.”
Luke 6: 35 (NRSV)
February is known as the month of love. So, like others, I’ve been hard at work making kid’s Valentines, pink heart-shaped pancakes, writing my feelings in love notes, and various other pink and red related activities. When I look around, I feel so blessed to have so many people in my life that I get to show love to. Also, it’s so easy to show them love! Having people that are close to you means knowing exactly what makes that person happy. I’m delighted to see faces light up when I’m able to give those I’m close to something that makes their day. However, this month of love also brings another thought to mind. While it’s fantastic to show affection to those we see on a regular basis, God wants us to show love to everyone (including strangers and those we don’t particularly care for). The reality is, it seems like much more of a daunting task to come up with ways to please people we don’t know. It’s much more rewarding to stick with who and what we know. So just how important is “loving thy neighbor” and what is it God expects?
It’s not an easy task, but God calls us to love one another without expectations. But, what does this mean? When you send a gift, don’t send it expecting a “thank you” card. Do not help a friend move while keeping in the back of your mind that they will in turn “owe you” when it comes time for you to pack. Give generously to those in need without awaiting praise. Quite simply, give to all those around you, whether you know them or not, and do so without personal animosity building up when nothing is returned. This comes easy for some of us, and for others, it feels like a lot of work. We are busy with our own lives so trying to come up with ideas to make others feel loved can feel like a struggle. However, just like anything in life, if you want to build a habit so it becomes second nature, you have to have a routine and work it on a regular basis. Doing so for those who are already in your life can be easier than doing for those who aren’t. So how can we send some neighborly love to a complete stranger, not have it feel like a job, and still fulfill God’s wish?
One of the many popular and reoccurring craft tables we have at Messy Church is the “service table.” One of our invaluable volunteers works a table with arts and crafts dedicated to others. In the past this has included letters to community helpers (police, firemen, mail men, etc.), thank you cards to our service men and women, and making toys for the animals at the local shelters. This last Saturday we had a service table dedicated to Meals on Wheels. Messy attendees were given a card that was previously printed with the phrase “Remember…you are a beloved child of God.” They were then given watercolors and asked to paint the opposite side of the card. We were able to make 39 cards, all of which will be divided and sent with each given meal to surprise an unsuspecting recipient. Our congregation didn’t know the people receiving the cards, nor would they see the look of surprise when they were received. They’d also collect no appreciation from said receiver. Yet, they sat and worked with smiles on their faces to make the day of a total stranger.
So why’d they do it? Why did a selfless act for someone they didn’t know come easily without complaint? Well, quite simply put, because it was fun! Because we made it fun! We’ve already established that it’s more enjoyable to give to those we’re familiar with (because we know what to do) but the reality is, an unsuspected gift of love is always a blessing in someone’s life. So, make it fun for you too. If you enjoy painting, paint a picture on the outside of a bagged lunch and give it to someone that needs it. If you love to write, write a few words of inspiration on note cards that you can keep with you to hand out to random passersby. If you enjoy cooking, bake some goodies and bring it to the neighbor you’ve been meaning to say “hello” to. I promise the effort, no matter how small will not go unappreciated. Do not let the idea of giving love weigh you down. Because if all else fails, we can fulfill God’s wish if we simply roll up those sleeves, get messy, and get to giving!
The beginning of December is usually a reminder for me to kick it into high gear and start Christmas shopping, dig up our Elf on the Shelf (Lord only knows where I stuck him from the previous year), and remember to give each of our boys their advent gift for those first 25 days while desperately trying to reiterate what the advent period is actually about. In the dictionary, advent is described as the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. For my kids, advent means presents. We work hard to remind them that there is more to Christmas than gifts, but, in their defense, gift giving is a part of Christmas. We give gifts to family, the Wise Men brought gifts for Jesus, and, of course, His birth, continues to stand as the greatest gift God has ever given to us. See? Gifts everywhere!
All the obsession over giving and receiving gifts got me thinking about the gifts we give at Messy Church. I’d like to think that we, as a Messy Church team, give gifts to our congregation every month. They may not be the literal gifts wrapped in a bow, but gifts that have a deeper meaning. The gift of a place to feel safe, connected, understood, loved, and supported. The gift of our members making a connection with a particular story, song, or activity. The gift of our children finding an indisputable understanding of what God’s love means, in their life, as they grow. What I didn’t think about is the gifts we receive from the attendees, as well. That’s why, going into our event on the first Saturday of the month, I never expected the gift I’d come away with.
I walked into our Messy Advent event to see the beautiful face of my friend, Mel. I was grateful to have met her through the United Methodist preschool where her daughter and my son attended. Over the years, she had expressed wanting to come to Messy Church, but life sometimes gets in the way. I was over the moon to see what she thought of her first Messy gathering. Of course it was a whirlwind of a night and I didn’t get a chance to talk to her at the end of the evening. However, the next morning I woke to one of the most beautiful and meaningful texts I had ever received. The words she used to describe the feeling she got from attending Messy Church brought tears to my eyes. I immediately asked if I could interview her for my blog and she graciously obliged.
Here are the unedited, kind words from my good friend, Mel:
Me: Tell me a little about yourself.
Mel: I’ve been a resident of Huntington Beach since 2000. I’m a single parent (didn’t start off that way, but life got “messy”) to one precious six year old girl.
Me: How did you hear about Messy Church?
Mel: We attended CUMC preschool and heard about it from friends. We’ve always been interested in going but hadn’t been able to schedule it until now.
Me: With many options for worship around here, what made you take a chance on Messy Church?
Mel: We knew a few people that were already attending and had heard good things. It kept coming up over the past few months from others who have attended and we realized we shouldn’t ignore it any longer. And so, we showed up!
Me: What was the theme of the Messy Church you attended?
Mel: We were at the December event which was all centered around Christmas and the birth of Jesus.
Me: What was the vibe upon entrance? What did you notice?
Mel: We were greeted by a lovely young woman who welcomed us and gave us a brown paper bag personalized in black sharpie.
Me: Anything that made you uncomfortable?
Mel: Nope. Everyone was nice.
Me: What was the most memorable moment for you?
Mel: Two things: Our time in the chapel and especially singing together. I loved the conversations I had with my daughter during the activities. She’s maturing in her faith.
Me: Was there anything missing? Something you wished you had more of?
Mel: Only because you are asking but perhaps a place to safely put your painted crafts while they are drying. I’m pretty sure we got blue paint on the wall. Sorry!
Me: What made Messy Church different than traditional church for you?
Mel: Everything about Messy Church is different than traditional church. I love that I never put my kid in some room and then went off to make small talk with other adults and their spouses. Just my daughter and I are my family. We’re not a traditional family but we are one. It was nice that we could stay together. Doing the crafts and activities gave us a chance to talk without distractions. I found myself asking her questions and explaining things to her in simple terms. Each activity was charming and offered a chance to talk about something different. There was so much to do and I was impressed by the sheer number of volunteers. It looked like a labor of love.
Lindsey and Leyla conveyed in about 10 minutes what some pastors require an hour for. “Jesus came into a messy world because He loves us.”
It reminded me that I could worship wherever I am, just as I am: messy.
Mel: (cont) There’s also something sweet about sharing a meal with families. That was one of the first meals I can remember in a long time that I sat down the entire time with my child. At home during meals, I’m up every few minutes, getting and cleaning things (and high fives to the genius who recognizes ranch is a necessity with pizza!). It was a very sweet touch to have table tents with conversation starters.
I appreciate that it took a lot of coordination and manpower to pull off this event. I was also moved by its simplicity. There were no “smoke and mirrors,” just love and consideration. It could have taken place in any of the past five decades. I was moved to be one of the many voices, singing to God, surrounded by candles, led by a single guitar. The message was short and sweet (the most powerful ideas usually are). Lindsey and Leyla conveyed in about 10 minutes what some pastors require an hour for. “Jesus came into a messy world because He loves us.”
It reminded me that I could worship wherever I am, just as I am: messy.
Me: Do you think you’ll attend Messy Church again?
Mel: I’ll 100% be returning. My daughter definitely wants to return. She loved it and I’ve already invited others!
Merry Christmas from our Messy family to yours!
Lindsey Goodyear blogs monthly for Messy Church USA. She is a Messy Church mom and leader at Community UMC in Huntington Beach, California. You can reach her at email@example.com
On a glorious afternoon this past summer, I had the joy of celebrating the 3rd birthday of my great niece. Aunts, cousins, uncles, grandpa and grandma were all gathered in a circle in the backyard with the birthday family chatting, eating pizza and enjoying hanging out with one another. As the gifts were opened, the big brother and the birthday girl were equally excited about ripping off the gift wrap of each package. A small metal tea set, not the largest nor the most expensive gift opened that day, was the gift that brought joy and laughter not only to the two youngest children but to all of us gathered. We were all served cups of water/tea and sometimes got some extra water spilled upon us with the exuberance of the children serving us. This experience reminded me of a story I have heard from Brother David Steindl-Rast regarding the difference between thankfulness and gratitude. Thankfulness, Brother David shared, is illustrated by the sincere ‘thank you’ offered when the birthday gift was opened. In comparison, my great niece and nephew who played joyfully with the gift while also sharing their joy and the gift with others is an example of gratefulness.
Love wholeheartedly, be surprised, give thanks and praise – then you will discover the fullness of your life.
~ Brother David Stendle-Rast
Although we do not have birthday cake or any birthday presents, Messy Church USA is celebrating a birthday…we are now one year old! The quote from Brother David is a true description of this past year. I have been surprised many times and I give thanks and praise for this past year of life of Messy Church USA. Here a few highlights from this past year!
“Getting Messy in the USA” national conference in October 2017. Over 100 people gathered from across the United States as we launched as an organization by inspiring presentations by founder Lucy Moore, taco trucks and bonfires on the beach as well as so much more!
Growth of the Messy Church USA Network. We have grown to 72 churches that have registered on our website! Thank you for taking the time to register! With information from BRF in the UK, we estimate that are over 125 active Messy Churches in the United States so we still need to get some more of you to register!
Growth of Regional Coordinators. We have tripled in size and have moved across the USA as we have grown from 3 to 12 Regional Coordinators. I am so grateful for the wonderful people who have said yes to this volunteer role of helping Messy Churches start and connect. We meet monthly via zoom teleconference calls and it is so exciting to see how Messy Church is affecting so many lives.
“Getting Started In Messy Church” Training. In the past year, there have been six full day training mostly in the western side of the United States. However, we are excited that this month, there are three more trainings scheduled in California, Texas and South Carolina. Our goal is to schedule at least one training per month in 2019 so let us know if you would like to have training in your area.
What a year this has been! My heart is full of thanks and praise! Thank you for sharing in the mission of Messy Church USA: to equip local churches to start, sustain and connect Messy Churches across the USA. Pray for us as we move into this second year of ministry. Drop me a note and let me know how you have been surprised by the Spirit moving in and through your Messy Church!
Every August, our Messy Church planning team decides to take it easy. Since Summertime means vacations, parties, and other school-less activities, our messy congregation can get a little sparse during the warm months. Living in southern California, August is one of the hottest months so it is imperative to find shelter from the heat wherever you can. Sitting inside the sanctuary or any other indoor location, is simply not an option. So, we brought our messy gathering 100% outdoors and lined up the water themed activities! Walking on water, gutter races, water balloon toss, ring a duck, sprinklers, and the grand finale activity…A towering inflatable super water slide!
Normally, we spend our planning time coming up with activity ideas that directly correlate to the verse at hand. This Messy Church seemed to be more of a typical party, rather than a learning experience for our guests. Until we sat down, outside, draped in wet beach towels, and breathing in the smell of BBQ burgers in the warm evening air to listen to a verse from Isaiah.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” -Isaiah 43:2
For me, personally, this deeply comforting verse came at the perfect time. Summer is time for lazy days and relaxing schedules but the looming stress of getting back to school, work, sports, and everyday rigid schedules was something undeniably in the air for all of us. I noticed, in June and July, members were buzzing with excitement as they detailed their delight for consecutive free days of leisure. Now, conversations had turned to back to school shopping, carpool, and work obligations. Yes, we were all still having a great time, but the verse hit home for a lot of us. And, when we listened to the celebration and what could qualify as “deep waters,” there was a noticeable shift as the congregation made the connections. Children of all ages were raising hands when asked if they ever felt in deep water with friendships or projects at school, while adults definitely raised their hands when asked about feeling in deep water with work and family responsibilities. The “wet n’ wild” event undoubtedly ended with an “aha!” moment for all parties involved when we realized just exactly what this verse meant…
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you”
Life gives us a lot. Sure, it seems like the safer thing to do, rather than face the scary swells of life, would be to stay on shore. But, the truth is, the responsibilities we have are unavoidable. Going headfirst into the rapids may seem scary but that’s where Isaiah comes in. There is absolutely no chance of the river sweeping over you because God will ALWAYS reach you first. He is our permanent life preserver and knowing, without a doubt, that our God is stronger than the strongest current, means that those everyday terrifying swells turn to a lazy river in an instant. That’s not to say our stress and anxiety will cease to exist. It just means when it starts to creep in, remember He is there. Go forward with tight schedules and deadlines and know He is there. Face what seems too overwhelming to deal with, and know He is there. Demolish the torrent because He is there. He is always there.
“When you feel like you’re drowning in life, don’t worry.
Messy Church USA is a newly formed nonprofit 501c3 corporation. Messy Church USA has been formed to provide an organizational structure to support the health, growth and sustainability of local Messy Churches in the USA. In addition, Messy Church USA will assist individual Messy Churches to become an integrated part of the larger national and global network of Messy Churches. Read more.