Messy Church International Conference (MCIC) Reflections
Part 4 of 4
Roberta J. Egli
Following the first international conference in 2016, the four USA delegates returned and brought others into the conversation as to how we could create a structural ‘trellis’ to help support and encourage the healthy growth of Messy Church in the USA. We have been busy listening to one another as we implemented a vision for a nonprofit whose mission is to equip local churches to start, sustain and connect with other Messy Churches in the United States.
This year, our delegation met on Sunday afternoon with Canon
Richard Fisher, chief executive of Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF), Jay Elliot,
head of finance & operations BRF, and Lucy Moore, founder of Messy
Church. We wanted to take advantage of
their wisdom and expertise as we move forward as an organization. Richard shared a central core of their
philosophy from the very beginnings of the Messy Church movement which was to TRUST
the movement of the spirit in the growth of Messy Church. He
also shared the importance of focusing on the foundational values of Messy
I resonated with a quote Richard shared that he had heard the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams once share that helped to guide him as a leader of BRF and for the team of Messy Church…“Go where the ground is already tilled”. I pondered that quote for several days. As a leader of Messy Church, I was inspired by the quote that speaks of trusting God to do the work of preparing the way but as a farmer’s daughter I wondered how I was to discern ‘how we as an organization was to know where the ground was already tilled… how are we to find those places where God has prepared a way forward?’
Several days later, at 36,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, I had one of those God moments when I was journaling about this conversation. I remembered that several years ago, Lucy shared the parable of the soils at the first Getting Messy in the USA conference. I realized that our task as Messy Church USA is to scatter the seeds as liberally and recklessly as the sower of the seeds in the parable when the seeds fell on rocky, sandy, weedy and good soil. It is God’s work to till the soil but it is our task to scatter the seeds.
We scatter seeds by sharing the stories of how lives are changed in Messy Church through workshops, social media, and videos. We scatter seeds by engaging in leadership development for Messy Church teams. We scatter seeds by sharing dynamic best practices training for those churches wanting to start their own local Messy Church. Some of the seeds will fall on the good soil which will be the place where we are led!
You will continue to hear stories from the USA delegates to the MCIC 2019 conference. Check here to read an interview with Leyla Wagner that has already been posted. Hearing stories is important for the work of Messy Church. I want to hear your stories! How are you messily scattering seeds of good news at your Messy Church?
Messy Church International Conference (MCIC) 2019 Reflections
Part 3 of 4
By Roberta Egli
Over 200 delegates from 13 different countries gathered at
the High Leigh Conference center in May for the second ever MCIC. Seven came
from the United States and several of us met one another for the first
time! For the three of us who attended
in 2016 it felt a little like coming home to a great community of people
passionately serving God through Messy Church!
At every plenary session, workshop, Messy Church experience and even at the crowded meal tables, there was a palpable joy present in the gathering of the delegates. Over the course of three days plus an additional day for international leaders (60 people in total) from outside of the UK, we shared our ideas, stories, delights and challenges. What a delight to be reminded that we are not on this path alone but there are many different people all over the world experimenting and messily creating new paths of being an intergenerational church.
We heard stories from Australia of an experiment of several weeks of Messy Camp where families came and camped having fun together. On each weekend, there was a Messy Church to engage all and through the week, there were crafts available and a movie each night chosen by the children of the families.
We heard from Neal from Canada regarding the joys and challenges of creating a fully bi-lingual Messy Church.
From the UK, we heard joys and challenges of preparing Messy Church for the families of prisoners who were waiting to visit their loved ones. Finding ways to create a welcoming space in a dreary setting and the relationships that deepened over several months was extraordinary. We heard from Johannah Myers from South Carolina about how she created intergenerational companion groups based upon the five foundational Messy Church values. We heard from small rural Messy Churches as well as large urban Messy Churches. We learned of an experiment of Messy Churches in a housing development in the UK.
Messy Church has many resources yet we learned that in New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, Christmas does not occur in the cold of winter but in the middle of summer? How does one translate the Christmas story into all of these different contexts?
We can learn from those who have been doing Messy Church much longer than we have in the States as well as those who are just beginning on this path. We are not alone, we are among many and that is inspiring!
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”
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?
Leyla: ALL Fischy Music is a MUST HAVE! (Note from Roberta Egli– Check out a video of Steven leading our final song at the conference Here)
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!
When we hear the word Easter, we think bunnies and joy, An egg hunt and candies for each girl and boy. But is that really what this whole day is about? Come along on a journey and you may just find out!
Jesus, our savior, lived so long in the past, And if you had a question, well, He’s who you asked. As the one son of God, He was the king of the Jews, And spent most His time, by spreading good news.
Healing the sick, and feeding the poor, He gave all He had, and then He gave more. While most people loved Him, the leaders showed doubt, They didn’t like Jesus, or what He was about.
And instead of just listening and believing in Him, They arrested Him starting a scene oh so grim. They beat Him and hung Him up high on a cross, Made fun of His teachings, showing Him who was boss.
As He hung up in pain from His head to his toes, The guards placed their bets to see who’d get His clothes. He showed love through their hate, it was all that he knew, “Father, please forgive them, they know not what they do.”
As His friends stayed and wept, the Earth started to shake, The sky filled with clouds and mountains did break! Jesus said, “it is finished” then bowed down His head, A Great sadness came on, their savior was dead.
His friends took him down from the cross to a tomb, Wrapped Him in cloth and walked out in gloom. The tomb was still opened, so a boulder was set, His friends left knowing, Jesus had paid our debt.
And three days after the Lord paid our price, Three women set out to anoint Him with spice. On the way they discussed ways to move the huge rock, But when they arrived, they were met with a shock!
The tomb was now open and up on the stone, Sat an angel that glowed like a jewel on a throne. “No need to be frightened” he said to the three, “He’s not here, He’s risen” come look and you’ll see.
Amazement took over once the women went in, There was only a cloth, where once Jesus had been. “Go tell the disciples He’ll be at Galilee” “He’s alive and He’s back! Our savior is free!”
They went on their way, preparing their story, When they came across Jesus in all of His glory. They fell to their knees as they worshiped their king, And heard the great news that he asked them to bring.
Tell the others you’ve seen me and I’ll see them as well, Until God calls me home and in Heaven I’ll dwell. God raised His son despite our sins, In the end Jesus proved that love always wins.
See Today isn’t about what the Easter bunny gives, But a hefty reminder that He is risen and lives!
Lindsey Goodyear lives in Huntington Beach, CA with her family. She attends Messy Church at Community UMC in Huntington Beach. She writers regularly for Messy Church USA and is one of the writers for the curriculum for the Get Messy! magazine from April 2019-March 2020. You can reach her at Lindseygoodyear@gmail.com.
“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!
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!
Messy Church around the world! We are on this messy path with great friends from all around the globe! Read part 3 of Roberta's reflections from the Messy Church International Conference last month.ow.ly/zTN950uCjl8pic.twitter.com/9tq3L0hVVT
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.