Celebrate…A Lent Spiritual Practice

Archive for Lent

Celebrate…A Lent Spiritual Practice

A blogpost from Roberta J. Egli

During the Season of Lent many of us engage in a new or renewed spiritual practice. I have re-engaged with the spiritual practice of observing a weekly Sabbath ritual. I am using a devotional guide from the saltproject.org that explores scripture and poems. “Sabbath is a day for delight, for participating in God’s ongoing joy in creation. If we refrain from certain activities during the sabbath, we do so precisely in order to make room for this enjoyment.” I must confess that my natural tendency is to worry rather than stopping work to engage in delight, so Sabbath ritual is helping me to trust and enjoy rather than worry and work!

I discovered the connection between my lent Sabbath practice and one of the foundational values of Messy Church when I read Lucy Moore’s recent blog following a day of quiet. The Messy Church UK leadership team began this year to observe what they call ‘quiet days at a distance’. The goal for these days is to grow together as a team even though geographical distance keeps them apart. They begin the day with a teleconference call in which they read and reflect on a specific scripture before spending several hours in separate quiet reflection. They come back together via teleconference at the end of their reflection time to share with one another what has ‘bubbled up’. Their most recent quiet day of reflection focused on the story of the Prodigal Son which led to Lucy’s blog.

Lucy writes: The celebration in the story is for the father, not for the son – it’s the father’s contentment that leads to celebration: he isn’t even really listening to the son, he just wants to get on and celebrate. The image of the father running towards the son is a very striking one, not least because that would have been a most undignified thing for a man of his age and status to do. For people at Messy Church who may have little sense of self-worth, the idea of someone running towards them because he loves them and he wants to celebrate with them is a very powerful one.  (Full blogpost here) 

My friends, in the midst of a global epidemic that causes uncertainty, anxiety and fear, a spiritual practice of celebration may seem to be counter-cultural. Yes, follow the recommendations of your local health departments and wash your hands regularly however it is imperative that we share the God who celebrates with each other and with our Messy Church attenders.

  • Engage in celebration as you greet one another by using the sign language for ‘peace be with you’.
  • Engage in celebration when you engage in a nature walk looking for signs of new life. 
  • Engage in celebration as a leadership team as you recall meaningful interactions during Messy Church.
  • Engage in celebration as you share the scripture in participatory ways

I celebrate that Messy Church USA is growing broader and deeper as both a network of churches and an organization of committed people who worship the God who celebrates.  I would love to hear how your Messy Church is celebrating!    

Grace and Peace, Roberta

Equipping Messy Churches to start, sustain and connect in the USA.

The Messy In-Between

A blog post from Roberta J. Egli

March 20, 2019

Winter? Spring? It is the In-Between

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. 

Picture from Jenna Reinke from Crowley, TX

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

Our mission is to equip local churches to start, sustain and connect Messy Churches across the USA.

February 2018 Newsletter

Welcome to Messy Lent! Check out Roberta’s Messy Lenten Reflection about learning to embrace the wilderness. How are you recognizing Lent in your February and March Messy Churches? Share your ideas on our Messy Church USA FB page.

We are growing! Since January1, 2017 when we began our data base system, 23 new Messy Churches have been added to our data base! In addition, Roberta has made two trips to Colorado to train a cohort of 11 churches that received a grant for Messy Church training and a year’s work of monthly coaching sessions through the Mountain Sky region of the United Methodist Church.

As you may remember, we made a change in mid-January to offer three tiers to our yearly Network Membership: 1) Registration Level at $ 0.00, 2) Supporter Level at $ 50 per year and 3) Sustainer at $ 200 per year. This change has created has led to some more work that needs to be done on our website so we are asking for you to wait ( I know it is hard to wait!) to register until I send out a REGISTER NOW email!

We have also grown as regional coordinators. We now have 8 regional Coordinators for the USA. I have asked them to submit a short bio that I can use for a short blog post so that you can get to know them. As they get going, they hope to begin to offer some Messy Meet Ups.

There are two April Training events scheduled that are open for all. The first is April 7th at Roseburg First United Methodist Church in Roseburg, Oregon. The second is on April 14th at Layfayette UMC in the Bay Area of California. Information will be up soon on the website but if you are interested, send me a note at roberta@messychurch.org for more information.

News from Messy Church Canada Ideas and Resources for your Messy Church

Barbara Patterson, Regional Coordinator for Toronto sends a great link to gross motor skill activities and games from the What Moms Love website that are easily adaptable to a theme you might choose for your Messy Church gathering. Pictured below left is an obstacle course, and below right the Tape Shape Game where participants act out a mode of travel to a taped shape (i.e. creation story, how different animals move – walk like a crab to the triangle or slither like a snake to the diamond and so on). You will find 87 active indoor games at the link.

From What Mom's Love website

Lent and Easter Resources

Some great Lent and Easter ideas and resources from Kids Friendly (Presbyterian) in New Zealand – I especially liked the Lenten Calendar for families!• Lent Calendar for FamiliesMore ‘Kids Friendly’ Lent and Easter Resources

Messy Church Pinterest Boards for Lent and Easter from Cathy Garbutt and from BRF in the UK as well as from Lacey at 'Catholic Icing'

Lent Resources sent from Chris Barnett in Australia:  Lent from Flame Creative, Lent from Going4Growth

See also Jane Butcher's 'Faith in Homes' website in UK. 

Messy Lenten Blessings! 

Ashes, Hearts and the Messy Wilderness: A Lenten Reflection

February 14, 2018  by Roberta J. Egli


On this Ash Wednesday, which happens to fall Valentine’s Day, I am sitting alone at my temporary desk warmed by the fire as I watch the snow lightly fall outside. In a few hours, I will travel back over the cascade mountains to my home in Eugene to celebrate this day of love with my husband and also have ashes placed on my head by my pastor. However, this morning I am reminded by the ashes in the fireplace that for the first time in 12 years, I will not be placing ashes on the foreheads of parishioners in my role as pastor of a local church. In July 2017, I left my role as pastor to take on the volunteer role of Messy Church USA Team Leader.

I am grateful for all that I have learned over these past six months and especially for all the wonderful people I have met either through either a zoom teleconference or in person at the Getting Messy in the USA conference last October in California or in Starting a Messy Church training from Washington to Colorado.

As I think of this Messy journey these past six months on this first day of Lent, I am reminded of how the wilderness journeys were a vital identity forming experience for both the Israelites as they wandered for 40 years in the desert after crossing the Red Sea and the 40 days of solitude that Jesus embarked on prior to beginning his public ministry.

Over the past six months, as an organization and as Messy Church USA Network, we have wandered in the wilderness a bit. I do not think we will spend 40 years here but I have realized that wandering is part of our messy journey. As a board, we made plans for our launch, implemented our plan and then realized quite quickly that we needed to adapt our plans. We have great web developers who have worked hard to set up a beautiful website but we are changing and growing and needing to make adaptions.

Cross at Nativity Lutheran Church Labyrinth, Bend, Oregon 

I know that leading a local Messy Church can also be a time of wilderness. I have heard about plans made for a meal for 80 people and 160 people show up requiring a run to the store for more spaghetti sauce. I have also heard about planning for 50 people and only 20 show up. I have experienced it myself as a Messy Church leader. I have learned that the lower number at Messy Church led to some deep conversations and relationship building.

I encourage you to embrace the wilderness in your Messy Church journeys. The Israelites depended upon a fire and a cloud to lead them through the wilderness. Jesus drew upon scripture and his identify as God’s beloved son in the wilderness. In our messy journey of growing as an organization and a Network of Messy Churches in the USA, we rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the wisdom of Messy Church BRF and the experience of Messy Church Canada, prayer, listening to one another in our leadership team meetings and also listening closely to you.

I am also learning that I need to trust the wandering in the wilderness and that wisdom comes from waiting on the Spirit. We are forming our identity as Messy Church USA and it is not a linear process. As a Board of Directors, six of us will be in the same room together this weekend for the very first time. Please pray for us as we make plans while trusting that the Spirit is with us in the wandering and in the journey itself. May you all have a blessed and messy Lent, awake to the leading of the Spirit in your life and in the life of your Messy Church.

Blessings on your Messy Journey, 

Roberta J. Egli