Follow the Star

Archive for Messy Church

Follow the Star

A blog-post by Casey Cross

“They set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.” Matthew 2:9

When I think about those wise ones who followed the star, I think about leadership. The best teachers are life-long learners. The best leaders know how to follow others. I always find it interesting that when we are most purely ourselves, living out of our gifts, we end up modeling for others and becoming leaders without even trying. This is the case with those who followed the star. Was it curiosity or pure scholarship that brought the Magi on such a journey?

We do not know a lot about these astrologers. We only know that they were doing their thing – observing the stars. Little did they know, they would have their own followers, thousands of years later. We who hear and celebrate the story of Jesus’ birth, follow the wise men on their journey, first to King Herod, and finally to the home where Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were staying. By joining them on their journey, we are reminded once again where God is found, among the outsiders rather than the elite.

Christmas is not just an opportunity to say, “Happy birthday Jesus!” It is also an opportunity to welcome Jesus into our world, imperfect though it is, as well as into our hearts.

These wise men were also on a journey of hospitality. On their way to meet Jesus, bringing gifts, and building new relationships are at the heart of hospitality. With their presence, they welcomed Jesus to earth. Christmas is not just an opportunity to say, “Happy birthday Jesus!” It is also an opportunity to welcome Jesus into our world, imperfect though it is, as well as into our hearts.

We can learn a lot from these wise men on their journey. In a way, it was a journey of proclamation, to show homage to the king of the Jews. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the historical reference to the word homage is in reference to making a public acknowledgement of allegiance to one’s Lord. By showing homage, these travelers publically claimed the king of the Jews their personal lord. How do we translate this homage to our celebration of Christ’s birth every year? Do we use this holy-day as an opportunity to publically name Jesus our Lord and Savior, or do we spend too much time focusing on the gifts and minutiae of creating a “perfect” day?

As we welcome one another to our space, activities, celebration, and meal, we build connections and experience the incarnate Christ among us.

I see leadership, homage, and hospitality celebrated in the organization of Messy Church. As we welcome one another to our space, activities, celebration, and meal, we build connections and experience the incarnate Christ among us. We are all both learners and teachers. Everyone has an opportunity to share in a piece of the story, share their perspectives, life experiences, and gifts. We share a meal together, growing in our relationships as well as our faith. We join the journey together; following the promises of God like the wise ones followed the star, to the place where it all comes together, in Jesus the Christ. God with us, Emmanuel.

Casey Cross serves on the Messy Church USA Board of Directors. She is the
Young Disciples Director of Hope Lutheran Church in Eagle, ID, where she has led the start of the first Messy Church in Idaho.

An Unexpected Gift

By Lindsey Goodyear

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 lindseygoodyear@gmail.com

 

Give Thanks…for the Beauty of the Earth

Lindsey Goodyear

Exploring the Woods at Shipley Nature Center
September Messy Church, Huntington Beach, CA

My husband and I were married for six years before we had kids. Much of the time leading up to that point was filled by late nights with friends, vacations on a whim, and the luxury of sleeping in. But, by far, our most coveted pastime was eating at new restaurants. We absolutely love food and in the days before children, we thought nothing of indulging at pricey places for hours on end. There was only ever one part of our dining experience that became an annoyance…observing parents, deep in conversation, while their children played on an iPad. I mean, what kind of person can’t parent enough to make it through one dinner without an iPad?! Our conversation always went the same way, “when we have kids, there will be absolutely NO screen time! Not at the table or anywhere else. The screen will NOT be a babysitter because we will actually be present parents.” Flash forward six years to us sitting at Cheesecake Factory while our boys watch Disney videos on my phone.

Since we both work from home, my husband and I do our best to balance quality time with our boys and making a living. Our boys are adventurous, but I’d be lying if I told you they always played outside and never watched a screen while we worked. I often get worried that they’re missing out on childhood experiences on the days where they watch, what is in my opinion, a little too much television. But then, my guilty conscience is renewed when we have an epic day outdoors doing nothing but having fun in good, clean dirt! However, even on those days, it seems, they always ask for screen time as soon as we’re home. I always wonder if technology disappeared today, would they have the wherewithal to fulfill a lifetime of boredom with what they could find outside?

In September, our Messy Church decided to get back to nature and host an entire Messy night at Shipley Nature Center. Located just down the street from our church, Shipley’s is a magnificent 18-acre fenced nature preserve where families can come to observe breathtaking trails, a fresh water stream, and over 50,000 California native plants. All of our activities were done using what God gave us in nature. Since it was in such a beautiful setting, we didn’t have nearly as many crafts as usual so people could walk in leisure while taking in the beauty surrounding them. I, however, watched in horror as our boys were part of a big group of kids working their way through the preserve at warp speed. They ran from one activity to the next so quickly that I dreaded the “I’m bored” comments that would surely come when they ran out of fun things to do on the trail. Yet, when we reached the last table, and I waited for the complaints, I witnessed what God had in store to ease my worry. My boys simply handed over their finished craft, turned around, and ran into the woods.

Taking the time to soak up God’s handcrafted nature

is a necessity we need in our lives.

After dropping off our finished work with our other belongings, I began to jog on a trail, taking in the beauty around me. It was an unusually serene couple of minutes as I usually have ear pods in and a podcast on when I run. I could hear the nearing laughter of my boys and their friends when I came to an opening in the trees. My boys, and two of their friends, were hauling a large branch to use in a fort, while one lead the way with a walking stick and the littlest one supervised in the back. Using what they could find along the trail, the four of them were happy as could be building a palace of their dreams with rocks, sticks, and dirt. Then, a sudden revelation came over me. If all technology disappeared today, they’d be fine. They’d be fine because everything these little guys need, everything any of us need, is here in what God has provided for us. It’s why what’s provided in nature seemed like the newest groundbreaking toys to our kids. It’s why I felt more refreshed after a silent two minute run than I do after a 45 minute one with headphones in. Taking the time to soak up God’s handcrafted nature is a necessity we need in our lives. We just can’t get too caught up in the “busying” things of life to miss the beauty of His work.


Lindsey Goodyear
Writer, Mom, Messy Church USA Blogger
Lindseygoodyear@gmail.com
 

October: An Attitude for Gratitude

Roberta J Egli

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.
Map of Messy Churches from the United States that are in our data base! 

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 Blessings,
Roberta

Deep Waters

A Blog Post by Lindsey Goodyear

Sahalie Falls, McKenzie Pass, Oregon
Photo by Roberta Egli

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!

Photo from pexels.com

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”

Isaiah 43:2

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.

Your lifeguard walks on water.”

~Anonymous
Lindsey Goodyear