“What Next” Questions

Archive for Messy Thinking

“What Next” Questions

Roberta J Egli

During the past several months of hunkering down at home, I have gained a greater appreciation for the global Messy Church Community and the USA network.  Hearing how people from all over the world are adapting their Messy Churches to on-line, or at home, or zoom calls has been a highlight.  I give thanks to God for all of the many ways that people from all over the USA network and world have creatively shared the good news of Christ in a large variety of ways over the past four months.

 One of my weekly routines has been to turn into the Messy Church/BRF Facebook Live event every Wednesday. Several weeks ago, Lucy Moore,founder of Messy Church, voiced something that I had been thinking for a while.  When COVID-19 began, there was a sense that we were in for a several month crisis that would soon pass and then we would get back to our regular church routines.  How silly!   It is now apparent that we will be living with COVID-19 precautions for an extended period of time. Even though some churches across the country are re-opening across the country many others will not hold in person worship until much later this fall or in early 2021. Even when we gather again in person, Messy Church will look much different as we have entered into a new reality of how we can gather to worship all-ages together!  

Lucy shared some questions that I have been pondering. (Read More Here)

  • Is it too early to decide on a course of action or strategy for the next seven months?  Should we just do all we can to listen to families, leaders of Messy Churches, wise people?
  • Should we keep pushing the ‘Keep contact, keep caring, keep serving, keep reaching out even if nobody seems to respond, keep offering Messy Church at home resources, keep doing Messy Church on Zoom and Facebook Live for a much longer stretch than we’d imagined
  • Should we see this as a fallow/sabbatical/Jubilee period and give Messy Churches permission/encouragement to stop rushing about…and use the time to think and pray and listen to God?
  • Is this an opportunity to leave the garden to its own devices and recover or not after the storm to re-imagine everything from scratch and break the ground in the new field we now find ourselves in? (“Wilding” is a concept that i learned about in Lucy’s blog, learn more here)

Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything.

Rainer Maria Rilke

What I found inspiring at the end of the 30 minute FB live session with Lucy is that she did not proceed to give any answers to the questions. She simply invited others to join her in conversation to discern which questions to ask.

We are called at this time to live in the tension of ‘what next’ questions which reminds me a favorite quote:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903
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Letters to a Young Poet

So, my friends, what are the questions that you have been asking in your local church settings?  In my next blogpost I will share some of the ‘what next’ questions we have been asking at Messy Church USA.  Our mission as an organization is to equip Messy Churches to start, sustain and connect.  In order to meet our mission, we need to hear from you what it is that you need at this time. Look for an opportunity to gather via zoom to learn from one another on July 23rd.

Grace and Peace,

Roberta

Below are some articles that have been helpful in my pondering! Happy Reading!

Messy Church USA logo and mission
Equipping Messy Churches to start, sustain and connect across the USA

Embrace the Mess

As a Messy Church practitioner how often are you asked, “Can you explain Messy Church in one sentence?” I receive this question frequently at training events and also from friends and strangers when I share that I am working as the Executive Director of Messy Church USA. My go to answer is “Messy Church is a once a month all-age worship experience that creatively explores the love of Christ where people of all shapes and sizes find a place to belong”. Yes, I realize that it is a long, run on sentence so at times I simply use the tag line that is used by Messy Church UK/BRF “Church, but not as you know it”.

We all have our concepts of what Church is and perhaps more important what Church isn’t, so it can be challenging to succinctly share the transformative goodness of Messy Church. If you are looking for ways to share the story of Messy Church, take a moment to read Stephanie Martin’s article, Embracing the Mess, from July/August 2019 issue of Children’s Ministry magazine. Let’s share the story of how Messy Church is making a difference in individual lives and local churches. Take a moment to read and share it.

Embrace the mess my friends!
Blessings, Roberta J. Egli

Reprinted by permission: Children’s Ministry Magazine, July/Aug 2019 issue, Group Publishing, Loveland, CO. All rights reserved.

Messy Memories

Part 1 of 2

A blogpost by Crystal Goetz 

Messy Church USA Regional Coordinator for Washington 

Crystal with friends from Sweden

I was a little scared when I arrived at High Leigh Centre in Hertfordshire on that overcast day in early May of 2019. I was traveling from London alone in a country that was not my own and I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into. I asked Executive Director of Messy Church USA, Roberta Egli about the Messy Church International Conference back at a September 2018 training event and from the moment she described it, I knew I had to go. I felt God nudge me and I recognized the gentle touch and still small voice and urgently felt I had to be a part of this community of people that were doing Messy Church around the world. Still as I stepped out of the cab in front of the conference center, I was asking myself, “What are you doing?” With much trepidation I paid the driver grabbed my suitcase and entered the conference center. And then…it happened!


Lucy Moore, founder of Messy Church and icon in my little office in Auburn Washington, ran to me as I entered the door and hugged me tight and said, “We are so glad you are here. Welcome!!!!!” It still makes me tear up to think about it. She didn’t know me before that moment, well not really. We had spoken briefly on a Regional Coordinator Zoom meeting, but she certainly didn’t know me by sight. To Lucy, I was a fellow Messy Church enthusiast and supporter. That’s all that mattered in that moment.

 

Crystal with freinds from Scotland, South Hampton, Surrey and Australia– a global meal!

Through the eyes of a newcomer, I had so many preconceived notions about what I thought would happen at this conference, because I had been to church conferences before and was less than thrilled. However, this Messy Church conference was not like anything I had experienced before. Nor, was it something I could have ever dreamed was possible? When we came together for our first session, there was no awkwardness about singing or participating. Only joy and more than 200 people joining together in song, loudly and with vigor. Enthusiasm reigned supreme and we were transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit in that place.

The Spirit continued to take hold over the weekend through Lucy Moore’s warmth and leadership, Martyn Payne’s devotionals, Stephen Fischbacher’s wonderful music, Jane Leadbetter’s enthusiasm and ecobrick mastery, Claire Dalpra’s fascinating talk, Barry Brand’s hilarity, Andrew Roberts life-changing Holy Habits, mini Messy Church sessions and much more, until we were filled to the brim by the time we had to part on Sunday afternoon. Then, there came a moment that was defining for me. Richard Fisher, the Chief Executive at Bible Reading Fellowship, came to the podium to talk about the support that Bible Reading Fellowship offers the Messy Churches around the world. Then he had to do a difficult but extremely necessary task, to ask for financial support from the worldwide network of Messy Churches. It hit me. They do so much for us, we need to support them. BRF is the foundation and Messy Church is the house. It became somewhat of a mission to me from that moment to support the foundational organization that sustains us all. Bible Reading Fellowship. Together we are better.

Scatter Seeds Recklessly…Trust God

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 Church.

Front Row L-R: Jay Elliot, Maureen Carey, Leyla Wagner, Marty Drake, Steve Kim
Back Row L-R: Lynn Egli, Crystal Goetz, Richard Fisher, Roberta Egli, Lucy Moore

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!

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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 Blessings, Roberta

Messy Church is a gift…

Messy Church International (MCIC) 2019 Reflections

Part 2 of 4

Roberta J. Egli 

Lucy Moore, Founder of Messy Church
Opening Session MCIC 2019

A big takeaway that I came home with came from the opening session of the MCIC 2019 conference.  In reflecting on the past, present and future of the Messy Church Movement, Lucy shared the idea that…Messy Church is a gift that is given to the universal church. The gift is given freely to be used in small and large churches, rural and urban settings, from a small village in England to the large metropolis of Los Angeles. Messy Church is a gift!

Looking back, we are a very young movement. In April 2019, Messy Church turned 15 years old…we are a teenager and very young in the long life of the Christian church.  According to Lucy, from the very start of Messy Church, there has been a common value of listening…listening deeply to God and to one another. 

For today, Lucy challenged us to stop using the term ‘just’.  I am ‘just’ a volunteer at Messy Church…I am ‘just’ a lay leader…I ‘just’ help with the meal at Messy Church, etc. She effectively banned us from using the word “just” for the weekend. Rather than humbly saying ‘just’ we were to boldly proclaim that we are all instrumental in re-imagining what church can be.  We are using our unique gifts to build on the past to be the church for today and to become the church of the future.

Ban the word “just” from your vocabulary…rather than saying “I just sweep up after Messy Church each month, boldly proclaim the gifts that you bring and use to make Messy Church what it is.

Lucy Moore, Opening Session of MCIC 2019 (not a verbatim quote but shared in the spirit of what she said)

As for where we are going, the idea that Messy Church is a gift to the universal church is a message of hope.  In my years of leading a local church, I have attended a variety of church conferences where we have commiserated over the doomsday predictions of the death of the church. How inspiring it was to engage in conversations regarding the gifts of Messy Church for today and for a joyous future. 

I wrote in my notes– “it is not about competing with the traditional church but about blessing the traditional church with the gift of Messy Church.”  What a wonderful way to view Messy Church!   What are the concrete ways Messy Church is blessing the universal church? 
Throughout the weekend, these are a few of the gifts that I discovered: Stories of hope where relationships were built through simple table activities, in the analysis of the 2 year research project completed by Church Army titled, Playfully Serious,(look for more posts about that later),and  through listening, asking and discovering new ways to be an intergenerational movement filled with joyful abundance.

At the end of her talk, Lucy placed a simple wooden cross that was created at the closing worship at the first international Messy Church conference three years ago  at the center of the stage and asked shared these final reflections. 

  • The horizontal arms of the cross point outward…How are we being called to resources of hope reaching outward to the broader church and the greater world?
  • The vertical cross points upward reminding us to be open to God’s Inspired Breath that has brought Messy Church into a movement. How do we as a movement continue to listen to God, listen to one another and trust God in Messy Church?
  • The vertical cross points downward reminding us of the call to deepen our lives of faith. How is Messy Church being called to plumb the depths of intergenerational discipleship?  How is God leading us into the depths of re-imagining the church for today?

Much food for thought!  My question for you—How are you sharing the gift of Messy Church to your local community and to the broader universal church?

Messy Blessings, Roberta

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.