When Church gets ‘Messy’
In the discussions about fresh expressions of Church (fxC – or ways in which Christians are forming new communities in new contexts to reach new people), the name ‘Messy Church’ has surged to prominence.
Originating in St Wilfrid’s near Portsmouth in 2004, the family-friendly phenomenon has been well-supported by the Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF), a charity that ecumenically furthers outreach, developing resources and proliferating amply.
According to BRF’s directory of Messy Churches, there are now 3,946 of them across 37 countries, stretching from New Zealand to Germany and Mongolia, including at least 33 in Ireland – 24 in Northern Ireland and nine in the Republic of Ireland. That is just the ones already registered; the freely-available resources to adopt and adapt Messy- model services see many more continue to blossom.
IF ONLY …
We all know the old joke about the tourist looking for directions. One day he asks a local for directions to a town. The local replies: “Well sir, if I were you, I would not start from here.” How often do we wish we did not have to start a journey from where we are?
If we want to see our local parish grow, reach more people in the local community or do anything new, we can always think of reasons why this cannot happen. Not unlike the local speaking to the tourist, it can be a case of “if only we could start from somewhere other than we are now, then it would work.”
It is too easy to compare our church with others. We covet their parishioners, their money, their ‘luck’! Looking at what we want to do, we can see the resources needed in terms of time, money and abilities.
However, before considering what skills and resources we wish we had, it is healthier to acknowledge what is already in front of us. It is important not to despise what God has given us in the here and now.
In the ‘Parable of the talents’ (Matthew 25:14- 30), the master goes on a journey. Before he leaves, he shares out his resources according to the ability of the workers. On his return, he finds two who have used the talents well and one who has not. We remember well the
words spoken to the diligent servants: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things.” The lesson can apply to anything we want to achieve. It is best to begin where we are – not where we would like to be.
Moving away from the ‘if only’ mentality – if only we had more money/different people/ different clergy/different buildings – always has an element of difficulty about it. It is tempting to stay in the secure place of wishing we were starting from somewhere other than we are. Otherwise, there is the danger of being so fixated on where we wish we were that we miss the opportunities that are here now.
This week we begin a series of three articles (Insight, page 6) written by Revd Adrian McCartney. They will help us focus on what is possible when trying to reimagine the future of the local church. One of the most valuable insights will be to see that it is ok to start from where we are. After all, there is nowhere else to begin.
Adapted from ‘The Extra Mile: Volunteering, church and community’
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An idea – First in a series of three articles on reimagining church
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