The last day of the ‘Church &…’ Conference with a few different people as well as – by now – old friends to grin at and laugh with. I had a couple of keynotes to give on discipleship and all-age worship. It’s been fascinating to see how much people appear to have appreciated the storytelling side of what I had to offer. On sober reflection, this is probably because scripture is far more informative and life-changing than my own limited experience and wisdom. Exciting to ponder with the representative of the Uniting Church ‘Congress’, which is the branch that specialises in relations with the indigenous people, how important storytelling is in their expressions of church and whether an aboriginal Messy Church might have a heavy emphasis on story.
Jenny Walker and her team led a final workshop on Messy Church and shared their story. They’re all so fired up! Deb especially explained how Messy Church is her church, and how until she started coming in December, she was a funerals-and-weddings church attender, but now she’s a regular. She works with students with special needs and had one student who was finding it impossible to fulfil her work experience placements that she needed to complete for her school-leaving qualification. In desperation, Deb asked her to come and help at Messy Church. Not only has she managed to put in the hours needed for her work experience but she claimed the one she helped at was ‘the best night of her life’.
It’s so helpful to have the experiences and anecdotes from home to share: one person was inspired by hearing of Liverpool Cathedral’s BSL Messy Church as she has a deaf daughter and contacts who are also deaf. We were heaped with presents, including a book on Australiana in which the delegates had written notes or stuck Post-its with their own messages to us. Very moving.
I wonder where Messy Church will get to after our visit here. With Jenny’s and David and Mel’s Messy Churches up and running, there are some great examples for people to go and visit if they feel it could be right for them. We started the conference with the parable of the Sower: perhaps it was all about throwing out seed and waiting to see what grows where. Church &… Mess. We shall see.