In the UK, it is the Great British Bake Off final tonight! We await with anticipation to discover whether Candice, Andrew or Jane will be the winner. But then what happens after the end of the series? The TV programme moves to another TV station with different presenters (bar one!) and we wonder what the future holds. We have got used to the pattern and drama that the current presenters bring to each series. Will the change mean joy or disappointment? Will we give it a go and find out and see? Or will we dig our heels firmly into the ground and refuse any change at all?
It all reminds me of my spiritual journey two years ago. God was nudging me. OK, so he was tugging hard actually! But I was digging in my heels and being stubborn. Lucy had been to Auckland and Bishop Justin had challenged us to think hard about how we expect our new Messy Church congregations to come every month and call it their church but that we, as leaders, were still attending Sunday church regularly, perhaps serving in some capacity, and yet why? Why should we expect it of our Messy congregations and not experience the same ourselves?
The next thing I knew, I found myself at the front of my Sunday congregation saying goodbye after over 30 years. I explained that I would still see them roughly each month with my Beaver Scouts at a parade service, but that Saturday Messy Church would be my congregation from now on.
It was a terrifying moment.
No one seemed to miss me. In the post office queue or supermarket, members of the Sunday congregation chatted with me and ended each conversation with. ‘See you on Sunday’—as usual. I missed the pattern of Sunday worship for a long time. I missed the negative and the positive aspects of church. I missed the breaking of the bread each month and chatting with friends and other leaders. It was a lonely time. Or so I thought.
But after eighteen months, I started to feel a contentment. It was hard to explain even as Lucy and Martyn chatted over it all with me. I discovered that I was creating my own personal, different worship patterns and I was drawn to friendships in Messy Church instead of relationships. We introduced breaking the bread and sharing more in the Celebration Time. We experimented with adding the Lord’s Prayer, trying various Peace liturgies in a Messy style and, with even more Messy friendships, we introduced Messy baptisms and social action projects. More people from the Messy congregation wanted to join the Messy team and our Facebook page really took off as a means of sharing.
My contentment remains because God remains in it all. I trusted him to help me find the way and I needed to feel the loneliness to know how it feels for those coming to any church for the first time may feel. My contentment remains because I feel stronger in my faith and excited about what God wants me to do next. My heels are not stuck firm now. They are skipping and experiencing new paths.
Someone once said to me, ‘Just love your church, wherever it is each day.’ Church is within each one of us, a light of God to shine, to share with all. So, next time you bake a cake, add your light to it and share it. Make everyone a winner for God.