Hats off to all Messy cooks everywhere!

Published 1st May 2016 by jane leadbetter

In the more than seven years of coordinating L19 Messy Church I have never been on the Messy cooks’ team. As we have invited our Messy congregation into the church space for each celebration time, I have marvelled at the way the ‘fairies’ have transformed the Messy activities church hall into a welcoming dining room for us to return to. More often than not those ‘fairies’ don’t get to worship with us, but instead go into extra hospitality mode and prepare our third space of Messy Church at each session. 
This month we needed a new Messy cooks’ team as our ‘fairies’ had to be elsewhere. I began to pray immediately. It wasn’t a panic exactly but I needed help. Let’s be honest, not everyone wants to cook. Or come to that, not every cook wants to try a crafts/activities table either. We’ve tried that! On day two of praying I awoke to a clear and terrifying message from God. He wanted me to be in the kitchen! ‘But, but, but…’ I cried. ‘Well, if it is simple food… maybe…’ I muttered. The cheek! Who am I to decide what our congregation should eat? They will end up eating simple food just because I’m scared of failing. At the next L19 Messy Church planning evening we realised that it had been twelve months since we last cooked tuna pasta – a dish, which, according to our records, was very well received. Thank you God, for the ‘simple’! I shopped and enjoyed it. I invited our two L19 Who Let The Dads Out? kitchen team members to join me. We put on our Messy aprons and got stuck in.
I had to let go of my other Messy Church duties. That was hard. Who would make the announcements and be the time keeper? Who would check that everyone had all that they needed? Who would chat with the families, especially the new ones? It didn’t matter really. At team prayer circle time, before the session, I explained that I would be in the kitchen, so asked the others to come and find me if they needed me for anything. I explained that they would all need to be showing extra hospitality and greet everyone who came through the door as their friend. That is quite a commitment. I didn’t say, ‘Build on the relationships that we were making’. I asked for them to be friends. They smiled. I had delegated others to coordinate the celebration time. It went very well.
But, when the ‘fairies’ were left in the hall, as everyone celebrated our dear Lord in church, my panic set in! How long will it be before they troop back for food? Which way should we arrange the tables? Do we have enough food? Do we have one or more serving tables? Where do we hide the Messy craft items? Who’s got the table wiping cloths? Where are all the forks? But the few ‘fairies’ who stayed to help us are stars! They stay because their gift is to organise with speed, not to fluster, to assure me that even when folk start trooping back, we all help each other. I love those ‘fairies’! We did it with love and hospitality from the heart. We had enough and I even sat down and ate myself. OK, so I nearly forgot the jelly and ice cream time, but those who prompted me just got on with it themselves! Have I said how much I love them?
So what else happened? Well, it never was just the three of us in the kitchen. We had team members and their families coming through all the time to see if we were OK. We had people offering to be on future kitchen rotas. At the kitchen hatch we heard members of our congregation offering to be on the Messy team for the first time. We had laughter. We had tea and coffee flowing with everyone serving each other. We experienced so much positivity and hope! We were being church – together. My open vulnerability helped others to release their inner hospitality.
Some of you know how reading Lucy Moore’s new book Messy Hospitality has changed my thinking in lots of ways. But I wasn’t expecting the L19 Messy Church moments at all. Can I encourage you all to be vulnerable before God? Have faith! He is with us all on this Messy journey. Thank you, God!

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