22 coloured streets, 4 different churches, 5 Messy Church values, 8 eager teams, 2 incredible Regional Coordinators, one Capital City and a BRF photographer – put them all together, and what do you get: messy Monopoly!
The idea was the brainchild of Charis Lambert and Michelle O’Conner, who together coordinate Messy Churches in south-west London. The aim of the day was to raise funds to support the central BRF Messy Church team, who in turn are helping to inspire others to start new Messy Churches around the country and the world, as well as nurture and support those already on a messy journey of loving their local communities into the kingdom of God. The other aim of course was simply to have a fun day out in London, finding the streets from a traditional Monopoly board along with a few other challenges and all recorded on camera to score points and find a winning team by 4 o’clock.
How appropriate that the game of Monopoly – celebrating its 80th anniversary this year – should be the focus for Messy Churches coming together to support Messy Churches! It’s a game that’s been handed down through the generations and is often played when the generations come together on special occasions. In the same way Messy Church is bringing children, parents and grandparents together around the story of Jesus helping to create new intergenerational communities of witness and service. The fun that we had on our day in London yesterday brought together intergenerational teams from as far afield as Conisborough near Doncaster, as well as from London and the southeast – all sharing both the joy of the competition as well as the fellowship of our growing messy family around the UK.
Charis and Michelle had thought of everything. We gathered at Lambeth Oasis Church at 10.00 to receive our competition instructions that included a set of yellow rubber gloves which had to appear in every photo taken to prove that teams had really found the streets on that day! In place of the Utilities and the Railway Stations, teams were challenged to find four different sorts of churches and also, using placards proclaiming the 5 Messy Church values, take photos of examples of each of these or become themselves an appropriate group image of hospitality, creativity, celebration, all-age and Christ-centredness. It was fascinating to see how each team interpreted these linking them to some local London landmarks on their travels.
The team from near Doncaster were very distinctive! Not only had they set off at 5.00 am to be there but they also all wore Yorkshire tea bags as hats! So when Rebecca and I set out on our own quest to photograph teams in action, they were the ones that we most easily found, somewhere along Embankment, walking through beautiful spring gardens near Northumberland Avenue. St Mark’s have been running their Messy Church for 7 years and they brought no fewer than three teams – who were all deadly rivals! In fact they were so eager to get on with their strategy for the day that they could barely wait for the instructions to be over at the start! There was a team from Beckenham in south-east London who have just begun Messy Church; a team that had been linked to Morden Baptist Church and who now lived locally; a team from Colchester which I visited only a month ago; and finally a BRF team made up of Sarah, Natalie and James from Messy Church and Customer Services.
Despite the early rain, we had brilliant weather for our travels around London. There were a few challenges however! Whitehall was closed off for the Anzac Day memorial service and so many of us got trapped for a while in Parliament Square and that wasn’t even on the Monopoly board! One team had pictures of hospitality being shown by the Salvation Army to the crowds waiting to see the royal party go by, while another managed to persuade two policemen to ‘arrest’ the younger members of the team and then let them ‘get out of jail’ free!
Everyone was a winner of course and received Messy Church key rings or magnets as we celebrated together after a pizza meal back at the Oasis Church in the late afternoon. Everyone was exhausted but still smiling! It was one of the St Mark’s teams who came first closely followed by the BRF twosome! But more important than the points was the atmosphere of shared story and shared endeavour in support of Messy Church.
In the last part of our day together we handed out prizes, heard a version of the story of Zacchaeus told with a twist and finally gathered in a great circle to say the Messy Grace together. What a privilege it is to have such creative and dedicated voluntary team members like Charis and Michelle here in London and so many more around the country! While we wait to hear of the financial outcome of the day, we can definitely say, whatever that may be, that we have a Monopoly of people with commitment, enthusiasm and loyalty and that is worth a lot!