Would you rather?

Published 26th July 2022 by Aike Kennett-Brown

My youngest often engages me in a conversation of ‘Would you rather?’ The most recent inquisition went like this, ‘Mum – would you rather lose your vision or your hearing?’ Fortunately, our discussion is purely theoretical, but what if the dilemma was as follows:
‘Would you rather stick together as a family and live in a war zone? Or split your family up and those that can travel to another country and become refugees?’
This is the question for many Ukrainian families, as the war in Ukraine rumbles on even when it no longer dominates our headlines. For those who choose to leave, life as a refugee is not straightforward. Visa application forms are complicated, particularly when you’re not working in your own language and can take weeks to be granted. Then there are uncertainties about where to live and how to fit in. Will my host accept me for who I am?
The holy habit of generous hospitality is part of our discipleship journey and a key Messy Church value. Some Messy Churches are making space for new guests. Here’s how Epworth Methodist Messy Church adapted to give a generous welcome. Julie writes…    
‘A couple at our church offered to host a Ukrainian mum and her young son. After many weeks, their visas were granted. They arrived 24 hours before our Jubilee Messy Church, so we quickly adapted a very British-themed set of activities, adding Ukrainian flags alongside the Union Jacks on the paint table. On the day, two Ukrainian families came. The children were particularly drawn to painting their flag. We knew then that we must plan for a more inclusive Messy Church in July. But how?
‘We took inspiration from the July 2022 session of Get Messy! which encouraged us to become communities of “radical inclusion” where people are welcomed exactly as they are.
‘A week before Messy Church, the host couple from our church put out an invitation to all the other hosts and their Ukrainian guests in the area and led a dual language service. We took the opportunity during the post-service cuppas, to extend personal invitations to each family to join us at Messy Church the following Saturday.
‘On the morning of Messy Church, we had more unexpected guests. A mum and her son arrived half an hour early. They hadn’t been before. Rather than make them wait until we were ready, we encouraged the son to test out the various activities, while mum had a relaxing sit down. As the hall became too busy for them, they left with a bowl of snacks and an invitation to join us early again next time and to stay as long as they felt comfortable. This isn’t how Messy Church is intended to work, but we felt God gave us a chance to include this family in a way that is currently right for them.
‘Wow, what a fantastic Messy Church session we had! We’ve never been a huge Messy Church but this time seven of our regular families were joined by four Ukrainian families.
‘We overcame the language barrier by having visual examples and photos of each activity. The ‘universal language of building with Lego’ was a great ice breaker and when a couple of the Ukrainian children started dancing in front of one of our volunteers, who just happens to be a professional dancer, another “universal language” was discovered.
‘During the celebration, one Ukrainian mum slotted straight in helping a Messy Church leader teach some Ukrainian words and led the singing of “Happy birthday to you” in Ukrainian to one of the English children. The story of Zacchaeus was shared through Godly Play, exploring how it feels to be left out and how much better it is to include everyone, and we all said the Lord’s Prayer together in our own languages. 
‘Did everyone understand the story of Zacchaeus and the celebration time? Probably not, but it was a wonderful time of fellowship and inclusion.
‘Where did we see God at work? Firstly, the Zacchaeus session was God-given. Then one local mum was delighted when a Ukrainian mum asked her for details of a Scout group. She now understood why her son had been prompted to wear his Scout uniform to Messy Church that morning. We also saw God’s provision in having a big enough team. Volunteers who had been unable to join us over the last few months offered their help before any request needed to be sent out.’
Inspired? I am. I hope you would rather become communities of ‘radical inclusion’ where people are welcomed exactly as they are and take your Messy Church on a journey of generous hospitality.
Aike Kennett-Brown
BRF Messy Church ministry lead

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