Jesus is such a dynamic, engaging figure that his church should be a community of dynamic engagement too. Messy Church tries to show how attractive Jesus is, how engaging, how life-changing and awesome he is, through the very way its participants worship God and experience kingdom together as a community. The way this comes across is often as ‘celebration’ – parties pop up all through the gospels and Messy Church has been compared to a monthly party – sometimes even preferred to birthday parties happening at the same time!
The Christian Year – Advent, Christmas, Easter, Pentecost – provides a framework of festivals to celebrate, which tell and retell the story of God through ritual, festival and party, with special rites, words, actions or foods. These are built into the Messy Church pattern around the year.
Messy Church celebrates who God is and what he’s done but is also a place to celebrate each individual and family. It means noticing each person’s place in God’s bigger picture of the love and significance of every human life. It says to each person, ‘You matter, you are loved, just as you are.’ In its very welcome of any and everybody, Messy Church is a place of celebration of community and people’s significance within that community.
Celebration involves marking significant events within the family of the church and demonstrating that God is concerned with these too. They might be joyful events like birthdays or weddings, but they might also be sadder ones like deaths and illnesses. Messy Church makes a space for everyone to mark what is important to them before God.
Celebration may appear as simply food and fun on the surface, but these symbols stand for the deeper rhythms of faith that well up from unconditional love, restoration, reconciliation, sacrifice, belonging and homecoming among many others. It’s no mistake that some Christians ‘celebrate’ the Eucharist. That spirit of meaningful celebration is present in Messy Church too.