For around eight years I have been running around at each L19 Messy Church session. ‘Have you got all that you need?’ ‘Can I help you to find something?’ ‘Thank you for visiting us. Let me show you where to put your pram.’ ‘We’ve run out of paper plates! I’ll just pop out for some more.’ But this month I had to sit still! This month, our lovely regular welcoming family at the Welcome Table awoke to a surprise gift from a family member – tickets to the Davis Cup! So, for the first time, last minute, we were without a team at the Messy Welcome and Community Table. I decided it was too late to ask anyone else and that I would be the welcomer myself.
First of all, I had to learn how to do things upside down! Signing in and writing on badges, filling in registration sheets, giving out take-away sheets, everything was done from an odd position where I had my head on one side most of the time. But so long as the stream of families were welcomed with a smile and the queue kept moving and I could identify new families. Thank goodness for other welcomers outside on the pavement! Regulars were bemused to see me failing at what I thought was an easy, laid back role for members of the team. New families probably thought I was just that person who always spoke very quickly, lost pens very quickly and wrote illegibly even quicker!
After the initial rush of families being welcomed I was able to sit and tidy the table. A member of the congregation came over, sat beside me and was just, well, quiet. I respected her wish not to talk and tried not to be chatty and questioning. Eventually she looked at me and shared her anxieties and fears, asked me for prayers and wanted me to know that she had entered a singing event in the big city next month! She was already regretting entering as her nerves had got the better of her. I/we had no idea that she had a singing talent! She had never mentioned it before. I assured her of all my prayers and asked her if she would like to practice by singing for us at the meal time? We could uphold her in prayer and love. She agreed to think about it.
I watched her slowly choosing her jacket potato and toppings for herself and her children. I watched her cover her meal with another plate and then she froze. I went over and embraced her, encouraging her to move to the microphone. She was visibly shaking. She almost apologised for what she was about to do and then embarked on filling the dining hall with the most beautiful sound. Everyone stopped eating and were spellbound. She faltered at first but gained momentum and confidence. We all stood to applaud and she cried. Her prayer in our prayer activity during dessert was about the Messy family who helped her to gain that confidence. Would this have happened if I had been running around as usual, where folk say ‘I’m fine’ when I ask them how they are? Jesus just sat with people. Jesus found time to give people space. As I write this, half of my brain is sitting still so that I can share my experience with you. The other half is wondering what to cook for tea, remembering an agenda for an evening meeting, counting the tea towels that need to be ironed…and more! Lord, give me the grace to allow for the space, both for me and everyone I encounter, and thank you for already being in that space, with us and waiting.