Messy Church

Fresh ideas for building a Christ-centred community

Australia

More multicultural joy this morning first thing as a Tongan youthworker led the opening worship on Exodus 2, with the encouragement to see our ministries like Jochabed putting Moses in a basket and letting him go in faith. That's certainly how it feels, sharing the idea of Messy Church with so many people and having no idea where it will end up or whether it will be 'safe'. If Moses had been born here, he could have been Ozmoses.

The prodigal returns during the talk.

Duncan Macleod is the other keynote speaker at the conference - a relaxed, wise, funny, godly, comfortable Uniting Church minister, who explained his job to my Anglican ears as being (sort of) the equivalent of a bishop in the Canberra area and who in his spare time writes blogs using different advertising clips to stimulate thought.

The conference here in Parramatta starts and my contribution for the day is an evening's Messy 'Masterclass'. (Not my title. Sounds terribly impressive, though...). We welcomed about 75 people to the Centre for Ministry to hear the basics about Messy Church and think about the issues around starting one. Funny how the material expands to fill the time available and despite jumping quickly over the core values, so that we could look at them in detail later in the week, there was still so much to say.

Messy Church Aussie-style: we took over a local church called Chaos, who kindly allowed us their anchoring presence and community and some of whom threw themselves into helping out with an afternoon Messy Church. The teenagers were fabulous and moved furniture, led a craft and welcomed people with huge glee. The children made a great welcoming team. ('Were you made welcome?' I asked one visitor nervously as we hadn't had much time to sort out roles. 'Oh yes!' she said.

A much sunnier day with the Opera House displaying itself much more appropriately against blue sky, then a dark night sky and nearly full moon, and a trip on the Manly Ferry (there used to be a Manly Girls' School but it no longer exists, can't think why). We bought enormous ice creams and ate them as we marvelled at the surfers doing their amazing Manly thing on the waves. It would take more than the promise of adrenalin to get me in the sea in this season.

We are tourists! Drove into Sydney (aaargh), for which act alone I deserve an OBE, and spent the day viewing Sydney 'sous la pluie' - not how it should be seen, so we saved ferry trips for a sunnier day. The Opera House is still impressive, but a white building seen against a white, cloudy sky lacks that postcard je ne sais quoi. In fact, it was very well camouflaged.

A hop over from Sunny Brisbane to sunny but chilly Sydney, where we met the wonderful Judyth Roberts, instigator of this trip, and settled happily into our new and last home for our trip. Couldn't face the drive into town in the dark so plumped in a cowardly manner for a dial-up pizza in front of Bondi Bay Coastguards on the TV being very hunky on the beach.

A last day to blob around Brisbane. I don't know any other major city that can boast a mangrove swamp boardwalk. We waddled around the Botanical Gardens, admiring palm trees and the lack of lilies in the lily ponds, fended off marauding cuckoos (or similar... my ornithological knowledge is limited - might have been kookaburras or possibly emus) over lunch and to Arthur's glee got a Magnum with a lolly stick that won him another Magnum for free. Afternoon wondering how tacky we can really go on the souvenir front and deciding that kangaroo scrotum corkscrews were beyond the pale.

A trip to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary - a completely fun day owing to the marked similarity of koalas to teenagers: they eat vast quantities of unhealthy food and they sleep 19 hours out of every 24. They just blob around in eucalyptus trees in a ‘whateva’ type coma. How did they ever survive the rigours of evolution when they eat only 50 of the 800 species of eucalyptus leaves and even then need to do very unsavoury things to make their offspring impervious to the toxins in them?

Brisbane! Sunshine! Warmth! Holiday! Wedding anniversary! And this is midwinter: lunch outside by the waterfall of the art gallery. It just doesn't get better. In the evening we were taken to have a meal with a Messy Church team from a local Anglican church, who had come across the concept when their curate, Jeanette Jamieson, was asking a Fresh Expressions adviser how to build on their Mainly Music successes. They've done four Messy Churches and welcome between 100 and 180 people at each one: formidable.

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