What a fantastic time we had - 18-20 of us, regional coordinators and sympathetic friends - gathered together to talk 'mess' for 24 hours. It was such fun, such a luxury to be able to concentrate on some of the big issues and to glean each other's wisdom thereupon. I came away thinking how privileged we are to have such thoughtful, wise and experienced people taking an interest in Messy Church.
A thatched pub in the New Forest in the sunshine: there are worse places to meet, and it was excellent to find out about the Sophia Network from one of its founders, Sharon Prior. You can read all about Sophia here. It's an organisation that exists to connect women in youth work and ministry to access training, develop skills and share wisdom. It's open to men as well and is a very positive, helpful, well-resourced organisation: well worth joining up (especially as it's free).
It was a privilege to be invited to speak at the Mothers' Union Faith and Spirituality Conference. Not often do I get a Bishop as a warm-up act, either. There are so many links between what we're trying to do in Messy Church and the aims of the MU! And what a resource, what a huge pool of committed people across the UK and overseas, all with a concern for supporting families.
Chatting with Ben Mizen, our Diocesan Children and Youth Advisor, we were both struck by the importance of the parable of the wheat and the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30) in the context of Messy Church. It picked up on what was said at the Regional Coordinators' Day -someone commented there that we often want to 'harvest' too quickly (that is, reap the benefits of our church systems, evangelistic efforts and discipleship courses). Actually in the natural world, the sowing and the growing take a long time.
It was a very significant day: our first meeting of the Messy Church regional coordinators. Getting twelve busy people from around the UK, as far afield as Cornwall and Preston, Weston and Maidstone is no mean achievement. To have a Canadian as well was mere icing on the cake. Meeting round a table gave us a sense of belonging to a team with a common purpose.
Beryl Tillin has been thinking about home discipleship. She sent some useful insights in an email. I wonder what you think about the proposition that family traditions are more valuable than daily Bible notes?
I came to the Messy Fiesta in Oxford last weekend, which was really helpful and inspiring. I just wanted to let you know of a couple of things that our family do, following on from the discussion on discipleship at home. I identify totally with you on the 'what makes us a Christian family at home' question.
After several large Messy Fiestas, it was good to have a cosy intimate gathering at St Andrew's in Paddock Wood near Tonbridge on Saturday. I thought the smaller numbers would mean that we galloped through all the material and would be left twiddling our thumbs at the end of the day - but no, interestingly, the relaxed nature of the day meant that we dwelt more on each part of the programme, not less, and that there was much more opportunity to listen to each other as a whole group, not just in segregated smaller groups.
Happy days... just back from a course at Lee Abbey focusing on Messy Church with about 20 wonderful people, ranging from those who were already running their own Messy Church to those who were really there for a nice time by the sea, and why not? It was a lovely group of enthusiastic generous people and we had some very interesting discussions.
We got a very warm welcome and felt most honoured to be taken seriously. It's very reassuring that the C of E is employing this team to be thinkers and reflectors - very useful for people like us in our situation.
Perhaps the most poignant moment for me was when I expressed something along the lines of, 'We're not sure whether it would just be a bit of a pity if Messy Church closed down, or whether it's more important than that.' And George replied after some thought, 'I think it would be as if your child was knocked over and killed by a car on the way home from school.'
At the end of next week, Paul (my combined husband and vicar) and I are heading up to meet the Fresh Expressions thinktank team in Sheffield, at the Church Army HQ.
Claire Dalpra, George Lings, Andrew Wooding and Colin Brown will be there and it's our chance to chew over these big questions and to try to find a fruitful way forward for Messy Churches.
What questions to chew over, though? Here are some of my initial thoughts: