'We should have more say!' wrote Abigail (14). Abigail's sentiment was one shared by the Methodist Church and Messy Church, so it made perfect sense to run a joint event, inviting teenagers from all over the UK to come together for a day looking at the role of teenagers in Messy Churches.
Jane writes: They came from Scotland, North Yorkshire, the Midlands and Cambridgeshire, Durham and Oxfordshire; adults and children, singing, praying, getting messy; listening to each other's stories, sharing worries and concerns. They made crafts, made new friends, created dramas, played games. They laughed, hammered nails, learned skills, wrote in clay. They met with God in the Mini Retreat, were affirmed and blessed before God in the Messy Church session consultations and heard about the worldwide Messy Church.
Did we really do all of that in a weekend? Yes and more!
On Saturday Messy Church joined Who Let The Dads Out? at their annual conference in Stockport with workshops, fun craft activities and keynote speakers. Stories were shared, craft challenges were judged and a wonderful feeling of God at work in the community was heard.
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.
The last day of the 'Church &...' Conference with a few different people as well as - by now - old friends to grin at and laugh with. I had a couple of keynotes to give on discipleship and all-age worship. It's been fascinating to see how much people appear to have appreciated the storytelling side of what I had to offer. On sober reflection, this is probably because scripture is far more informative and life-changing than my own limited experience and wisdom.
A second keynote today while Paul (my husband) and Arthur (my son) prowled round Adelaide. It's fun to spot the cultural changes. To my astonishment, the 'Stone the crows!' line in my version of The Sower got a huge cheer. I hadn't twigged the Crows are the local footie team. Very serendipitous. And I did proudly manage to make Zacchaeus climb the tree 'like a possum' instead of 'like a squirrel', while Mrs Littlebottom earned dollars and cents when she went busking, not pounds and pence.
As the Uniting Church's 'Church &...' conference began with a rerun of last night's Messy Church, hosted by the Lefevre team, we felt simply part of the team, which was perfect. Alas, I had been given the activity of the Smelly Plague Pots (rotten fish, old socks, blue cheese - you get the picture), so, far from having the chance to chat to people, I noticed they got as far from me as possible. At least I hope that was the reason.
The last half of the journey to Adelaide across big big countryside between Mt Gambier and South Australia (SA): a moment of panic seeing threatening signs up wanting us to get rid of all fruit into quarantine bins before we hit the state. We dutifully disposed of an orange, feeling rather silly and 'surely it can't mean an orange'-ish. But as, when I later reported the incident during one of my talks, it got a resounding cheer, we obviously did the right thing.
A pause in our Odyssey round Oz to reflect a little on what’s been happening. We’ve been in this vast and amazing country a week now – unbelievable as it’s shot past so quickly. The Melbourne leg of our trip finished yesterday and we’re in a sort of no-man’s land between Melbourne and Adelaide, having driven along the Great Ocean Road as far as Mt Gambier, where we have just settled into a very fine b&b complete with Guard Lambs, a King Charles spaniel, a herd of cows and assorted ducks and chickens. And a guinea pig but I haven’t yet made its acquaintance.