We visited the Blue Mountains just before we left Sydney and were suitably wowed by the vast acres of forest stretching out below Katoomba's Echo Point. As we ambled down a path there between eucalyptus trees, I noticed the bark. It looks as if someone's scribbled on it or done some crazy modern machine stitching embroidery. This particular tree was very near the sandstone cliff on the other side of the path, where tourists over the years have graffitied their names.
I'm starting to collect stories from rural Messy Churches, so I asked some of our regional coordinators to send me any reflections they have on specifically rural situations. You might have some to send too: why / how is Messy Church working or not working in your country setting? What factors are specific to Messy Churches in the countryside? What are the positive as well as the negative factors at work? What ideas do you have to give the Spirit an open door?
Janet Tredrea is in Cornwall and sends this story of resurrection.
Messy Churches are doing such a good job all round the world and dealing with some really big Bible stories and life issues, and being there for people in really tough situations. This isn't fluffy cuddly stuff - this is life-changing. Our team dealt with the hard-hitting question of material wealth yesterday - camels through the eyes of needles, lilies of the field, buried treasure and Jesus' apparently upside-down values. What do you value most in a silent auction - 'an iPad', 'a Ben 10 humungosaur', 'a spa experience' or 'happiness', 'clean water', 'peace'?
Mary Hawes sent through this blog from Heather Zempel with some thoughts about mess in general in a godly context. I think my posture (point 1 below) is that of instigator, as Heather would agree if she could see my desk at the mo. Heather writes:
'There’s always a connection between mess and transformation, mess is the environment in which the greatest transformation usually occurs.
I'm just back from the Fresh Expressions Associate Missioners' Conference. Lots to ponder and unpack, but for starters, it really is a good thing that Messy Church is so closely tied to Fresh Expressions: it gives us a deeper pool of wisdom to draw on than just Messy Church (check out the FE website for starters) and it gives Fresh Expressions a huge pool of practitioners to see in action on one particular form of fresh expression.
My word, it was cold! Not the welcome, or the even more welcome soup at lunchtime or the enthusiasm of the group gathered to share stories or find out about Messy Church in Glasgow, but the temperature of the church we met at felt sub-zero, even if it can't have been. Surely. But Lindsey, the placement student from Moorlands who's with me at the moment, said she watched a pair of lips turn gradually blue in the course of their conversation... There was a gradual furtive movement towards the radiators.