Sunday, May 22, 2016

Messy Church / Traditional Church - Dialogue- Post 1

This time a week ago I had just arrived at the High Leigh Conference Centre in England to help out as team at the Messy Church International Conference. 

Over 200 People arrived from across the world with Delegates from New Zealand and Australia, South Africa, USA, Canada, various European Countries and the British Isles. It was a fantastic few days. Lots of comments can be found on the twitter hashtag #MCIC2016.

This blog I want to focus on the formal-ish conversations I was asked to lead on the dialogue that is / needs to be happening between Messy Church and Traditional Church across the world and across the denominations. I'm aware that I come to this from a very particular perspective - that of an Anglican Priest - used to traditional church and love the formality of the book of Common Prayer and the structures within the Anglican way of "doing Church".

I came to the conversation with 3 questions:

Firstly - What questions are / should / could traditional church be asking of Messy Church?
Secondly - What questions are / should / could Messy Church be asking of traditional church?
Thirdly - What are the common points where this dialogue could/should take place?

So having over 40 people in my two conversations lots of questions were identified - from actual experience

What questions are / should / could traditional church be asking of Messy Church?

  • How can we learn from messy Church ?
  • How can we have time for messy Church when we are busy doing Sunday/Traditional Church?
  • When are you going to be doing the Eucharist and are you “real” church if you don't do it liturgically”?
  • How many Un-churched are coming?
  • Do Messy Church have an Organisational Structure?
  • How will Messy Church grow themselves without a traditional church to support it? 
  • When are the Messy Church people going to come to ‘real’ church? 
  • Is it really All age? 
  • How do we respect Lay Leaders? 
  • What is this the future of TC if there are now newcomers - who is going to take up the baton? 
  • Is MC draining energy from the church? 
  • How can TC adopt the concepts of MC ? 
  • Is MC just for Children?  
  • When is MC going to pay towards the parish? 
  • Where are the sacraments in MC? 
  • TC feels vulnerable because of MC. How is that helpful for the future? 
  • Are we being too closed minded? 
  • Should we be more open-minded? 
  • Who is MC for? What is family? 
  • When will they come to real church? 
  • Is there a conflict between TC & MC? 
  • Where are the future role holders going to come from? 
  • What is the teaching of MC? 
  • Does TC still matter? 
  • Is MC the only way to get children involved? 
  • What does parish/church council think of MC? 
  • Is it OK to go to both / one/ either? 
  • Do people have to make a choice between TC & MC? 

What questions are / should / could Messy Church be asking of traditional church?

  • How can we get recognition of time requirements of Sunday Church and need to get get permission to stop Sunday Jobs ?
  • How can we get permission to make changes to the structures and organisational rules that are preventing us from doing what we believe God has called us to do  ?
  • How can we be together ?
  • How can we pray for you ?
  • How can we get recognition as ‘church’ not a stepping stone to church? 
  •  What are the treasures that we need to have that you have? 
  • What would make you feel welcome / want to come to visit us? 
  • Are we going to be taken seriously? 
  • What makes you think its just a kids club with no value? 
  • What do you want to know about Messy Church? 
  • If we dont do this where do you see yourself in 20-50 years?

What are the common points where this dialogue could/should take place?

  • Knowing that we don't have all the answers 
  • Mutual Respect - both recognising the needs of others 
  • Sharing of prayer 
  • sacred Memories 
  • Sharing the physical space 
  • We have the same motivation and the same Gospel - The foundations are the same 
  • The needing to unpick the meaning of Church 
  • Sacraments and Weddings are Celebrated 
  • Communication on a personal level 
  • Sharing of ideas 
  • Prayer for each other - Commitment & Needs (Actual and people) 
  • Breaking down barriers 
  • Respecting the validity of TC and MC 
  • Recognition energy limitations of people 
  • Listening to each other 
  • Shared resources 
  • Open access to equipment and storage 
  • Food 
  • Mothers' Union / Other organisations with shared values
We could and probably should be exploring each one of these points in detail as each one of them could lead to an understanding of Ecclesiology- our understanding of the church whether this be traditional or Messy.  

To some reading this some of these questions may seem to be radical, problematic, and maybe even judgemental - they really aren't meant to be that way - but questions asked demand answers - and some answers may be No, some answers may take a lifetime to answer and some might lead to a whole life of discernment. 

For me there are a couple of fundamental questions which I'm playing around with - for me the three/four are

  • Is Messy Church Really All-Age? 
  • What Treasures does Traditional Church have that Messy Church needs? 
  • How can Messy Church work with organisations with Shared Values? /
  • Messy Church & Sacraments

I wonder if you were to pick one question / issue out of each section to wrestle with - what would they be?  feel free to comment below / facebook / blog. 

We concluded each session with reading from 1 Corinthians reminding us that we are part of the body and one part cant say to another part we dont need you 

The Importance of Mutual sharing - And learning from One another

Could Messy Church wake traditional Church (which is very word and cerebral) to the understanding of learnings styles and help it rediscover some which it may have lost on the whole

How can we make the points of dialogue places of creative engagement and what forums do we have for those?

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