I met this morning with Lucy Moore who is the face and the animating spirit of a 'movement' called 'messy church'. Its impetus is the desire to create environments for worshipand faith development that are child friendly and accessible to people who are alientated by traditional forms of church.
The term 'Messy church' evokes three quite distinct reactions within me:
For the Presbyterian in me, for whom orderliness, not cleanliness, is next to godliness, it sends a shiver of apprehension up my spine. Messy church is surely an oxymoron! When God created the cosmos God brought order to the chaos that was there. Messy church sounds like it is a campaign of the evil one to create mayhem and disorder in God’s house!
The second reaction is the opposite. Isn’t messy church a tautology? Aren’t things going to be messy almost by definition when you get a bunch of sinners together and throw the living God into their midst? Eugene Peterson's definition of church comes to mind: groups of sinners gathering here and there. Of course it will be messy. And if you’ve got kids, instant messiness, if it’s a healthy environment for kids.
My third reaction is one of excitement – cautious excitement because once a Presbyterian….Wouldn’t it be good to be part of a church where messy and messed up people like you and me don’t have to pretend we’re more together than we are. Where we can have environments to lament and complain, to encourage and aspire, to express our thoughts and emotions, to play and laugh and weep in the presence of God and God’s people. That sounds messy. It sounds hard. It sounds fun. And it sounds authentic. And isn’t that what we long for in the church?