Who moved the egg? Our Easter Messy Church
We put this article in our church magazine to give the Sunday congregation an idea of what actually happens at a messy church. Not that this one is typical because of course all the others run much more to plan!
Who moved the egg? (or what really happens at an Easter Messy Church)
The delicious aroma of roasting lamb tantalizingly wafted around (heroically put on at some unearthly pre-dawn hour by Steve and Phil), Ann was artistically arranging scrumptious selections of homemade cakes (thank you) on plates, having peeled and chopped vegetables for 60+ beforehand, Karl's muscles were put to great use heaving heavy stones, furniture and toys up two flights of stairs and gradually the messy team assembled for the Easter messy church.
Groups of children and adults streamed up the stairs and were welcomed by Val (don't I know you from toddlers?') and Barbara, given name stickers and drifted through to play energetic and deafening tabletop games with ball-eating hippos and beetles. (This month we had 13 parents/carers, 47 children and 16 fantastic helpers.)
Then it was into church for the popular computer workshop run by ICT whiz Esther, exquisite, tiny promise boxes with Barbara in the candle corner and the construction of an amazing giant Easter garden at the front of the church with Liz’s friend John using a ton of rocks and stones and scented spring bulbs. In the downstairs hall Colin helped the children construct beautiful wooden cross and bead necklaces, colourfully decorated purses with speckled eggs rather than 30 pieces of silver were being made with Val (who discovered that not one child had heard the Easter story and had the privilege of talking with them about betrayal of friends and Jesus dying and coming back to life).
Liz enjoyed the challenge of being over-subscribed on crazy egg people while Debbie helped the children carefully construct pretty cream-coloured egg-shaped boxes and secretly filled them with Eastery chocolatey things for the children to find at home. We caused complete mayhem when we failed to make it clear that each child was only meant to receive one chocolate egg on finding a picture in the treasure hunt - one child ended up with at least 30 and some with none so had to be consoled accordingly!
Upstairs, spicy scents came from one corner of doughy mess with Jill, helping the children make fruity hot-cross buns, or there were golden jewelled chalices with Carol, bunny napkin rings with Louise (Carol's friend) or earthy mossy mess and mini Easter gardens with me. ('no Jacqui, that's not the stone blocking the tomb, it's Jesus' feet!').
Rachel took photos of all the muddle and fun, Andy brought us all much needed drinks and made everyone feel welcome and Heather had the overview, which mainly involved running round the church after a small cheeky boy who didn't want to do anything and scooping up any children who were looking lost, whilst being friendly and welcoming to all the grown-ups (she's good at that). A mum who had been before with a shy unsure little girl who clung to her side was gratefully taking the chance to chat with the friend she had brought, while her daughter and friend happily and confidently made buns together on the other side of the room.
Then it was a mad dash to the church for messy worship (broken guitar string) and some very enthusiastic singing and percussion playing from the children, with the much-needed help of Becky. One of our leaders commented, 'the children seemed to really listen and it may be the only chance for worship at Easter that some children will have.'
Time for the short, but important talk, on the heart of the Easter story, as suggested in the 'Messy Church' manual, but where was the carefully planned visual aid upon which the talk hinged? (2 eggs (in case of breakages) wrapped in several layers of tissue in cups placed handily near the music stand.) Blind panic battled with complete hysteria and a strong desire for a trapdoor in the front platform to save me from the expectant gaze of sixty people. A small voice said 'I might know where it is' and while they were sent to find the missing egg I gave a slightly surreal talk around an imagined visual aid to a bemused crowd, falling with relief on the real egg when it appeared (child thought she was helping Liz who had run out of eggs for her mad egg people!). Really hope some of the pain and joy about Jesus came across but not really sure.
In chaos forgot about prayer activity, which was to involve putting sad prayers on cross and thankful happy ones on tomb, but just as well, as, although garden beautifully and precisely constructed with big central wooden cross, the children had left out rock tomb so would have been tricky! Still - plenty of time before Easter Sunday for that. All loudly said messy grace together then it was time for the fragrant Passover based meal all squashed together in the lower hall.
Behind the scenes, our wonderful team clear away all the mess and lay the tables. We have the fantastic problem of not having enough room to all sit down and can't wait to be able to fit more people in when we move to our new building. Grannies, toddlers, mums, dads, primary school children, and volunteers all celebrated, some of us talking about the meaning of the lamb, pitta and sauces, all crammed in together, while the tablecloths were covered with numerous multi-coloured crayon designs (washable!). We sang 'happy birthday' to a few people, ate yummy cake and tried to match children with crafts to take home, while Colin braved the cold to make sure no-one was leaving unaccompanied and give them an Easter egg each.
Then the clearing up begins. A great team of people, including Chris, Phil and Tall Paul come every month and cheerfully wash up mountains of crocks and pots and zap the kitchen, the hoover goes into overdrive, today its wielded by someone who has only been back in the country for one hour and everything has to be taken or put away. We wearily climb the stairs with the last of the toys, pleased that the new church is on one level and survey the two large flasks of egg and sugar glaze that Jill prepared in a packed and busy day and forgot to use with her buns!
A kind nine-year old cheerfully offers to help and efficiently starts clearing up. She solemnly hands Jill a flower and me a stone. That's nice, I joke, 'You've given Jill a beautiful flower, but I just get a stone.' 'That's to remind you of Jesus and the stone that rolled away when he rose from the dead.'