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Celebration! Facebook Live thoughts from May 2020

Posted by Lucy Moore on 01 Jun 2020

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Celebration: we all know the wonderful Kool and the Gang song of the same name!

Celebration as a value for Messy Church came about because of wanting to dissociate the word ‘church’ from the word ‘boring’. Jesus spent so much time at parties and festivals – it’s amazing he got any carpentry or preaching done.

There was a comment from a Facebook post on Vickie Heydon-Matterface’s page, where she asked, ‘What do you miss about Messy Church?’ One person replied, ‘Craft, play, meeting new people, worship, friendship. All rolled up in one morning a month.’ A real celebration of the good things that makes that Messy Church such a fun place to be.  And it’s coincidentally interesting that Vickie has actually invited her Messy Church families to live out that value - to ‘celebrate’ what their Messy Church means to them.

One criticism of Messy Church is that it’s just fun and fluffy (collective growl in this echo chamber) and just provides entertainment. But celebration is very different from entertainment. Entertainment and fun may be part of celebration but are not the same thing. A celebration doesn’t just float around in freefall like a balloon; it is more like a bunch of grapes fruiting on a stem– it’s got a rooted identity that’s far bigger and goes far deeper than the single bunch of grapes.

Celebration is part of being together as human beings: Celebration: The OED defines celebration as ‘the action of marking one's pleasure at an important event or occasion by engaging in enjoyable, typically social, activity’. Originally it involved an implication of 'to frequent in great numbers', from celeber, 'frequented, populous, crowded'. And that’s why it’s so painful for Messy Church not to be able to meet: celebration = being social, togetherness, human beings getting together to mark something important to them… and by extension enjoying it.

Celebration is a way of noticing, of recognising, rehearsing a truth, of marking something that matters to us – an event, an achievement, a milestone, a story. What are we noticing/marking/recognising, rehearsing when we do Messy Church? The story of who God is, especially the way Jesus shows who God is.

Why is it important to celebrate? It shapes our identity as a community, a group of people: this is our story, this is our song: this is who we are, this is the root of our grapevine. We have a purpose; there is more to us than a bit of fun. And part of the way we express the joy of knowing how much Jesus loves us is by being joyful. We are Jesus-shaped people. Some might argue that doing the Adventure last week was a waste of time and energy at a time when both are in short supply. But the Adventure was a burst of music in the silence, a firework in the darkness, a bottle of champagne after the dead-looking vines of wintertime.

Celebration reminds us who we are when the path isn’t clear – perhaps now in lockdown, when the way ahead is not as clear as it has been in the past, this is a time to remember who we celebrate, why we celebrate and maybe to reimagine how we celebrate.

It reminds us that although we matter humungously, we don’t matter at all. God’s work - the missio dei - doesn’t depend on us, God will do it anyway. We can be light-hearted, because it’s ultimately not our responsibility. We can play rather than be weighed down with the monstrous responsibility of it all depending on us. It may be why so many of the saints of old come across as barking mad – they had a better sense of perspective than most of us.

It reminds us that even when the present is dreary, we have so much to be thankful for – gratitude is a sure-fire symptom of happiness.

In lockdown, celebrating is as important as ever: it’s why you’re going to all the trouble of doing that online Messy Church each month that you don’t know if anyone joins in with. It’s why you take the trouble to fill up a bag with Messy Church goodies and deliver it round to families. You’re continuing to sing the song, tell the story, dance the dance, provide the feast, mark out the rituals: you’re breaking open the champagne; you’re sending out invitations to the feast in the kingdom.

And perhaps the most crucial thing to remember, notice, mark, be thankful for… is the way that God celebrates us each time we turn back to him. Think of the parties in Jesus’ parables – lost coin, lost sheep, lost son: if the very angels in heaven are partying, we have some serious catching up to do.

In the words of a prayer from another blog on celebration: Lord, please speak to me now about one way in which I can live the next 24 hours with greater celebration. Amen