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Kathy Bland - Rural Messy Juggling

Posted by Lucy Moore on 24 Jun 2020

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Kathy Bland, Regional Coordinator in Herefordshire and Social Action Coordinator, led the Facebook Lives on 17 June 2020 with oranges, David her husband, and Jonathan their son.

Her notes from the hugely fun sessions:

We’re juggling all the time, juggling different roles, house, church and work things, fitting in making videos and organising the food bank too. Our juggler friend, Thomas Trilby, reminded us yesterday of his friend Jim who said nothing useful gets done without juggling. Nothing useful gets done without keeping more than one ball in the air. And it’s hard.

So as we try to get useful and important things done, as we try to be faithful to the work God has called us to, we pray for ourselves and for all our fellow jugglers. We ask for grace when we drop balls, for joy as we throw them without knowing where or when they might fall, for courage as we keep throwing them, and throwing them, and throwing them, trying our best to catch them too. Help us to be your jugglers and to juggle faithfully, knowing our best is enough and for us also to remember that some days it’s okay to put them down and rest. Amen

Young people and Messy Church

I’m Jonathan and I am 13. During lockdown I have been able to take a bigger role in leading Messy Church. Before lockdown I had been suggesting and running activities (I have helped lead the activities since I was about 7, but got fed up that sometimes I was stuck on a table with an activity nobody wanted to do with me). Since I now come up with the ideas and put the activity together, I can make sure it is something I will enjoy, and if I like it other people my age might do too. I like creating challenges and doing science activities. I have made a mini escape room-type challenge, done elephant toothpaste, magic tricks and lava lamps. Even though I was attending planning meetings (more like nagging to make sure they happen!) and suggesting activities, before lockdown I couldn’t get to Messy Church in time to help set up because I get the bus home from school. Since lockdown I am at home (obviously!) so I can help with planning, set-up and doing the videos. It is a good distraction from school work! I like it that my parents let me get on with stuff e.g. I built a well out of tyres in the garden for the story at the woman at the well and did a video reflection about it.

During lockdown we have been doing Messy Church at Home bags, Facebook live celebration times, YouTube videos, Messy Church by Zoom, printables, joining in with the Messy Adventure. One top tip I suggested was using the Zoom whiteboard to tell stories – you can use it for prayers too and you can let other people draw on it by pressing ‘annotate’.

Advice for other young people:

  • Don’t just suggest ideas but offer to plan and organise activities. Give it a go. Even if people don’t always join in, at least you will have tried, and the adults will realise you do have ideas and can do things.

Advice for adults wanting young people on their team:

  • Trust young people and let them get on with it. Don’t be leaning over their shoulder asking if they can manage all the time. Young people have good ideas and can be a real help to your team – especially in rural areas where Messy Churches can struggle to have enough adults to do things.

Rural church

We’re in rural Herefordshire – famous for apples, wassailing, Tyrrells crisps and cider.

Many of our Sunday church congregations are small, meaning our Messy Church congregations can easily be bigger than on a Sunday. This is a challenge and an opportunity for our churches. Messy Church is our biggest example of church growth locally, but it can also be a struggle for small Sunday congregations, who might have lots of enthusiasm but not sufficient energy to keep Messy Church going as well as church on a Sunday. Our hope and prayer is that more churches will put their energy into the areas where there is growth and where God is at work in our communities.

Some questions from rural Messy Churches:

  • As we go forward from lockdown, where do we put our energies as rural Messy Churches? Many of our volunteers are over 70; they can keep phoning their families even if they can’t gather with together. What else can they do to keep connections going and grow relationships?
  • We have new opportunities made by connecting with people online and face-to-face delivering of food bags and Messy Church bags. How do we continue to keep those connections?
  • We have been invited into people’s houses on Zoom and been part of their experience of praying and reading the Bible at home. How do we help encourage more of that growing faith at home?
  • With an awareness of the likelihood of growing boredom in our children and young people over the summer holidays as we emerge from lockdown, are there opportunities for Messy Churches to be doing something outside? Shop-window quizzes (summer equivalent of our knitted sheep trail, perhaps?), scavenger hunts, maybe a picnic if rules allow?
  • What can we learn as we try to keep offering connection with our families, faithfully doing our best and listening? We are creating a Messy Church survey for our local Messy Church as we plan for how to come out of lockdown.

Social action

Our biggest juggle has been taking on running the food bank – from having a minor role to having a major role. The crossovers of families using food bank, coming to Messy Church, needing school holiday food bags, campaigning for holiday vouchers, etc. From September we were taking part in the Church Army Research Unit/Messy Church research into discipleship, and for Leominster our Messy Church discipleship tool was social action. Encouraging our families to be involved in social action led to us visiting a recycling centre, doing a seed and clothes swap, planning toilet twinning and now we are personally serving our community in this very physical way and asking questions about where it will lead, what the needs will be going forward. How can we continue to make connections and build a team? How we can encourage others as they make links between Messy Church and social action?

The question as we started taking part in the Messy Discipleship research was about whether engaging in social action will help people to grow in faith. We are definitely living the truth of that at the moment, as we are personally finding we are growing in faith as we lean on God for strength to keep going. Our challenge as we come out of lockdown will be in enabling other people to discover this for themselves too.