One of the most enjoyable recent new initiatives in the contemporary Western mainstream Church has been the phenomenon known as Messy Church. 'A way of being church for families involving fun', this Christ-centred approach to gathering together works for all ages, bringing together 'creativity, hospitality and celebration'. As such, it has been highly successful across the world in a multiplicity of different contexts and church traditions. In the Anglican parish of St Luke, Toowoomba, it is has certainly proven its worth. Introduced at Pentecost 2014, a wonderful lay team has helped to run it at St Mark's, Rangeville on a bi-monthly one Sunday afternoon basis, contributing substantially to the building up of our Christian community as well as growing new families and individual disciples in our midst. The latest themed Messy Church even included the creating of a parish ark (see left after its transfer to St Luke's church building).
In some ways, the very term 'Messy Church' is very appropriate for being a Christian community at all in our contemporary Christian world, especially for Anglicans. In every age, after all, the Church has always had to work at what it means, in any context, to 'sight, sound, signal and support' the coming of God's loving reign. Perennially the Church has to allow the grace of God to reshape it afresh. Today however the challenge is particularly pressing, not least because of the pace of change and the sheer diversity of the contemporary world. To be true to the Gospel therefore, contemporary Christianity needs to be highly protean, as well as ever more deeply focused in essentials. It is a messy business! For Anglicans, in theory at least, this should really not be such a difficulty. Anglican history, polity and spirituality form a clear, distinctive and coherent embodiment of Christian life and thought. Yet such elements have formed a worldwide communion which is in many ways highly messy. This certainly does not justify some of the more chaotic and problematic aspects of Anglicanism! Perhaps however the example of Messy Church should be encouragement to Anglicans across the world. Being messy may not suit those of more fundamentalist outlook, whether religious or secularist. Yet Anglican gifts of 'creativity, hospitality and celebration', developed through shared commitment, with some clear but flexible structures, are vital ones for human, and environmental, flourishing today.
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.