Finding Faith and Friends in the Mess of Life

By Rev. Carrie Antczak*

Life is messy. Often times, those who are yet to experience faith community, or who have not experienced it in a long time, fear that their mess is not welcome at church – but nothing could be further from the truth. Messy Church embraces the idea of mess through creative play, worship experienced as a celebration and a community meal.  It’s a way of doing church that tells our communities, “your mess is indeed welcome at church.”

At the United Methodist Church of Berea (North Coast District), we launched Messy Church with a desire to reach people in our community in a creative, welcoming way. At first the idea of getting messy to form new connections sounded odd – what could glitter, glue, and God have in common? How could making a mess, make community? As it turned out, it was just what we needed, and what new friends were looking for.

Young girl paints with her feet within the lines of a cross painted on paper

So we gathered a team, encouraged the congregation to come as hosts, and to bring friends. Messy Church was advertised various places, but got the most response from posting it on Facebook. Who showed up? Friends of congregants, kids with their dads who they only saw on the weekend, grandparents with custody of their grandchildren, the OhioGuidestone community, some families needing a free meal, some families with children whose parents had never been to church.

The success of our first Messy Church in November of 2017 encouraged us to host others, once-a-month, throughout the school year.  Average attendance was 65 people, most of whom were not members of our church. By the end of the year: two young people had requested information on baptism; a few new families were regularly attending church; and we developed a passion for using slime, sand, and sloppy joes for the glory of God!

(Click on photos to get full view)

If you were to peak through the window during Messy Church, you’d see round tables surrounded by people of all ages getting sticky.  You would see that no child is sitting still, and all of them are joyfully interrupting me and Senior Pastor Nathan Howe. You would hear loud laughter, be surprised by little feet running fast with no one scolding them, and you’d see instruments and praise ribbons strewn about for all to participate in worship as they feel led.

During worship you’d hear “secular” music turned into worship music, and you’d witness kids sliding under pews in races, and some child begging their grandma to take a picture of them in the pulpit. This is their space, where they come, listen, and meet Jesus.

Learn more about Ohio Messy Church on Facebook, or come and visit UMC Berea from 4-6 p.m. on the third Sunday of every month to participate in Messy Church.

Finding faith and friends in the mess of life. Messy Play. Messy Worship. Messy Dinner. All welcome. Always our gift to you.

*Rev. Carrie Antczak is a Deacon in full connection serving as the pastor of Faith Formation and Outreach at the United Methodist Church of Berea.