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.

“Enough is enough!” Students Protest to Change Gun Control Laws

By Rick Wolcott*

“Alyssa Alhadeff, student, age14
Scott Beigel, teacher, age 35
Martin Duque Anguiano, student, age 14”

Outside Berea-Midpark High School, one by one the names were read of the 17 people killed during the Valentine’s Day shooting inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

massive group of students bow heads for moment of siklence
Moment of Silence Prior to Walk at Berea-Midpark HS

Berea-Midpark students joined thousands of others from schools across the country when they walked out of class on the one-month anniversary of the deadly shooting to protest the current gun control laws.

Berea-Midpark HS Walk for Change

Gathered near the memorial garden before their march around the school, Ben, a Berea-Midpark senior, told his fellow Titans, “take out your phones, take pictures, take videos, use the hash tag enough is enough, show people that we are no longer sitting back and letting things happen.”

“Today is all about the students and has been organized by them,” said Berea-Midpark High School Principal Vincenzo Ruggiero.  “Ben and the other students have been phenomenal in the planning of this march.  This is a student movement and our role has been to support it.”

“Nicholas Dworet, student, age 17
Aaron Feis, football coach, age 37
Jaime Guttenberg, student, age 14”

Berea-Midpark HS Students Walk for Change
Berea-Midpark HS Students Walk for Change

Clergy and laity from the United Methodist Church of Berea (North Coast District) stood in the school parking lot, watching the protest and praying for the students participating in it.

“The issue of gun violence that prompted today’s walkout is one that our community and our congregation is concerned with and I think it’s always important for the church to show up and be a witness for what we believe when there’s an issue that impacts our neighbors,” said UMC Berea Senior Pastor the Rev. Nathan Howe.

Rev. Nathan Howe, Don Moody, Rev. Carrie Antczak, and Claire Powell
Rev. Nathan Howe, Don Moody, Rev. Carrie Antczak, and Claire Powell

“As a former educator and school principal, I feel this is a really critical issue for our students to undertake because of their safety,” said Claire Powell, a lay member of UMC Berea.  “Hopefully they can be able to make a statement to the country and to the lawmakers and the NRA that there needs to be tighter gun control laws so that these incidents of gun violence will stop and children can feel safe when they go to school every day.”

“I think there is value in supporting the youth of our community and the causes that they believe in.  I think we need to stand with them and to pray for and with them,” said UMC Berea lay member Don Moody.

Ben was encouraged that members of the community were present for the walkout.

“It makes me happy that people have come out and are supporting what we are doing,” he said.

Student Protest at Youngstown Chaney HS
Student Protest at Youngstown Chaney HS

Outside Chaney High School in Youngstown, students also began their walkout by reading the names of those who lost their lives in the Parkland shooting.

“Chris Hixon, athletic director, age 49
Luke Hoyer, student, age 15
Cara Loughran, student, age 14”

Rev. Abby Auman, Mahoning Valley District superintendent, was in attendance offering prayer and showing her support.

“It is important to show the students that adults care about them and their safety, and that The United Methodist Church stands with them in calling for reform,” she said.  “I don’t know how Columbine wasn’t enough.  I don’t know how Sandy Hook wasn’t enough, or Chardon, or any of the other mass shootings enabled by AR-15s.  So if these high school students are ready and willing to stand up and say that gun ownership in America does not have to be an all or nothing proposition, and that their lives matter more than unlimited and unfettered gun ownership, I’m willing to stand with them and support them however I can.”

“Gina Montalto, student, age 14
Joaquin Oliver, student, age 17
Alaina Petty, student, age 14
Meadow Pollack, student, age 18”

“It was amazing to see so many students stand up for something,” said the Rev. Kelsey Orosan, pastor of Richard Brown Memorial and Trinity UMCs in Youngstown, and associate pastor of Boardman UMC.

Lucy Smith and Rev. Kelsey Orosan
Lucy Smith and Rev. Kelsey Orosan

She and Auman credit Richard Brown Memorial UMC members Penny Wells and Lucy Smith with organizing the Youngstown walkouts through their work with Sojourn to the Past, which takes students on a journey along the path of the Civil Rights Movement through the American South.

“The Sojourn students led the charge at all three Youngstown high schools with thoughtful and thought-provoking speeches that called students to take specific actions.” Orosan said.

In Youngstown and in Berea, students sent many messages on this day.  With their feet, they walked in protest of current gun laws.  With their hands, and the stroke of a pen, they registered to vote, giving them the power to make a difference at the polls.

“I’m encouraged by the students wanting to use their voice to share what’s on their hearts in the ways that they are peacefully protesting and making their concerns known to lawmakers,” said the Rev. Carrie Antczak, pastor of Christian formation and outreach at UMC Berea.  “I want to support that the students are doing what they can to change the world that they live in.”

“Helena Ramsay, student, age 17
Alex Schachter, student, age 14
Carmen Schentrup, student, age 16
Peter Wang, student, age 15”

 

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church. 

The Dream Will Not Die on Our Watch

Gathering watching performace

By Rick Wolcott*

Clergy and laity gathered at Aldersgate United Methodist Church (North Coast District) on Monday, January 15 to remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

“It’s appropriate that we recognize Dr. King today because the things that he fought for and died for are under attack.  The dream that he had, that all of God’s children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character, that dream is under attack,” said the Rev. Dogba Bass of Aldersgate UMC.  “Will we be men and women of courage like Dr. King?  In our day and in our time we can’t recreate his day, but this is our day, this is our time.  What will history say about us?  We cannot afford to let the dream die.  That is why we have called you here today.”

Powerful prayer, passionate singing, emotional liturgical dances, and heartfelt words filled the sanctuary.  None more poignant than those shared by Tracy Bass and third-grader Alexandra Grant, who recited the “I have a dream” speech that King gave August 28, 1963 as part of the March on Washington.

“That one experience shaped my thinking,” said Lena Nance of the impact participating in the March had on launching her life-long journey to learn more about her heritage.

“It may surprise you as a middle-aged white person for me to confess to you that the civil rights movement has made my life immensely better, enormously better.  I think now about the teachers and the colleagues and the friends that I wouldn’t have been allowed to have,” North Coast District Superintendent the Rev. Dr. Steve Bailey said in his remarks.

“As someone who has lived through the civil rights era I am so grateful that courageous people black, and white, and Hispanic, and Asian and many other ethnicities said that we will not be divided by evil or mistrust.  We will not look at each other as competitors or enemies, but as brothers and sisters,” he continued.  “And that’s a mission that could be launched out of a political movement, but Dr. King launched that out of his understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that racism is not an attitude that’s a political opinion, racism is an evil to be deplored and if the church isn’t standing up against racism we have compromised our mission entirely.”

Rev. Dogba Bass and Bishop Tracy S. Malone

“I am convinced that if we want to pay tribute to Dr. King for having a dream, if we want to galvanize the nation to continue to strive toward ongoing freedom and equality, we can keep having these wonderful celebrations – and they are good,” said Bishop Tracy S. Malone.  “But if we want to keep the dream alive and commit to the work and the vision of King we have to face our current realities of our times and admit that we have a societal problem, and we’re part of the societal problem because we have become silent.”

In her keynote address, the bishop implored those gathered to take action.

“It is time for the Church to rise up and be her best self.  We are the moral conscience for society but we must take our rightful place.  It’s time to shift from just dreaming and remembering, and commemorating.  Let us organize. Let us mobilize.  This transcends race, and gender, and class, but anyone who cares about the cause of justice, the cause of equality, the cause of peace, it is time.  Repeat after me, ‘I will not let the dream die on my watch.’”

“When God calls you, God can call you from anywhere,” Bailey said.  “You don’t have to start from a big movement, you simply have to start.  You have to speak.  You have to move forward, and you have to invite people to join you.”

Click on the video to see Bishop Malone’s keynote address in its entirety.

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.