Messy Church Goes Wild
A passionate, exciting and practical new book is helping intergenerational groups enjoy connecting with the environment – and with God! As with many Messy Church resources, the latest book from the ministry has relevance far beyond the global community it’s been written for – including churches wishing to encourage all ages to engage with faith and the environment.
Messy Church Goes Wild is the name of both a resource and a movement. Both have been born out of the sense of responsibility to help Messy Churches become more sustainable, reduce their carbon footprint and connect with the environment.
Why? Because by interacting with nature in creative, Christ-centred and innovative ways, we are participating in God’s own love for his creation.
‘We are participating in God’s own love for his creation.’
Worshipping God through his creation
In her introduction, Lucy Moore, author, founder of Messy Church, and until recently its figurehead at BRF, says that being ‘the owner-tenants of a movement is to be responsible about the way we tread on the earth’. For her, the beauty, diversity and interconnectedness of the natural environment reflect the glorious majesty of its creator.
‘The natural world is shouting about God,’ Lucy says. ‘We want to make opportunities where more people are able to hear these shouts and to respond in ways that draw them closer to Jesus. I want to find out more about what it means to worship the risen Jesus, in and through the creativity of creation. This book is just the start. In it, you’ll find plenty of thought-provoking and informed passion to help us… to become more the people God calls us to be towards the planet.’
‘We want people to hear these shouts and respond in ways that draw them closer to Jesus.’
In Messy Church Goes Wild, experienced writers and practitioners, including George Lings, Dave Bookless, Jane Leadbetter, Dave Gregory and others, challenge us to consider possible responses to different aspects of creation: the animal world, the plant world, oceans and seas, climate change and people – our ‘neighbours’, including the very young. Included are stories from around the world that give examples of a Christian response in the grass roots of Messy Church settings. And there are ready-made sessions for exploring wildness in an intergenerational setting.
A number of Messy Churches have been piloting a further ‘wild’ resource: Messy Adventures. This consists of twelve units of materials to give Messy Church leaders the tools and confidence to take their gathering outdoors. Funded by Scientists in Congregations, each ‘adventure’ includes fun activities with a strong scientific focus, questions to discuss, ‘big thinking’ provided by scientific experts and suggestions for creative ways of responding in Christian worship.
A Messy Adventure in Leeds
Margaret Gallagher’s Messy Church in Leeds trialled two of the Messy Adventures as a school holiday activity. This is her report, adapted from an article in Get Messy! September 2022.
We started in the October half-term holiday with the Messy Adventure ‘Wild and rocky!’, which aims to get up close and personal with soil, mud, sand, rocks and stones, to explore themes such as: being in a hard place, the hugeness of numbers of grains of sand or the age of rocks, and the miraculous richness of soil, despite its dull, everyday appearance.
Of the various options on offer, we picked On the move, with a half-mile walk from the church to the old pit site which has been converted to a country park, stopping along the way to look at various things. It was great to be able to chat to the families as we walked. When we arrived, we shared the creation story and talked about how God formed us from the dust of the ground, and carried out some soil experiments.
We walked back to the church and played the traffic-light game in the garden. We considered what’s good, what we should stop and what we should continue to do to protect God’s creation. We also made bug houses and finished with a snack.
In the February half-term we chose the ‘Wild weather!’ unit to discover more about God and about good stewardship of our planet, through discovering and reflecting on the sky, weather, sun, moon, planets and stars. Although this coincided with severe storms, and we were unable to go ahead with our plans outdoors, we put a tent inside the church hall to make the session look different to our regular Messy Church. We enjoyed several different activities – science experiments.
We did manage to briefly nip out into the garden and look at the signs of the seasons. We’d planted some bulbs pre-Christmas which were just starting to break through the soil. We observed that the children are very aware of environmental issues and have been very engaged in the discussions, often leading their parents on the topic. They’re also excited to tell us about the science they’re learning at school and it’s really positive that they’re making the connection between that and what we’re discussing with them.
‘Children are very aware of environmental issues and have been very engaged in the discussions.’
Another positive is the offers of help from members of the wider church family and community. We’ve been asked if we’d like to take one of our Messy Adventures to a local allotment. At the moment we’re planning to take another slow wander back to the country park. It will be interesting to explore the areas we visited before and see how different they look at different times of the year.
We’re planning to tackle ‘Wild and wiggly!’ to discover more about God and the importance of minibeasts and insects in the circle of life. We’re going to try to be brave when upturning stones and remind ourselves that God the creator saw all that he had made, and it was good – even creepy crawlies!
Find out more about Creationtide: seasonofcreation.org