“God doesn’t waste anything”: Lucy Moore and the journey of Messy Church
It’s not often that your Fresh Expressions explorer-in-the-field doesn’t know where to start. This time, however, I will confess to not knowing where to begin! Turns out that to chat with Lucy Moore is to open a rich resource of wisdom, experience and reflection – and the challenge of how not to lose that in shaping the write-up is a bit of a head-scratcher.
For those not in the know, Lucy is part of the team who founded Messy Church 13 years ago – and has since worked as Team Leader whilst the movement has taken root and become a widely recognised model of FX with families and others. Based on five key values – being Christ-centred, offering hospitality, creativity, celebration and being accessible to all ages – Messy Church has become synonymous with contextual expressions of churches meeting the needs of local families. Through creating an environment where enjoying being in church together is at the heart of things, Messy Church has become a valued part of the faith journey for many people of all ages and stages – with over 3,600 Messy Churches now registered worldwide. We thought it’d be great to catch up with Lucy and share some of her learning and journey with the FX network. What follows is the best attempt to capture her insights….
FX: 13 years of Messy Church! That’s a lot of learning. What are the main changes that you’ve seen within the model during that time?
LM: It’s surprising how little the model has changed. The basic shape and values seem robust, they work well and have been the same from the outset. The biggest change is pretty hard to articulate – but it’s something to do with confidence in knowing that Messy Church offers something special, something that works. There’s been an internal shift from seeing us as ‘an offering to church’, to actually realising ‘this is church!’ There’s a confidence in our identity –in all the risks of pioneering, we come to a better understanding of what God wants us to be.
FX: Risk, yes – the constant companion of pioneering. Where do you think the risky areas for Messy Church are now? What’s new that still feels ‘on the edge’?
LM: I wonder if the biggest risk is that we stop taking risks. That’s always the danger of becoming ‘mainstream’ – so the challenge is to recognise that and stay light-hearted and open to change. Messy Church needs to stay like a child in the midst of the wider church – open to risk, and a bit messy.
Other new areas… well, we know that we need to reinvent discipleship for the Messy Church context – and that’s a challenge. We don’t just want to grow the numbers, we need to break new ground for those who are journeying through Messy Church, to pilot new ways of discipling. We’ve also got to crack teenage work. Our model is built on families worshipping together, and it’s crucial that we work out how that looks as children grow up.
FX: We all know that both highs-and-lows are part of the DNA of Fresh Expressions. Not wishing to kill the vibe, but can you tell us about something that you’ve found hard, or a particular area that is a challenge for Messy Church?
LM: It is heart-breaking when we see lay leaders becoming empowered and a Messy Church growing, to then hear of the whole thing being closed down, maybe because of a lack of understanding by the team, or by the rest of the local church, or perhaps by one significant leader, lay or ordained. There’s also a challenge to pioneers in general – if we want to be represented by decision-making bodies then we need to get ourselves elected onto them. Lay people need to be movers and shakers on every level if we want non-ordained voices to be heard – we need to take our share of responsibility for the decisions that shape the church.
FX: Thanks for the challenge, Lucy – that’s really powerful. Let’s bring the mood back up – tell us about a heart-warming, joyful moment…
LM: It’s those moments when I pause in the middle of everything– when I step back and look around Messy Church and see life, colours, laughter, conversations, and realise that this is the Kingdom of God happening around me. It’s those “wow” moments when we see a family become regular Messy Church members and then grow in their faith – some to the point of family baptism and becoming leaders. Seeing God at work in the middle of the noise and fun and food – that’s unbeatable.
FX: That is indeed cockle-warming! Thank you. Lastly, how about you take this moment to share a big head-line ‘take-home’ point that you’d like to offer to the FX folk? What have you learnt along the way that will help and inspire others?
LM: I’ve learnt that God doesn’t waste anything. My own journey has taken me through studying languages, to teaching, to raising children and even being a thwarted actor! God hasn’t wasted any of it – everything has been part of the pathway to where I am now, even though at the time I may not have been able to see where the path was heading. The challenge is to be faithful in each little moment, and trust that God has the big picture in hand.
Well, FX folk – like I said, a rich resource! Plenty of food for thought, plenty to celebrate. I’ll let Lucy have the last word:
LM: My hope for Messy Church and for me is that I will always remember this is God’s work, not mine to grasp possessively. I need to hold it lightly, do everything I can to help it grow into what God wants it to be, and – at the right moment – let it go.