Being messy, being church

Posted in Culture

Messy Church is a phenomenon that has taken many by surprise. Local Messy Church practitioners Jenny Carver and Judyth Roberts spoke to New Times about Messy Church, its rewards and the recent Australasian Messy Church Conference.

Created by Lucy Moore, Messy Church has a simple premise and a huge following – in the United Kingdom, where it was established, and around the world. In Australia, there are over 220 regular Messy Churches: 25 of these are based in South Australia, and 13 of these are part of the Uniting Church SA.

Lucy began Messy Church by posing a simple question: How can our small church reach the many families in our community? Focussing on the needs of families in the community, Lucy began shaping worship, learning and fellowship in new ways and eventually came up with the core idea for Messy Church.

“People say they keep hearing about Messy Church. ‘What is it?’, ‘Is it something our church could do?’ and ‘Why is it so effective at connecting with families?’ These are questions being asked of Messy Church practitioners across Australia,” says Judyth Roberts, a member of the Uniting Church SA Intergenerational Team.

A typical Messy Church includes a flexible, relaxed arrival time, a creative learning time, a short time of worship with story, music and prayers, and finishes with a sit-down meal for all. Key values that define Messy Church are Christ-centredness, creativity and joyful celebration in a spirit of generous, inclusive hospitality for all ages.

Importantly, Messy Church was created for those outside the church, and became church for them, rather than being a stepping stone to Sunday morning services.

“Many Messy Churches are initiated by lay leaders who want to share the Gospel with grandchildren and other families in a relaxed setting,” Judyth explains.

“One of the strengths of Messy Church is how it empowers lay leaders, and especially women, to use their experiences and skills to build a team to run Messy Church.”

A number of Uniting Church congregations across South Australia have started their own Messy Churches, which typically meet once a month.

“It doesn’t fit for every congregation, as Messy Church needs to be a response to the local community. But Messy Church is a good fit for many Uniting Churches because it is open, creative and hospitable and embodies the Uniting Church ethos,” says Judyth.

The Australasian Messy Church conference was held in early 2018, and the 170 people gathered were given the opportunity to share stories from their own Messy Church communities and experiences. The conference was attended by several Uniting Church SA leaders, including Jenny Carver, the Messy Church Regional Coordinator for South Australia.

“For me, the conference reinforced the need for Messy Churches to show God’s amazing and abundant love – not only through the meal, but with our attitude of hospitality across all aspects of Messy Church,” Jenny says.

Messy together

The Uniting Church SA Intergenerational Team will be co-hosting Messy Together SA, a South Australian Messy Church Conference, on Saturday 2 June.

This event will provide an opportunity for people to learn more about how Messy Church might work in their church setting, to celebrate existing Messy Churches in SA, and to share insights from the 2018 Australasian Messy Church Conference.

Messy Together SA is being co-hosted by the Uniting Church, Lutheran Church and Salvation Army in SA.

For more information about Messy Together SA, please visit the Facebook event page or contact the Intergenerational Team on 8236 4246 or email

For more information about Messy Church, please visit

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