My name is Pam Gravenor and I am from King's Somborne Methodist Church where it has been my absolute privilege initially to set up and then to help lead our busy Messy Church for the past 7 years.
Over this time over 70 families have visited us, and of those around 50 families make up our current register. Every month about 50 of us meet together, often more, and even after 64 Messy Churches, in a church whose actual membership barely scrapes double figures, this is still a big "Wow" moment for me every time!
In this respect, Messy Church has made my faith much more trusting and much less risk- averse. It's been my experience that if you can stop ignoring that little voice that keeps niggling away at you; step out of your comfort zone; and have a go at creating somewhere where people can come into contact with the gospel message and feel comfortable enough to chat and ask questions about it; then that's pretty much all you need to worry about. God will be there in amongst the mess and he'll take care of the rest.
I am by no means a natural evangelist and I've always found it hard to talk to others about my faith. But in the context of Messy Church I find that conversations flow naturally and I've found my voice. I'm happy to talk about it, and invite people to come to it, and I'm thankful to have been given this extra courage and self-confidence.
I think Messy Church has also deepened my faith, and there's a bit of a paradox in this. In planning for Messy Church I've had to look again at familiar stories which I thought I knew well and find ways to simplify and explain them so they are accessible to everyone. And in doing this I've often gained new insights and deepened my own understanding, sharing in some of the awe and wonder that the children experience — it's clear that we're all learning together!
Messy Church has given me a faith that is more inclusive. Our group consists of mums and dads, children of all ages and grandparents; people of different denominations or none; people from a wide range of backgrounds, and adults and children with additional needs. God is most definitely there among us and has forged us into what feels like a real community. It's shown me that all, without exception can praise, can worship, can create something wonderful, can understand and can experience God's love — there is no-one we should exclude. You can almost hear the bricks of the old chapel sharing the joy and joining in!
But I think the main thing that I take away from Messy Church is a realisation that faith is constantly growing and developing. My job is not to teach others what faith is and how to have it; it's not a finite thing that I have to hand over to everyone who turns up at Messy Church, but it's a journey that we're all on together, irrespective of when we started travelling.
My own faith has had its eyes opened; it's a faith that's more open to possibilities. Who knows where God will lead us next?