Guest column: Something new for worship: ‘Messy Church’ of Seal Beach

Something interesting has been happening at First United Methodist Church in Seal Beach. The oldest church in our town is following in the footsteps of a movement in teaching and community engagement that originated within the last decade in the United Kingdom.

The mere mention of “going to Church” often triggers memories of robed ministers in the pulpit, parishioners dressed in their Sunday best and soft worship that is well-ordered, dependable and usually a bit sedate, perhaps even boring?

Well, Messy Church looks to completely change that image. It is for the whole family and people of all generations and even those who simply wish to explore Christian faith and fellowship in a collaborative, fun environment. With services starting at 4:30 p.m. on the last Sunday of the month (note that it is coming up on Sunday, Aug. 27), it is a more relaxed time of day and easier to attend for many people, particularly those, who might prefer a later day spiritual service.

As the Reverend Tia Wildermuth says, “Messy Church is a fresh idea for building a Christ-centered community. Ours is designed to be a once a month gathering that brings together people of all ages and spiritual backgrounds.” She continued, “There are games, activities, crafts, a very short worship (about 15 minutes) and then dinner.” First United Methodist has been having these services since Sunday, April 30 and will continue for a while, as it has encouraged others to deepen in faith and camaraderie.

The time is 4:30 p.m. until roughly 6:30 p.m., which includes dinner. Messy Church can be boisterous, disordered, and hands on. Dress is “come as you are,” even if that was from an afternoon at the beach. It is about hands on activities, doing crafts, and storytelling with your neighbors or soon to be friends, sharing a meal and casual teachings of the good news of Jesus Christ. Messy Church is and should be a place where faith, fun, family, fellowship and friends come together.

Reverend Wildermuth summed it up simply, “all are welcome to Messy Church. You don’t have to come in on Sunday morning to be together in fellowship. Think of it as a monthly gathering centered around all of God’s family.”

Messy Church also has been following certain biblical themes such as Pentecost and the arrival of the Holy Spirit to the disciples after the Ascension via “Fruit of the Spirit” on the 7th Sunday after Easter; or the beginning or ending of summer such as “Light up the Darkness” or “God’s Family, Our Family.”

So, take a leap to be messy and connect with the child-like joy of the Divine within as your inner child may be welcome to do things like a spoon race with cut orange halves to squeeze out the juice and compete and laugh with faithful, heart-warming fun.

I have attended, and consider Messy Church just right for me and my spiritual family. Messy church offers the promise of coming as you are, diving into the fun and as a byproduct, guaranteeing nourishment for the body and soul.

Seth Eaker—a local businessman, activist and the current president of the Lions— considers First United Methodist Church his spiritual home and the Reverend Tia Wildermuth as his spiritual mentor.