Lockdown stories: international Messy Church friends
To mark the anniversary of Lockdown 1 on 23 March, we invited representatives across some of the BRF ministries to share the ups and downs, the high points and the low points of their year. It’s been a tough year for everyone, and many people experienced heart-breaking loss and great stress. BRF writers and volunteers were not spared these challenges, but amidst it all, they found glimpses of light, comfort and hope.
Carol Fletcher is a Messy Church leader in Canada. Below, she tells us how her friendship with Australian Messy Church leaders has grown – and flourished – throughout the pandemic.
Drawn to reach out to each other
When Sandy Brodine, Claire Dawe and I shared the experience of the International Messy Church Conference in England in 2019, we did not imagine what this friendship might bring.
As women in paid accountable ministry, we had so much in common. We were preachers, teachers, Messy Church leaders and more. And, as part of the group of the International Messy Church leaders that stayed an extra day at the Conference, we really had time to make a good connection.
Later in 2019, I arranged to attend the National Messy Church Conferences in New Zealand which would be in February 2020. I was going to travel with my friend and housemate Sylvia Jansen who is a Wine Educator and for whom time in New Zealand would allow her to do some work.
Our travel arrangements meant a stop in Melbourne on the way. I arranged for Sylvia and me to meet with Sandy and Claire. Sandy hosted us for church and a Sunday afternoon with her daughter Sophia, and Claire and Sandy travelled into downtown to meet us for Monday dinner.
Conversation and laughter filled our evening, and we parted with hopes that a trip to Canada might be in their futures.
When the world began sometime later to lock down in the COVID-19 pandemic we found ourselves drawn to reach out to each other. Late one evening I sent an email to our Melbourne friends to check in – sharing a bit of what was happening in our community and asking about theirs. Within the hour, Claire had replied, and shortly after, there was a note from Sandy. We were immediately exchanging ideas, worshipping with one another’s online congregations and mentoring one another in the use of technology.
Sylvia reflected: In all this dark coronavirus trouble there is clearly the light of God shining. In the words of Canadian poet Leonard Cohen:
There is a crack, a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.
What began as an exchange of emails, grew into a check-in video chat and that soon grew into an online ‘cuppa’ each week filled with our growing friendship.
We continued to encourage one another in our shares of Christ’s ministry. We talked about the things that were unique in our places – Sylvia and my amazement at kangaroos in the neighbourhood, and parrots who flock to eat all the fruit from a tree, and Sandy and Claire’s amazement that we actually go out of the house when it is minus forty degrees in winter.
We cared for one another as Melbourne locked down, and when it was our turn for Canada’s second wave. Our small group, separated by the span of the globe, came to have the restorative power and companionship that faith communities are meant to have.
Our connections are gifts that are generously shared and have deep personal meaning. We are both encouraged and encouragers in our shared faith.
And together, we have had the very human journey of our shared worries, joys, work and life. We have had the delights of learning a bit about one another’s families – sharing a little bit of ‘baby spam’ with Sylvia’s grandchildren – worrying about the lockdown for Sophia’s dance concert – how the adult children are managing school and work – and more.
We wanted to share this gift with others and so we worked together to prepare an International Advent service. We shared the service with our congregations and beyond and were then further encouraged in our own faith journeys. As Lent approached, we recorded Ash Wednesday worship resources that we shared with our respective church communities. We have inspired creativity in one another and encouraged one another on our faith journeys.
Through working together and telling stories of our lives and our churches we have experienced a crack in the bleakness of the pandemic. This is comfort. This is how the light gets in.
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