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Book review: Messy Adventures: Twelve outdoor sessions for Messy Churches, edited by Lucy Moore, Dave Gregory, Cate Williams, and Jane Butler

10 August 2023

Rona Orme reviews further ideas for going wild with Messy Church

THE concept of Messy Church Goes Wild (Books, 22 September 2022) is an outdoor, environmental development beyond the original Messy Church. The gospel here is communicated in response to nature. This may be a challenge for some inner-city parishes. At first glance, this new resource is slightly daunting and complex. We are offered a pick-and-mix of ideas for each of 12 sets of material for Messy adventures. We are encouraged to share videos via scanned QR codes.

The sessions have a strong scientific basis. There are many fun and challenging activities and experiments, but there were times when I felt that the good news of Jesus was in danger of being sidelined by the scientific excitement. I wondered how much prior Bible knowledge was needed to put some of the material into context.

Skilled and experienced leaders will be able to keep a good balance between the fascinating science and offering reflection on Bible stories. The session on “wilderness” not only focuses on Jesus’s forty-day experience, but also brings in both Elijah and the manna from heaven (depending on the sections chosen to follow). Will children and those new to faith remember those accounts, or will they be too caught up in making fire, discovering how a compass works, or learning about poustinias?

One of the strengths of Messy Church is the focus on building relationships, and there are plenty of opportunities here to do that. Valuing the environment is of great importance to many families, and it is good to have material that follows that interest.

I have some concerns about the accessibility of some ideas. Safeguarding, health, and safety are carefully addressed, but I found no suggestions for adapting material for people with physical disabilities. Also, I am unsure that all the material will be suitable for families with neuro-diverse members. Our awareness of differently abled people has increased greatly in recent years; so it would be good to have some advice included where appropriate.

Written with wry humour, this helps with some of the more complicated scientific explanations. To use this book well will require commitment, confidence, and creativity. If you long to explore science, faith, and the beautiful outdoors, this resource may be for you.

Rona Orme is a licensed lay minister in the diocese of Salisbury, and a former Children’s Missioner for the diocese of Peterborough.

Messy Adventures: Twelve outdoor sessions for Messy Churches
Lucy Moore, Dave Gregory, Cate Williams and Jane Butler, editors
BRF £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £11.69

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