Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Messy Church

Last night, our church held our first Messy Church. I've been interested in the Messy Church movement, which originated in the UK and has been gaining in popularity, for awhile now, but have never had the opportunity to experience it firsthand. You can learn more about it here. When I heard our fabulous faith formation director was taking it on, I was delighted!

Our wee one, at 4 months, isn't really old enough to participate in the activities of Messy Church, so he spent the time sleeping and being passed around the room. My wife had a committee meeting, so she wasn't able to join the Messy fun until after dinner. We all ate together (I am thrilled the menu planners chose pigs in blankets) and had questions for conversation around the table. Dessert was fascinating, stained glass Jell-o. I'd never seen or heard of it and was amazed at its appearance. It's white (sweetened condensed milk mixed with plain gelatin) with squares of different Jell-o colors in it! You can find directions here.We also heard the story of Holy Week, as presented through the use of objects hidden in eggs we got to choose and open when cued. My egg contained a die to represent the lots cast by the Roman soldiers for Jesus' clothing as he hung on the cross. I love dice!

After we ate, there were activity stations available for us to play. I first went to the station where Melissa was teaching us to make "resurrection rolls." You wrap a piece of crescent roll dough around a marshmallow (making sure there are no gaps through which you can see the marshmallow), then dip it in melted butter, then cinnamon sugar. Melissa wrote our names on cupcake papers and baked them for us (10-12 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven will do it). Through the magic of the oven, the marshmallows "vanished," leaving the rolls as empty as the tomb on that first Easter morning. The rolls, however, were a lot yummier, although God's bringing good from a terrible tragedy was just as sweet.

Next, I went to the station Lisa was womanning, where we got to use fusible beads to create tiny crosses. I started out trying to make a cross that was all matchy-matchy, carefully choosing the colors. However, I decided I didn't like that look, so I undid my work and started again, randomly grabbing beads of various colors. You put the beads on a plastic sheet with bitty spikes to hold the beads in place, then you place some wax paper over the whole shebang and press down with a hot iron until the beads melt and fuse together. You could make all kinds of cool designs!

I watched (and greatly enjoyed) the little kids flinging paint around rather like Jackson Pollock, but opted not to participate, as I had not come dressed for serious messiness. Next time, I'll have to wear some paint clothes! My favorite thing about this was seeing Marilla, with flecks of paint all over her face, happily immersed in making her resurrection roll.

Next, I got to do one of my all-time favorite activities, coloring eggs! Jeannene joined me for this one and made a blue egg that said "Elijah" on it and had lines around it. It turned out really nicely. I drew a dragonfly on mine before dunking it into the purple dye. It's so hard to make a decent picture with a white wax marker on a white egg! I'm no great artist, but it's especially interesting when you can't see what you're doing. Matthew helped us by making sure our eggs didn't get messed up while drying.

Once we were done with art time, the kids got to whack the piñata, which looked like Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc. It was an extraordinarily sturdy piñata and it took some cheating by Lisa to get to the candy inside. She talked about the sweetness of Jesus' willingness to go to the cross in order to spread God's message of unconditional love and radical inclusion. The children were encouraged to share that sweetness with other people.

Finally, we gathered in a circle, everyone holding part of a length of green ribbon/rope. There was a basket of shorter ribbons for people to use for individual prayers, tied onto the large ribbon. We closed with prayer and then dispersed early enough that we could still swing by the grocery for the week's provisions. A wonderful time---I'm looking forward to next month's session!

On Coffee (an unedited 20-minute freewrite)

When I was a kid, the only coffee in our house was instant. I can’t remember what brand we had---I think Maxwell House---but my mom lived on it. She worked a hard schedule and then had to take my stepdad to work and pick him up, then start all over again, catching a few hours of sleep here and a few there. All while managing also to spend time with me and tote me to wherever I needed to be. What a woman! Seems like she at least deserved to have some good coffee. We never had a coffeemaker in our house, unless you count the stovetop espresso pot that I am not sure we ever used. I think that was actually mine. I have a newer version of it now, a sleek red, in which I can brew up some Cuban coffee when I’m missing Miami. If only Cuban bread were so easy to come by up here. When we were last in New Jersey, I got a loaf, but it’s just not the same up north.

My grandparents, on the other hand, had a Mr. Coffee drip coffeemaker when I was a kid and on up until they died. They retired fairly early and I remember coffee at a much more leisurely pace at their house. We’d all sit around the breakfast table talking in the mornings. My grandmom would make pancakes on her big griddle on Saturdays and there would be orange juice from concentrate for us kids. When I helped make it, the final product was always a little less intense, I think, because I loved to nibble on the still-mostly-frozen juice can contents before dumping them into my grandmom’s Tupperware juice container and mix, mix, mixing it up. I always thought juice glasses, those petite things, were ridiculous and took mine in the bigger green glasses or in one of the anodized aluminum cups in bright colors. We also had some plastic toy soldier cups, but mostly we used those in the tub.

Back in those days, my cousins lived close enough that we got to play together all the time. It was like having brothers. That was a good and a bad thing. They were fun to play with and they also tormented me, as most brothers do, summoning me to come see something cool they found (which would turn out to be a snake) or challenging one another to contests of who could pee farthest off the flat garage roof, a challenge I couldn’t take on.

When I was older, I would stay weekends and whole weeks with my grands. In seminary, I would sit at the breakfast table watching the birds with them. My granddad and I would tell each other what we’d dreamed about. Unlike my mom, who was strictly a black coffee girl, they both took it with cream. When I was a kid, I recall them having a cow creamer container, although that may have actually been for the milk. When I was breakfasting with them as an adult, they had milk for the cereal (very frequently some variety of Chex) in a speckled blue and white pitcher. It went into coffee, too. We would, if not having cereal, munch on toast with my granddad’s favorite orange marmalade.

Sometimes, they had to rush off to table tennis games, water workout, Ruth Circle or Bible Study at church. Other times, my granddad would head down to the basement to talk to his ham radio buddies or tinker away on some project of the house or car. I was always fascinated with his basement work room, lined with shelves full of old metal coffee cans, the sort we used to take on road trips to pee in. I once peed in a Folger’s can on the way up Pike’s Peak.

Anyway, Clydie’s cans were full of all kinds of interesting bits and pieces. Nails of every size and variety. Nuts and bolts. Magnets. Random small items he could magic into place to create all kinds of useful household items. He once made a toothbrush holder from PVC pipe and his cars all featured some kind of jerry-rigging he’d come up with to improve function. My mom still drives his old silver Ford Taurus, the one with the tricky bypass switch you have to turn on at just the proper time, in order to be able to start the car. Now, though, her coffee comes from a French press.