Stepping outside to listen, learn and engage
Introducing Muddy Church, an intergenerational approach to connecting with God in and with our communities. By Lucie Hutson
I wonder if the footsteps squelched as He walked in the garden, if the rain that fell on bare skin was refreshing and cooling, if the words whispered as echoes amongst the trees and the grass?
From the beginning of Genesis we are offered a place of connection – to each other, to the world and to God. An invitation to walk in the cool of the garden and then throughout the biblical narrative are tales and stories rich in the descriptions of the world in which they are placed. The giant grapes in the promised land, frogs and locust invading homes and gardens, pillars of fire through to mustard seeds, sheep and gathering beside a lake. God is at work in and through the world around us and Muddy Church encourages us to step beyond the walls and to see afresh this wonder filled world.
Muddy Church is an intergenerational approach to connecting with God in and with our communities. It is based on Asset Based Community Development that looks at identifying the gifts within our physical spaces and the people that gather there and to celebrate these. The paraphrased words from the Message of John 1 that says ‘Jesus became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood’ are what Muddy Church aims to encourage. At a time when our earth is groaning it is an opportunity to get away from screens and to step outside to listen, learn and engage.
Zephaniah talks about the street where old men sit with their sticks in hand watching the children play. We tend to translate this in our churches as a bit of time together before we send off the children to their ‘zones’ or spaces where they can get appropriate teaching in order to grow up. But the richness of generational relationships are lost, the joy of watching the child discover and grow, the delight of the ‘grandpa’ figure who ruffles your hair and brings you a sweet is removed from our worship communities.
Muddy Church has been running for a number of years in different locations as groups see a need or opportunity to use and engage with the places they live. Each Muddy Church is unique some sessions are based in local parks or walks, others may be in the church garden, graveyard or car park but they are designed to be accessible for all both physically and in location and price. One lady was limited on mobility and unable to go to Muddy Church and so she invited Muddy Church to her garden. Taking the Bible passage of accepting hospitality and sharing a sign of peace the group met at her garden and each person took a small white paper dove and placed it on a tree or plant. Other groups have met as a walking club or with a local beekeeper learning and wondering at the amazing bees and sweet honey.
At present we are all affected and seeking to respond to restrictions and lockdowns but while Muddy Church may have to change from groups gathered in local spaces there are lots of creative responses with QR Trails, scavenger challenges, street activities as well as using worship spaces that fit legislation. The Facebook page (MuddyChurch) and group have daily ideas for people to use as well as being a space of sharing encouragement and getting support which is at the heart of who we are with regular Zoom meet ups and training, video resources and booking button for individual support.
Muddy Church doesn’t come with strict structure or routine but offers everyone a space to consider where God is, how we see God and what is being said to us. The idea is not to have a leader who tells us what God is saying and doing but in sharing together, chatting about life as we walk side by side, hearing the struggles and joys and acknowledging the value of this community. We offer ideas that are practical, adaptable and free based on the season – so at the moment we are focussing on celebrating Autumn with Foraging Harvest ideas, Pumpkin Fun, light celebrations and a remembrance tree. These come in different formats (all available at the website) so that individuals can choose what would work for them and we don’t want to limit people able to do Muddy Church and so offer our resources freely.
Lots of people say how much freedom they find in Muddy Church – it doesn’t take the intense planning, teams of volunteers, expensive resources but seeks to use what we have, where we are and to celebrate the gifts that we all bring. Muddy Church is ageless - from weeks old to 90 year olds, this space is open for all. It’s in the community – recognising the spaces around us, sometimes they are urban, sometimes green but all hold an incredible beauty in our place. If you would like to know more please do get in touch or book a chat through our Facebook page – you would be very welcome!
Lucie Hutson is the founder of Muddy Church and has been involved in church ministry for over 30 years.
?Having graduated in Youth and Community Work she and her family moved to Albania to live and serve. They developed, formed and ran a centre for children and young people in a deprived community.
Returning to the UK Lucie began tutoring as a specialist tutor in Children & Family work with focus on Mission, Community work, Management and Funding, Intergenerational Ministry and Play & Creativity. She teaches at all levels from volunteers through to Masters and believes in developing creative learning opportunities through play for ages.
Lucie is passionate about sharing God in our communities, in being aware of the spaces we live in and engaging with them.