Multicultural Messy Church – making space to celebrate cultural diversity
For many congregations Messy Church is an opportunity for people of different cultures to gather, yet how often do we intentionally celebrate and pay attention to the variety of the cultures in the room? God has created us as the beautiful diverse people that we are. All cultures have something unique to bring to the table but in our busy, western get things done we can miss some of the subtle treasures. Most people from a culturally diverse background in Australia either know how to, or are learning how to adapt to the Australian Western culture but what if you were to create an intentional Messy Church that explored that diversity.
So how would you go about it?
Look at who is in the room. What are the cultural diverse groups you have already in your Messy Church or your congregation who could be part of the planning and organising of Messy Church? Are there different cultures, do you want to explore one culture each time or do everyone at once?
Ideas for activities. Are there festivals that they celebrate in this culture, what are they, why do they celebrate them and what do they mean? Is there specific clothing to their culture, could you have outfits the kids could dress up in and get their photo taken in? Is there a type of dance, music, songs that are important in this culture that they could teach the whole group? Are there handy crafts, or a type of drama or theatre or puppets that are important to this culture, what does it mean and how would you use it? I would include in this space a worksheet for people to explore their own family cultural experiences.
Thinking about music. Many cultural groups have types of songs and music that is from their culture particularly. One of my favourite baptisms was with a Tongan family who wanted to sing a Tongan Christian children’s song as part of the service. It was so lovely to have them explain what the song meant (translation) what it meant to their family and when they would sing it. One of my other friends from a Hindi community use specific instruments that is unique to their culture for their worship music. Giving people opportunities to share that with the community as a whole is a gift to everyone involved.
Thinking about Bible readings. A good conversation around this would be what bible reading is really important to you from your cultural perspective and how do you hear it? Allowing people to unpack how they hear the reading from their cultural perspectives can give you a whole new perspective. I know when we were reflecting on the wedding in Canaan where Jesus turned water into wine with my Pacific Island colleagues, how for them the role of Mary was key, the it was the matriarch for them in the culture that often pushed them to do things they may not want to do. It was a new insight into the story we had not seen before.
Thinking about prayer. Are there specific prayers they say in this culture, could you learn the Lords prayer together in another language, does it change when you translate it back into English that changes how our understanding of it is.
Thinking about food. It is great to have food from different cultural groups but this can go wrong sometimes too. You need to make sure that there is a variety of food types that people can try, if food is normally spicy in the culture, can you offer a mild alternative. Is there a type of western takeout that you can include as well, for those children who are not brave with new food. Be aware of little things like if the culture eats animals whole (like fish or a pig) for some children this will be the first time they will have experienced seeing their meat looking like the animal it comes from, which can be quite shocking for them. You might want to talk about this first.
Messy Church has a priority of building God’s community. Giving people the opportunity to share the whole of who they are with the community helps build understanding and enriches God’s amazing community for everyone.
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Joyce Tangi is the Children’s/Family Ministry Lead and Field Officer (South) within the PULSE team.