M.E.S.S. - Men Entering Sacred Space


The narrow, canopied forest road marks the last miles of the drive to the backwoods state park lodge. Our threshold crossing involves the subtle rituals of song birds, wild flowers, squirrels, rabbits, hardwood trees, deer, piney woods, lakes, and splashing fish. As darkness falls, a hoot owl, coyote, bullfrog, or even an alligator may audibly signal nature as sacred space. Ticks, fleas, and mosquitos call us to the present, offering ripe metaphors for self-awareness. Wilderness is the backdrop for the 15 men of MESS. Nature invites us to leave our worried places behind once every three months. Gerald May, author and depth psychologist, saw the wilderness as a good place for a deeper dive into our authentic selves. We seem to actually hear the woods' siren-call, inviting us to leave work and other responsibilities behind for the slowing, away from rushed routines.

Friday, March 6, 2015, marked the start of our fifth year of MESS weekends. We called ourselves Men Entering Sacred Space. The acronym MESS stuck, and seems a better fit. Over 48 months, our quarterly weekend gatherings have included camaraderie, teaching, readings, sharing, dyads, time in nature, contemplative sits, fire, drumming, and great meals. We have shared our lives with one another, including serious illnesses, surgeries, retirements, and the slow creep of age related diminished functional abilities. Members of our families have died. MESS brothers have had new ministries, grandchildren, job changes, business difficulties, moral dilemmas, graduate education, retirement and more. A huge MESS highlight of the past year was an intergenerational wilderness road-trip with teenage sons, fathers, and grandfathers.

MESS came together in the fall of 2010, through our mutual interest in men’s spirituality and the writings of Richard Rohr, OFM. MESS is ecumenical. The common ground of sound spirituality crosses faith traditions. MESS men are Baptist, Catholic, Disciples of Christ, Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian, and others. We neither use titles nor do we identify professions in MESS. We come from all walks of life and social strata. There is no cross talk, no problem solving, and no hierarchical status among the men of MESS. Each man brings important gifts to MESS, none more important than the other.

One of the richest experiences of MESS weekends is our check-in, sharing what’s going on in our real lives. Joseph Campbell said, “Your sacred space is where you can find yourself, over, and over again”. Check-in is our time to explore events and feelings we encounter as husbands, fathers, grandfathers, ministers, workers, and across our life experiences. Check-in challenges us to leave the superficial behind, to stretch and find our true selves. We share joy and pain, success and failure, strengths and shortcomings, dreams and disappointments, humor and sorrow, struggles, and more. As brothers we have permission to be more vulnerable, to dig deeper, and to be honest with ourselves. Hearing one another’s stories over four years and sharing both laughter and tears have molded us to trust, appreciate, and love our brothers. Over our four years together, MESS has become a safe place, and it has evolved into the sacred space we all longed to find.

Belden Lane writes, “Intimacy with God is an astonishing experience of distance traversed. As in the beginning of any relationship the space between you and the other seems insuperable… You keep wandering in the forest and you find it strangely healing.” The MESS experience has provided our group an invigorating, healing, and sacred space.

Warren Hebert has been a member of M.E.S.S. since its inception.

Does the MESS experience sound appealing to you? Contact Joe Hebert at joe@joehebert.com or 318-308-2819 to learn more.