In the fall of 2009, about a year after I began attending Mountainside, I took Craig’s senior seminar on ecclesiology. Each student was asked to write a thesis on a social issue and how a faithful church should respond. I chose meth addiction as my topic, due to my brother’s relapse the prior year. The following is the last two pages of my paper, which I’ve slightly edited.
In the past year, I have watched my brother become consumed by paranoia and depression to the point of attempted suicides. Whether in late night emergency room visits or in his room during the aftermath of an attempted suicide, I have heard my brother’s paranoid stories that echo the plots of detective novels. Sometimes these encounters have left me shaken while others have left me with surprising composure. The vast majority of it has left me hurt and fearful, wondering if my brother will wind up dead because of a stopped heart or completed suicide, leaving behind three children and an unborn daughter. I find the possibility of losing a brother to be devastating, but the most unbearable thought is that my nieces and nephews could grow up fatherless. In light of all this, writing this thesis was not easy. This work was more than an academic and soon-to-be-graded enterprise for me. It was my life, my family’s life. It was hoping every day that my brother’s life wouldn’t be lost. Continue reading
From Jordan S.
Two years ago I served my first communion. I didn’t really know how to do it, but my mom and sister were with me. Taylor didn’t know what to do either. So I looked straight at my mom who was kneeling right beside me, and she told me to say, “This is the body of Christ, broken for you.” And I got the hang of it right away.
In 2007, a small group of Mountainsiders began to dream about the possibility of forming an intentional living community in Monrovia. The idea was to have a home owned or rented by Mountainside and inhabited by a small group of people who were committed to developing relationships and creating hospitality within their neighborhood. We began to call this the Neighborhood House. Over the next two years we met regularly praying together and studying scripture. We looked at properties, brainstormed about practical ideas for connecting with neighbors, investigated grant writing, and visited an existing intentional living community. We developed the following mission statement, which helped guide us: Neighborhood House is a physical space where Mountainside Communion is gathered by the Spirit to follow Jesus, hospitably loving God and neighbor. Continue reading
“We are a part of something bigger than ourselves—much, much bigger than Mountainside Communion,” Josh reminded us a recent Sunday in his sermon. It is so easy for us to become myopic, focusing intensely on our tiny, short existence, and our immediate individual and communal struggles. We are willing to give our lives to God and to serve others, but we become frustrated when we don’t see the impact of our noble intentions or a clear path forward. Yet, God is working before us and beyond us. Yes, He does work through us as individuals and as a community in our daily lives, but I believe that to a greater extent He is working before us and beyond us and through generations. Continue reading
Our home was built in 1916. It was a little box of a house, but the backyard had a shed, presumably for sheltering the then-current, all-the-rage mode of transportation – a horse and buggy. Imagine a town filled with horses pulling buggies: the slow pace of life, the precious fertilizer. Oh to go back to those long lost days, but I digress… We moved into this house in 2008 and dared not enter this timeworn, termite and wood-rot-infested shed, let alone store anything of value in it. Its value lay in its legacy, its history, so we just let it sit. And sit. And sit. And sag. And bend. And crack. And lean. Until the infamous “Windmaggedon” of November 2011 took its toll on our poor shed, and nearly a year later it was clearly unfit and unsafe to remain on our property any longer. Another small piece of history lost. Continue reading
We call ourselves a participatory church, and my experience is that of one whose participation is minimal and often defined by previous church experience. It is because of this and a strange mêlée of plethora and absence of hospitality and intentionality that I find myself often unsatisfied/uncomfortable.
Upon entering this community almost exactly five years ago, I remember the intentional and hospitable actions of one individual (almost, though not quite to the exclusion of others) – Jan. Jan was kind and thoughtful, yet demanding – an uncomfortable, yet appreciated and helpful mixture of traits. I never entered the basement on a Sunday morning without being asked about my job search, affirmed in what I was seeking to do, and challenged to be bolder and to be more confidently seeking that full-time job. Jan was consistent in her intentional hospitality toward me, and that shaped my early experience of Mountainside dramatically. It was her care toward me that helped me imagine that my own prayers spoken during Prayers of the People were heard and remembered, or at least remarked upon. Continue reading
We gathered together
around a table
it was wide and intentionally set
The room was warm with greetings
Greetings, first introductions and dinner preparations
We shared. Food and our lives.
Week after week, we explored together
Stories of vocation, our pasts and pain
We listened and learned from each other
We laughed and wiped tears away
Together around the table
eleven people intentionally connecting
to consider where our lives had been and what life could look and
feel like. A life integrated.
Mountainside is the first “small” church I’ve ever consistently attended. I was instantly amazed by a few key distinctives: no amplified sound, children worshipping with instruments and dance during service, spontaneous sharing and reflecting during service, prayer requests and praise reports during service.
I remember visiting my “old church” on Christmas Eve and passing by the tinted-window, soundproofed mother’s room. Such a contrast to our scene of mothers and newborns in the basement space God has given us to gather in for so many years. I see the space as our manger – an unlikely environment, but one that has helped shape who we are and who we are becoming. Continue reading
With your dying breath,
you softly cried, “Help! Help!”
But I could not help.
I could not find you,
pull you back to me.
All I could do was ease your distress
and wait for the God of Life
to do what I could not. Continue reading
It is Sunday morning and the kids are readying themselves to enter the Godly Play room. There is lots of wiggling, chattering and movement. I scan the hallway to see who is ready and one by one I call them into the room. I get to check in with them for a minute. I hear about Zach’s goal in his soccer game. Leah’s first week of school. Maddie’s kindergarten teacher. They bring their stories into the room with them as they gather around Missy and find a spot in the circle.
I follow the last child into the classroom and we join the circle together. Bodies are still moving. There is giggling between friends. Missy gently draws our attention back to readying ourselves for the story. We look to the calendar to orient ourselves to where we are in the church year. The green growing season. Continue reading