Our story is not unique, and I’m tempted to say that it’s not special either, but saying that would mean stripping what we’ve come to recognize as God’s goodness away from what seemed unredeemable heartache. In minimizing the significance of our journey, I would also make small the vastness of God’s plan. So I say (not very loudly, though) that our story is special!
We started attending Mountainside around eight years ago when you could count the number of attendees on all fingers and toes, and there were only a few babies/toddlers coming with parents. At the time, the church was meeting at the Monrovia Community Center in an open space with round tables and folding chairs. Brett was partway through his seven-year stint to earn his PsyD at Fuller while I taught full-time at an elementary school in Monrovia. Continue reading
I guess the story should start with the triathlon. Prior to the starting of Mountainside, Heidi and I had decided to compete in a mini-triathlon. It quickly became a sweet time of us discussing the future of this new endeavor. Metaphors move me. The triathlon became a metaphor for the unknown journey that lay ahead. Running metaphors such as “hitting the wall” imagery and finish line scenes get me through hard moments in life. I knew this whole “starting a church” thing would become a “race” that would need a long, slow perspective. We talked of how “hitting the wall” times would come and how we knew that perseverance would be needed.
We ran the race during the second or third meeting in our home of what would become Mountainside. They said they would cheer us on from home. Continue reading
I sit on the edge of my bed and prepare my heart for prayer. My hands open into the beggar’s cup formation and I sigh a deep, cleansing breath. I remember the day I learned this prayer posture, gathered together with the Communion Rhythms team in Deborah’s studio. Warmth, authenticity, dedication, and a heartfelt resolve to know God deeper and more intimately would linger in the air during our meetings. I will always carry a piece of this group with me in my heart, as the regular interactions, authentic encouragement, and helpful accountability in our spiritual growth patterns are rare and treasured gifts in Christian community. Mountainside Communion is a church that lives this out as a lifestyle. Praise God. Continue reading
The worst part of attending the Pasadena communion gatherings for me was that I was rarely able to stay till the end of each meeting. Because of my unusual work schedule, I often had to leave early. This meant missing everyone’s prayer requests, which usually came at the end of everything. Sometimes I would only have time to volunteer my own prayer requests. I’d plead, “Pray for me!” and scurry off to work like a selfish chipmunk, cheeks full of goodies. I suppose all those frantic exits made me wonder: if it was not all about sharing prayer requests and fervently praying for each other throughout the week, what was communion gathering all about?
I can think of two main reasons we got together. Simply put, they are food and fellowship. Continue reading
Early on in its life as a church plant, Mountainside Communion (MC) was made aware of the large role undocumented immigration played in our local context. Extending hospitality and remaining open to receiving the hospitality of immigrants in our local neighborhoods has been a missional focus of MC over the past ten years. This particular attention was never a plan of ours but has been an outgrowth of dwelling deeply in our locality. Over time, MC has built relationships with individuals and communities who are undocumented and/or who are seeking to navigate the complexities of the current immigration system. Continue reading
The blood of Christ, shed for you.
I repeated these words over and over one recent Sunday morning as my daughter Anna and I together served the Eucharist. She held the bread; I, the cup. Continue reading
My first introduction to Mountainside Communion was attending the baptism of a family member. There was a very clear sense of family and rejoicing as each person was baptized. I also noted that there was a freedom within the service and following baptisms that made it feel like a family celebration more than a ritual. That day I asked myself the question: could such a community maintain this level of celebration and intimacy among the members?
When Esther & I came to Mountainside in June, 2012, I was on an reluctant journey of church search. The church I have been going for 10 years came to an end. It was the saddest experience in all the years I had with churches. I felt devastated, abandoned & homeless. I was not at all interested in church visiting, and it felt really awkward to have a group of 15-20 homeless people to go into a new church every week.
The search drove us to ask many questions. What are we looking for? What kind of church is a good fit? How do we rank the criteria we set for the search? One of them was are we going to be open as who we are. We have been hiding among a big church. We got fed through the worship and messages. We had some group interactions. We served a little, as long as we did not tell who we are. So for us, the first criteria is that we need to be free to who we are.
It was 10 years ago now and we had not yet met more than a few times as a forming church body. In these very early months we were meeting every other Sunday morning in Josh and Ari Smith’s living room. We were convened that evening around our dining room table. There were only about 10 of us (including Josh and Ari, Sonia and Kurt, Charise and Josh, Janet and Warren, Heidi …??), but in those early months, these individuals were a large proportion of the entire church. We were already sufficiently involved with one another and attached as friends that, despite some important work to be done, I remember this as an enjoyable evening characterized by freedom to say strange stuff and to laugh.