Little did I know that when I walked into Mountainside Communion that Sunday morning of summer 2012 as the second of last churches on our “church discovery tour” (a group of us was displaced from our previous worship community), this place would become one of the few defining places in my spiritual journey.
On its surface, this place is almost everything I’ve never imagined, with no program handed out when we walked in, no amplifiers, no rocking music worship, children running freely, and last but not least, to my horror, interactive sessions during sermon time. And after many weeks, I was only able to figure out who the pastor was and then almost everyone else was doing something without a job title. And yes, I figured out Misty is the “go-to” person!
But I returned because somehow this church community felt very different…
Just like any other churches I attended in the past, I came with my guard up and prepared to feel unaccepted because I have many characteristics that do not fit a typical evangelical Christian profile. Although I am unapologetic about my faith, among other things, I do not hold church traditions or views dearly. In fact, questioning them has become my second nature. So you see, not fitting in is an understatement. In reality, I think I have landed on many “black sheep” lists among concerned Christian friends and circles.
At Mountainside, what I was not prepared for was that instead of encountering subtle hostilities or indifferences, I felt welcome and at ease to be who I am. This church community teaches the scripture with intellectual vigor yet without the indoctrination; a place that acknowledges tension in many grey areas of life without compromising biblical values, yet offering hospitality and compassion; a place that values conversation and open dialogues.
Equally important, this is a place that not only preaches about hospitality but adopts it as a way of life. Hospitality has transformed me. When one feels accepted and welcomed, they become a different person. I used to practice avoidance and now I want to engage and contribute. I now find myself thinking about things in the context of hospitality more and more. Hospitality starts in our hearts and radiates outwardly. For those who enjoy BBQ with charcoal grill, you would appreciate how long-lasting and effective a single piece of lit-charcoal is. It radiates heat and lights up all the adjacent charcoals that have direct contact with it. A “seasoned” charcoal is never burned with a strong flame but a steady glow and heat. This is how hospitality feels to me at Mountainside.