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?
I attended occasionally and saw that the love and grace that was shown at the first visit was truly growing rather than faltering. The whole family of the church shared all the activities that have to happen for a gathering of this size. Coffee made? Power Point? Music? Communion Table? Chairs? It felt like when people came to church they came with their sleeves rolled up and weren’t afraid to do whatever was needed – VERY different than any other church I had experienced.
One Sunday I brought my grandchildren who were visiting for the weekend. They were really resistant to going to Godly Play, so I stayed with them until they were comfortable with what they were doing. When I went to pick them up, they said they didn’t want to leave and that they would love to come back. If they come for another visit, I am confident that they will remember the warmth and readily join the children in Godly Play.
Other times I saw that a forgotten song or a mix-up on Power Point was no big deal. People just were doing their best to serve, and, because there was a sense of safety among the members, a mistake or needing help was not embarrassing so much as it allowed the people to acknowledge their shared humanity. Mountainside is a place where humility flows and does away with what might be humiliation in another place. These people LIKED each other!
Eventually, I encouraged a friend of mine to visit. I saw them across the way and after the service I was eager to hear what they had to say. “So, what do you think?” I asked.
“They didn’t yell at the kids!” My friend said. Our discussion followed with a sense of amazement and touched a deeply rooted tenderness for children.
My friend found something that I was also discovering: a place for healing, a place to see the grace, mercy and love of God visible in the faces of those around you. It feels like really coming home, being embraced. I want to say to others, “Ho everyone who thirsts, come to the waters! You who have no money, come and eat.”