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.
Mountainside was not a spectacular place. It is a church with a simple worship service. There is no band, just a few people on guitars & drums, may be a piano. There is no glamorous message, but teaching is solid. There are lots of movements and noises–people greeting and talking each other, going in and out to get food and coffee, and children running, squirming, getting in and out of their seats to get instruments and food–all happen throughout the service. It feels chaotic sometimes. Since there is no microphone, it takes more effort to focus.
There are things we like: Liturgy is creative and interactive, with lots of participation. Teaching is multilevel, with many discussions and open forum. People are more intellectual and academic, with lots of scholars, thinkers, and advocators, but everyone, young and old, is allowed to share their voices. Leadership seems to be fluid, spontaneous, and grass root. And children–they attract me. I love children. Period.
What brought it home was the people. We were greeted by a few people the first time, as in any other churches. What amazed us was people noticed that we were gone for a few weeks. Then Josh invited us for coffee. Wow! We never knew our pastor before.
The next thing was: Esther suggested joining the Bible study. This never happened before in our church life– joining a group after just a few times? The last time took us 7-8 years! Then we joined the vocation group in September. It was the best move. We had 12 pressurized relationship-building sessions composed of gourmet food, in-depth discussions, open and wonderful friendship. That seals the deal. We found home–a safe and welcoming one. We are so-o-o-o thankful. The rest is history.