One of the things we Highrockers like to do from time to time is to tell our Life Stories.
We talk about the good times, the hard times, the ways we’ve seen God move and redeem and transform our lives.
And as a church, we have a Life Story too.
It’s a shortish life story; as churches go, we’re a toddler. In lots of ways, we’re still learning how to walk and talk. We’re figuring out what we’re naturally good at and where we still need a lot of practice. We’re potty trained. Mostly. And like most toddlers, our personality is really starting to come out.
But our story starts long before our church did, all the way back in 1999 A.D. when we were just a twinkle in our parent church’s eye. A small group of Christians from a hodgepodge of different backgrounds gathered together at a home in Needham on a street called Highrock. But despite their differences, they shared a common vision that God could actually do something new through them in Greater Boston.
Communities like that are contagious. The group started to grow and began meeting in Cambridge, eventually choosing the name Highrock and calling themselves a church. They diversified in ethnicity and hired Dave Swaim as their lead pastor. After awhile, Highrock joined the Evangelical Covenant Church, a growing denomination of about 850 congregations in the U.S.
Pretty soon, the congregation moved to Arlington. And when I say, the congregation moved to Arlington...I mean the congregation sold-their-homes-and-bought-new-ones-in-Arlington moved to Arlington. The people of Highrock wanted to do life together, Sunday to Saturday. They wanted to love their actual neighbors as Christ does.
In 2008, Highrock sent half their members to Brookline to start a new church there. And in 2012, Highrock had twins, launching two new churches: one in Quincy and another one in - well, you’re looking at it - right here in Salem.
How we came to be Highrock North Shore was kind of the perfect storm.
If you’ve been part of our community for any length of time at all, you’ve heard story after story after story of God’s faithfulness through this process of building and becoming Highrock North Shore. Here’s a snapshot:
In March of 2011, Pastor Aaron, who was serving as the Young Adults pastor at Highrock-Arlington at the time, met with Pastor Dave for his annual review. During the course of that conversation, Dave and Aaron started to dream about what it would be like to plant a church on the North Shore where Pastor Aaron went to seminary and met and fell in love with his wife, Ariel.
The following Sunday, Dave preached a sermon about loving the people in our actual communities. He challenged Highrockers to either move to Arlington or if they couldn’t, to gather a group of people in their area and consider planting a church where they lived.
Hmmmm.....David Lee, a Highrocker living on the North Shore, started to look around at the people next to him in the pews. He realized a bunch of Highrockers were already commuting from the North Shore. Quite a crew, in fact. And he approached Dave after the service to suggest planting there.
It was so perfect it was weird. Suddenly Highrock North Shore had a pastor, a place, and a people...a people that grew.
Maundy Thursday that year, 11 North Shore Highrockers gathered together for dinner in the Lees’ home. The following Maundy Thursday, there were 60. Because this kind of community is contagious.
At Highrock, we believe that a Christian will drive any distance to be part of a church community that they love. But our non-Christian neighbors likely won’t. So if we want to love as Christ did, to really show genuine, authentic community to people who don’t know him yet, we have to move into their neighborhood.
So our congregation moved to the North Shore. And when I say, we moved to the North Shore, I mean...we moved to the North Shore. Because we wanted to serve Salem from Salem. And we literally couldn’t wait to be there.
After those first conversations, we started meeting together for dinner and a Bible Study just like those first Highrockers on Highrock street, to dream and plan and pray. Eventually, we started holding Sunday services in the Salem YMCA and half a year later, started renting space from the First Universalist Society in Salem. Since then, every Sunday, we've gathered together. We worship and learn, we pray and we eat, we chat about life, and we love it.
But we’re not just a church on Sundays.
We’re a church all days. Over the past few years, God has used us to show each other his love in tangible and intangible ways. We’ve laughed together. We’ve cried together. We’ve told stories of God’s grace.
We’ve brought each other meals when we’ve had new babies. We’ve taken weekend trips together, thrown parties for one another, carried each others' moving boxes, gone to each others’ art shows and soccer games and science fairs.
Over the past few years, we’ve stood by each other as parents, wives, husbands, and babies have been in the hospital. We’ve faced death and depression and doubt together. We’ve witnessed new life together. We’ve supported each other through addiction recovery and miscarriages. We’ve toasted each other with champagne to celebrate new jobs and new grandkids and new degrees. We’ve fought together and forgiven each other. We've done what we could to serve our city in the name of Christ.
Though few of us are related, we've become a family -- we've become a church.
Like those first Highrockers who gathered on Highrock Street, we come from a variety of different backgrounds. Our stories are different and so are our gifts.
Those in our community come from a variety of different backgrounds, though our common pursuit of one Person directs our foreground.
We are young and old and in-between, and some of us haven’t been born yet. Lots of us are actual toddlers. We are Asian, Caucasian, African, French, Hispanic, Haitian, and from Minnesota.
We are young and old and in-between and some of us haven’t been born yet. We are Asian, Caucasian, African, French, Hispanic, Haitian, and from Minnesota. We are empty nesters and newlyweds, professors and students, scientists and singers, doctors and young professionals, bartenders and baristas, creative types and the not-so-much. We are social conservatives and social progressives, social activists and social workers, full-time parents and full-time kids. We are male and female, gay and straight, married, single, and divorced. We are recovering addicts and stably self-controlled. We are broken hearted and full of joy.
Some of us have loved Jesus for a long time and some of us are just getting to know him. But at the end of the day, we are drawn together by the love of Christ, the need for His grace, and compelled to live His mission in the world.
That’s our Life Story so far and we’d love for you to be a part of it.