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 a while, Highrock joined the Evangelical Covenant Church, a growing denomination based in Chicago.
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.
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.
One 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. Within a few days, 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 High Rock street, to dream and plan and pray. We started holding Sunday services in the Salem YMCA, then half a year later started renting space from the First Universalist Society in Salem and a few years later we moved to the First Baptist Church. 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 High Rock 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. We are Asian, Caucasian, German, Latina, Latino, 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, married, single, divorced, and it’s complicated. 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 lifestory so far, and we’d love for you to be a part of it.