Welcoming Rev Busker

By Weekly Reflection

Dear Friend,

Tomorrow in worship we will welcome Michael Sullivan to lead us in song.

Performing under the name Rev Busker, Michael is a multi-talented musician who has toured North America since 1977. Notably, he was a contributor to “Give Us Your Poor,” an album about poverty in America made with Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger, Natalie Merchant, and Bon Jovi.

Rev Busker Posing with guitar

Michael is also a great friend of the homeless community. In addition to doing regular fundraisers and other advocacy work, he provides music for the memorial services put on by the Outdoor Church.

I hope you can make it to worship tomorrow at 10am – you won’t want to miss this!

Grace + Peace

Tom Hathaway, Pastor

Much Needed Rest

By Weekly Reflection

Dear Friend,

In case you’ve been enjoying your summer so thoroughly that you haven’t checked your calendar in a while: it’s already August!  

September’s busy-ness is looming just over the horizon of our sun and our fun.

During these final weeks of summer, I want to encourage you to take seriously the work of rest.

Our Old Testament ancestors took the work of rest seriously, if not too seriously. For example, things didn’t end well for this one fellow who was found picking up sticks on the Sabbath when he should have been resting instead.

Don’t worry – we haven’t scheduled any stonings for the coming program year! But that doesn’t mean that the work of rest in any less important.

May this August be a time of rest and renewal for you and all of God’s people.

Grace + Peace

Tom Hathaway, Pastor

Making Hillside Happen

By Weekly Reflection

It’s hard to believe that we’ve only been “Hillside Community Church” for less than a year. In just a couple months time, it seems we’ve already become a more community-oriented church.

Just think about what we’ve been up to:

  • We’ve started a Messy Church ministry to meet the spiritual needs of young families.
  • We ran a 7-day, 70-hour community service program for high school students from four area schools.
  • We installed a micro food pantry in front of the church that has already become a resource for hungry people in our neighborhood.

All these new ways of living out our mission to love God and love people would not be possible without your energy, love, and vision.

They would also not be possible if not for your financial support. And that’s why I’m writing you today.

As a not-for-profit organization, our ministry and mission depend on the generosity of the friends and members our church. If you find hope and meaning in Hillside’s worship services, fellowship, and service opportunities – I invite you to make a financial pledge this year.

By submitting a pledge, you’ll not only enable Hillside Community Church to better plan and execute our ministries, but you’ll also help ensure that we’ll be serving our community for years to come. You’ll likewise receive a year-end letter documenting your charitable giving so that you can receive a deduction when you do your taxes.

As a small church, every pledge matters and every pledge makes a difference.

P.S.  Have questions about pledging? Check out our handy dandy F.A.Q.!

Speaking Well

By Weekly Reflection

Dear Friend,

The blessing offered to the congregation at the end of a worship service is called a “benediction” (from Latin, meaning “to speak well”).

The benediction you hear at Hillside Community Church each week (“Go forth this day in peace…”) is a paraphrase of the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5.

While the there is a bevy of bible verses used for this purpose, the most popular by far is Numbers 6:24-26The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

Tomorrow, we’re going to have a go at singing this famous benediction: 

Hope you can join us as we not only “speak well,” but sing well too!

Grace + Peace

Tom Hathaway, Pastor

The Lottery: Your Chances Are Good

By Weekly Reflection

Your chance of winning at Powerball is about 1 in 175 million. The odds are not in your favor, to say the least.

But things are different at Hillside Community Church. 

This week we’ll begin a hymn lottery program. When you arrive at worship, you’ll have an opportunity to write down the name and number of a hymn you’d like for us to sing as a community. Then, during the service, we’ll do a drawing and sing whatever hymn is chosen.

Your odds of winning this lottery will be at least a little better than 1 in 175 million! 

AM2PM: Building community by serving others

By Weekly Reflection

On the morning of Friday, June 22nd, students from four area high schools gathered to kick off this year’s AM2PM program, a 7-day, 70-hour marathon of community service.

How much community service can a bunch of high schoolers do in 70 hours? A whole heck of a lot, it turns out!

We served lunch at a program for homeless folks. We facilitated a screening of a film about gun control. We built community garden beds. We cleaned and organized several church basements. We weeded fields at a nonprofit farm, and a whole lot more. Click here to see the full week’s schedule

Artist and activist Gay Cox leads the AM2PM-ers in a reflective art project.

But of all the varied kinds of service we participated in over the course of this week, the most important for us as a group took place our second day.

That morning, we drove over to Medford’s MacDonald Park, where we joined with 30 volunteers from the Mystic River Watershed Association to help clear an invasive plant species called bittersweet from the banks of the river. We were given gardening gloves, saws, and clippers, and were set loose to remove as much of it as we could in three hours.

At first, our group was moving along at a good clip. We unwinded bittersweet vines from native plants and pulled them out by their roots whenever possible. But then, one of the students discovered the holy grail for bittersweet pruners everywhere: an old, old bittersweet plant with a stump five inches in diameter and a deep, sprawling root system.

It was quickly decided that all other work needed to be put on hold until this stump was removed. 

Over the next 45 minutes, every last AM2PM-er laid their hands on this stump to help get it out. They pushed and they pulled on it. They cut off strategic sections of its roots. They yanked on it from this angle and that angle. Finally, when the students were on the brink of total exhaustion, the stump yielded and came ripping out of the soil to the cheers and excitement of all:

AM2PM-ers posing with their hard-earned root trophy.

Was this hard work? Absolutely! In fact, for rest of the week, everyone was complaining about how sore their arm and back muscles were from the exertion. But was it joy-filled work? You better believe it!

And somewhere in the course of the hard and joy-filled work of pulling this stump out of the ground, these students – students who came from several different high schools, who ranged in age from freshmen to seniors, who didn’t really know each other the day before – these students became a community. Where before there were 4 or 5 little groupings of friends and acquaintances, there was now just one.

Isn’t that what Hillside is all about?

We believe we are a people called to love God by serving our neighbors and caring for God’s good creation. Is this calling hard work? Absolutely! But is this calling joy-filled work? You better believe it! And, amazingly, the more we live into this calling, the more hard and joy-filled work we do together, the more we find ourselves knit together into one, loving, Christlike community.

Thanks be to God for that!




Where might God meet us this Christmas season?

By Weekly Reflection

There’s a provocative little quote from the late, great theologian Karl Barth (pronounced “Carl Bart”) that I love and tend to overuse – apologies for that:

“God may speak to us through Russian Communism, through a flute concerto, through a blossoming shrub or through a dead dog. We shall do well to listen to him if he really does so.”

Barth’s point is that God can meet us in places other than the pages of scripture. In fact, Barth would say, God can meet us anywhere God gosh darn wants to!

I can’t help but think this is a helpful little quote to have in our back pockets as we get closer to Christmas. Our next few weeks will overflowing with things that having nothing to do with the birth of an infant 2000 years ago in Bethlehem: evergreens and reindeer, cookies and present swaps.

Our work as followers of Jesus’ way is not to close our eyes and ears and mouths to the joy of all these traditions, but to look for how God might speaking to us through them. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Rom. 8:28)

We begin with hope

By Weekly Reflection

If the wee hours of Friday morning found you lined up in the cold outside of a store promising you the deal of the century, you know better than most that the Christmas season is upon us.

Even if you’re not a Black Friday shopper, you’ve probably heard carols already streaming across the radio waves or beheld aisle after aisle of red and green chachkies at your neighborhood CVS.

The Christmas season is here – it’s time to get ready!

To that end, over the next four Sundays at NPU, we‘re going to take a moment during worship to center our hearts on those aspects of our faith that energize this incredible season: hope, love,joy, and peace.

This week we begin with hope!

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 15:13)

Why Church?

By Weekly Reflection

Church is not a popular thing nowadays. There’s no widespread social pressure or cultural expectation that you should go to church. And, unlike our more conservative brothers and sisters, we don’t believe that hellfire and damnation await you if you don’t go to church or don’t believe the right things.

So why even consider joining a church? 

At NPU, we believe that you are first and foremost a beloved child of God – made in love, for love. As you go through life, however, you’ll receive a lot of mixed messages about who you are and what will make you happy.

You’ll be told that you’re first and foremost a consumer, and that the latest gadget will bring you meaning. You’ll be told that you’re first and foremost a worker, and that productivity will bring you fulfillment. You’ll be told that you’re first and foremost a citizen, and that looking out for your country’s interests will bring you prosperity.

While there is nothing wrong with being a consumer, a worker, or a citizen, these identities have a way of obscuring the fact that you are, before everything else, God’s child. You are loved by God and were made to share that love with others. 

Church, at least NPU, is about grounding your life in that first identity. Through our worship and service we try our best to discern and follow the way of Jesus, who we believe shows us the shape and movement of God’s love. As we walk this path together, we find our ability to love expanded and moved to the very center of our lives.

If that sounds like the kind of community you’d like to be part of, we’d gladly welcome you as a member!

We Who Believe in Freedom

By Weekly Reflection

Sweet Honey in the Rock is an acapella group rooted in African American culture and history. If you’ve never had a listen to their inspiring music, you’re missing out in a big way!

With the tragic events of this week, the words of their Ella’s Song keep bubbling up in my mind:

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes
Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of White men, White mothers’ sons

This Sunday, as we venture into the second verse of the Lord’s Prayer (Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.) we are confronted with the fact that, 2000 years after he taught it to his disciples, Jesus’ prayer is seemingly no closer to being answered.

And yet, as Sweet Honey in the Rock so eloquently puts it, “We who believe in freedom cannot rest.” The work of the kingdom is ongoing and it’s work in which each of us has a part to play.

May our prayers for the kingdom’s coming be matched with lives that declare it’s already on the way.