College roommates of mine who were brilliant, scholarly women that I looked up to and respected were regular attenders. And then my friends started going, more and more of them.
What was the circumstance of your first time attending Mars HIll?
One friend invited me to come along. It seemed way cooler than UPC which I had been attending fairly regularly my first year of college. I remember debating what to wear. Would I fit in?
What were your first impressions?
Big, loud twangy music. Lots of people. All of them dressed in dark colors, cooler than me, all contemplative and deep.
Why was Mars Hill your church home?
It seemed like a good place to be. At the time it was refreshing to have long seemingly honest and well said sermons. Most people will listen to a charismatic speaker regardless of what he says. And then there were the underlying vibe, not necessarily directly stated from the pulpit, but somewhat implied, that this was the only church in Seattle preaching the truth and not being wimpy about things.
What about your time at Mars Hill has had a positive impact on you?
For better or worse, Mark did a great job of getting up front and saying we all shouldn't be listening to him, we should be looking for truth in the bible. But then he would give his interpretation of biblical truth on a subject and we all would listen and believe him. Somehow, when I really started to disagree, I at least felt empowered to look at the bible myself and come to different conclusions. For that I am thankful.
What about your time at Mars Hill has had a negative impact on you?
I grew up in a fairly liberal Lutheran church. Nothing crazy, but surrounded by strong women in leadership roles. I got to Mars and was somehow quickly convinced that all of that was wrong. That my mom shouldn't have been working when I grew up. One horrible Mother's Day sermon by pastor Leif, that I still to this day regret bringing my mother to, had her in tears, apologizing to me as we left, asking, "did you feel like I wasn't there for you?" My mom was amazing. Somehow we still stayed after that, and my then boyfriend became my fiancé and we eagerly jumped into premarital counseling. I'm beyond grateful that we didn't listen to what the pastors were saying in our one on one sessions. They told us we weren't comparable. All of my answers were wrong to the online test we'd been given because somehow I'd managed to push aside all of the "fine china" ideas that women weren't capable of being equal partners and my answers reflected that. I'm proud to say that despite Mars Hill, we went ahead and got married and have been happily married for almost 10 years now in a marriage of equal roles that don't always divide down traditional gender roles. I mean, that proverbs 31 woman was out buying fields. And that's what I held regardless of how many times the pastors in the premarital group said I needed to consult my husband before making most purchases. I feel like I could go on and on, there are a lot of moments and feelings I think I've chosen to push aside and forget. All in all, the most negative and lasting impact Mars Hill has had is my continued inability to trust a church. And that really sucks.
What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?
The attitude towards women and gender rolls. I still cringe when I hear the word "submission" in any context.
Which describes you?
I left Mars Hill prior to closure.
Please describe why you left Mars Hill and what that experience was like.
I was struggling with being there, but we stayed because my husband was getting things out of the preaching, thankfully the things he was getting we're all good and inspiring him to be a better husband and person, so I was willing to sit through church for him. And then, Mark announced that they were going to do a sermon series on the book of Ruth. I was thrilled. They were going to be talking about women! And within the first sermon I knew I no longer wanted to be at Mars Hill. I'm pretty sure if Mark had named the book he would've called it Boaz and not Ruth. I was simultaneously amazed and absolutely disappointed that somehow this book of the Bible named for a brave and Godly woman named Ruth could be preached on in a way that it seemed like it was about a man named Boaz and how awesome he was. At the same time they were suddenly interested my husband for a leadership role. And then just as suddenly they weren't. Because it turns out they looked into our giving and saw that we weren't giving anything- or so they thought. We received an annual statement of giving in the mail with a big fat 0 in it. Oh, and someone with sticky fingers manages to accidentally slip someone else's statement into our envelope. Great job with privacy on that one. The thing is, we had been giving, but the name on our checks was slightly different from the name they had in record for my husband. At this point, he was a member and I wasn't technically. We'd both gone through the membership classes before getting married, I'd just never completed the interview and he had. I think part of me was not wanting to officially commit all along. Anyhow, after calling a pastor we knew and trusted, he apologized for the mixup with the tithing. And through a couple of conversations with different people in leadership we realized that was why they were suddenly so cold towards my husband about becoming an elder. I mean, you'd think they could have at least asked him outright about his giving. And then there were friends calling us asking what we thought about the bad advice they were getting from pastors and elders. And then when you saw how much chaos existed inside of the leadership, how many young men without wisdom or experience were being put in the position to counsel others and giving terrible advice, you just saw that this couldn't last forever. And don't even get me started about when I got to the point with the crap Mark was saying and things in the media that made me beyond embarrassed to admit that I went there. Even after I left Mars Hill I felt embarrassed to even say I was a Christian in Seattle because of the negative impact the church had on people's ideas of Christianity. It sucks when the church limits your ability to witness to non-believers around you and when it strips you of all believability and trustworthiness.
How would you describe the reason for Mars Hill's closure to an outsider.
God's will being done.
What's changed for you since your time at Mars Hill came to an end?
My convictions and beliefs are my own now. I'm not trying to force myself to believe what someone else tells me is the truth. And I'm happy. I just wish I wasn't still too scared to commit to a church.
Please write anything else you'd like to add.
For me the most healing part is realizing that I'm not alone. I'm not the only person that was negatively impacted and I'm not the only person trying to come to terms and heal. I was always somebody who worried about doing the right thing in God's eyes and not sitting and being the perfect Christian and unfortunately Mars Hill was the exact type of place to pray on my insecurities and get me to spend years thinking that I wasn't good enough and that my unwillingness to submit to my husband was a sin. I had enough guilt going into Mars Hill. And I stayed so long because I felt guilt and was somehow convinced that no other church had the truth in the same way. Leaving was very freeing.