Member - Bellevue, Rainier Valley 2011-13

Gender

Female

Which describes your role at Mars Hill?

Regular Attender, Member

What Mars Hill location(s) did you attend?

Bellevue, Rainier Valley

What years were you involved / attending?

2011, 2012, 2013

How did you first hear about Mars Hill?

Through my then fiancé, now husband. He was an intern, then attended Re:train, and then was unpaid full-time staff for several years.

What was the circumstance of your first time attending Mars HIll?

I attended as a visitor from out of state the first couple of times before I moved to Seattle after my husband and I were married. I became a member and volunteer shortly after.

What were your first impressions?

It was hard for me. I couldn't relate to many of the congregants at Bellevue campus as most were from a demographic I wasn't used to (wealthy, white, suburbs). I didn't feel comfortable with an on screen pastor and with how much the topic of money, submission, sex from a male perspective, and hell were talked about.

Why was Mars Hill your church home?

My husband was very involved and there were several pastors who spoke into our lives at key points in our lives that we really appreciated. I wanted to be involved in a local church that would love the city.

What about your time at Mars Hill has had a positive impact on you?

There are several friendships that will be lifelong that came out of being there. There are moments of grace where God worked through specific people who volunteered there that changed our lives in a positive way because they genuinely loved us and poured into us.

What about your time at Mars Hill has had a negative impact on you?

It has taken years to heal and recover from some of the hurt and pain from that experience. We lost a lot financially as a result of the amount of time and expectations placed on us as full time unpaid staff in addition to our regular jobs. The amount of shame and emotional manipulation as well as hurtful language and bullying techniques used took a huge toll after awhile. As a woman, I was treated as an afterthought that was attached to my husband. There were several meetings with staff where I was yelled at and asked about my sex life just as a routine measure of accountability. On the rare occasion where someone felt they should apologize to me for going too far, they would do so through my husband. The entire time I was there, I always felt that I was not doing enough, giving enough, or producing enough.

What would you like to have changed about Mars Hill?

The way I experienced and saw women being treated was really harmful mentally and spiritually. Some of it was sexual harassment and some of it was bullying because of a misinterpretation of Scripture. I saw rape victims run out of services screaming because they felt revictimized by the intensity of the subject of submission. I will never forget this and feel it was a huge disservice to them. I also saw faithful women serving behind the scenes who were yelled at over misunderstandings because the men felt it was their right. I personally experienced intense psychological trauma because of in depth meetings with leaders who felt it was their right to interview me on my sex life with my husband and determine how healthy it was in addition to determining what category of redemption I needed from my past. My husband was routinely yelled at for not providing more financially despite giving over 40 hours of free labor to the church weekly. It was hard to not feel this burden spiritually and to feel betrayed by friends. When we left Mars Hill as graciously and quietly as we could so as not to cause division, we lost all our friendships except for one at that location and were accused of many things publicly that were untrue.

Which describes you?

I left Mars Hill prior to closure.

Please describe why you left Mars Hill and what that experience was like.

I left Mars Hill because I felt that results had become more important than people. I wanted to be part of a church that was not known for its love for each other and the city.

How would you describe the reason for Mars Hill's closure to an outsider.

Mars Hill stopped being a church and became a business that burned through people. It was no longer a safe place to be known and loved. The focus was on numbers and money at the expense of people.

What's changed for you since your time at Mars Hill came to an end?

For awhile I couldn't attend a church or talk to a pastor without visibly shaking. It took me a long time to accept God's love for me and to rest in that. I found a church that has loved me unconditionally and provided the friendships and safe community I had hoped to find for so long. I feel the freedom to be myself without having to do anything. I'm still healing but hopeful.

Please write anything else you'd like to add.

I love Seattle and have grieved at how this may have pushed people further away from God. Many people have been hurt by churches and this very publicly added to that hurt. I hope that as there are so many people healing, that we will love our community and reflect the kindness of God and His love for all people.

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