Driving down Springer Road in Mountain View on a Sunday morning, you’ll notice the tall green banners and people on the street smiling and waving to passersby. They are out in force to welcome local residents to a new church – New Beginnings Community Church.
New Beginnings opened Palm Sunday in April and already hosts three gatherings on Sunday mornings, drawing approximately 1,200 worshippers. NBCC describes itself as “a group of people on a journey with Jesus. We are a safe place where people in different places on that journey can explore, ask questions and grow in their relationship with God.”
What makes NBCC different?
Two things are distinct about NBCC. First is the diversity of the congregation – in age, ethnicity and income. Second is the church’s focus on reaching those who are “far from God.”
“The most important person in our church is a person who isn’t here yet,” said the Rev. Hurmon Hamilton, NBCC’s senior pastor. “We want to meet people where they are and treat them with hospitality and generosity.”
The banners, smiles, friendly greetings and diversity are examples of the church’s efforts to reach people.
“I was impressed by the friendly help guiding me to a parking space,” said first-time visitor A.J. Crisalli of Sunnyvale. “When I entered the church grounds, people greeted me and were conversing with each other in a way that made me feel at home.”
A life transformed
Hamilton previously served at Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in Mountain View. He is living a transformed life himself. Born in San Francisco, he nearly died shortly after birth from an allergic reaction to medication, which left him physically scarred. His father subsequently abandoned him. Because of his illness, Hamilton’s mother gave him to his great-aunt and great-uncle in Louisiana to raise.
He often got into trouble in school. But Hamilton credits Jesus, his aunt and uncle, and one particular teacher with helping him get on the right path. He became an award-winning student and earned a bachelor’s degree from Grambling State University in Louisiana and a master’s degree in theology from San Francisco Theological Seminary. He taught at Harvard University while serving as pastor of Roxbury Presbyterian Church in the Boston area, where he was an advocate for social justice.
“He has the most unique and incisive style of any pastor I have seen,” Crisalli said of Hamilton. “He is a master at bringing a 2,000-year-old document (the Bible) into the 21st century. To cap it off, his delivery style is captivating and mesmerizing. Your mind will not wander off. You walk away with a whole new perspective.”
Congregation actively involved
Although Hamilton is a gifted preacher, the church encourages active participation. More than 700 of the 1,200 weekend attendees volunteer in some capacity at the church.
The church does not have “members” but instead has what it calls “partners” – approximately 400 people have signed up to become NBCC partners. The term “partner” is used to emphasize the expectation that partners are expected to contribute by volunteering in some way.
“Every partner has a significant role to play,” said Los Altos resident and NBCC partner Clif Davidson.
One noticeable area in which church partners use their gifts is music. The church’s worship features a live band and praise team, and twice a month the 90-member choir leads the music.
NBCC has accomplished much in its first few months of operation – and it has plans for more. The church’s vision includes making disciples by helping people learn to live as Jesus did, building families by helping people take honesty and forgiveness in their relationships seriously and transforming communities by bringing people together through service, support, education and joy.
Hamilton is a big believer in the small-group experience – what NBCC calls “Life Groups.”
“Life Group participation provides an opportunity for people to grow in their faith and become disciples of Jesus,” he said, adding that the church plans to make a major push for Life Group participation in the fall.
Hamilton said NBCC is committed to serving the needs in the community. He noted that while many partners are currently serving the community in various ways, the church intends to formalize specific activities through which the church can make a significant impact in the Bay Area.
Skip Vaccarello is a longtime Los Altos resident. For more information, visit findinggodinsiliconvalley.com.