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Hillside Community Church welcomes all

By JARED JACOBSON
DCN Reporter

Volunteers and employees busy themselves around the office with the sorts of tasks that might seem tedious to some, but have a much greater purpose for those involved.

“We just want to bring glory to God, starting with the downtown area and working our way out,? said student ministries pastor Luke Rowan.

When the Hillside Community Church opened in 2001, the mission of the founders was to create a user-friendly church in the Hillside that offered a place for people of all types to come and discover a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Pastors go in and out of meetings as volunteers staple together countless packets of information that are to be given to newcomers. It is apparent as each person goes about his daily tasks that the goal is not lost on the workers.

“Everyone here has a passion to go beyond just their duties,? said church administrator Darlene Cook.

Cook and her husband moved to Duluth two years ago and were looking for a new church. She was drawn to the Hillside Community Church because of the youthful vibrancy, powerful contemporary worship and the desire to fill the needs of those who live in difficult circumstances.

She now works for the church, and as director of all non-pastoral duties, she is able to help contribute to those virtues.

“We don’t want to only meet the financial needs of those in rough circumstances,? said Cook. “But we also want to give them a place to go and someone to talk to, a mentor.?

According to an American Religious Identification study, the number of people who classify themselves as Christians in the United States has dropped from 86 percent in 1990 to 77 percent in 2001, a decrease of almost one percent every year.

The people at Hillside Community Church take a practical approach to try to address those numbers.

The sign outside the door on Sunday morning reads “Come As You Are," an idea that is taken to heart by all those involved with the church. That is why pastors will never dress up in more than a pair of blue jeans on Sunday morning.

“We want people to know that it doesn’t matter what you wear,? said Cook. “Everyone’s welcome.?

Attendees of the church take this to heart as well.

“You might see somebody at church wearing a nice shirt and a tie, and then sitting right next to him is someone wearing a worn-out, ripped t-shirt,? said Rowan.

Stefan Sjoberg, a regular attendee of the church, has seen the “Come As You Are? philosophy in practice as well.

“When you go to Hillside, everyone’s equal,? he said. “I know a local judge who comes every week and always dresses really nice, but then you get all the people who just come off the street, too.?

The mission, however, is not limited to Sundays as the church runs many get-togethers, ranging from “Fight Night?(a young men’s group focused on boxing), to “Mothers with Kids Playgroup? (a group for mothers to share and reflect on each other’s life stories).

So whether they’re answering phones, organizing information packets, preparing a sermon, or planning a church-wide outreach event, everyone has the same goal in mind.

And, according to one member, it’s paying off.

“They’re really good at making everyone feel welcome,? said Sjoberg. “They take out a lot of stuff that drives people away from some churches.?