Mountain Christian Church is continuing to expand its mission and next spring is opening its fifth campus, the Epicenter at Aberdeen.
“We’re excited about the way Aberdeen is on the move. It seems to have such a great, exciting sense of momentum, we’re happy to be joining that,” Mountain Christian lead pastor Ben Cachiaras told members of the Aberdeen City Council at their meeting Monday. “There are also plenty of needs yet in Aberdeen. We have a desire to come along, with others in this community who have a desire to meet those needs, and do our part to step up there.”
The new Aberdeen campus will be similar to the Epicenter in Edgewood, which opened as a ministry of Mountain Christian in six years ago.
The new campus will open in the Aberdeen Shopping Plaza in the space next to Ollie’s and will function as a campus of the church. It will house the Epicenter at Aberdeen as well as a community center with an array of services and programs, Cachiaras said.
“What I see when I look at that space, is all those neighborhoods, all those apartments and houses, and I really do dream and hope there will be a lot of people in there that need meaningful relationships and they need purpose,” said Darrell McDavid, executive director of the Epicenter in Edgewood. “And we’ve seen a way to do that.”
The Edgewood campus is staffed with more than 50 people, mostly volunteers, and McDavid expects to need as many at the new Aberdeen campus.
“We hope that can be done through the people in Aberdeen,” he said. “When you have community serving community, it really is the secret sauce to a healthier place.”
The setup will be similar, with a large common area that is an “extremely intentional” space — for college kids who need a place to study and perhaps borrow a laptop or WiFi, for a mom who needs to get away for a little bit, for a business conversation and for someone transitioning out of homelessness.
“We have worked really hard to make it a space for everyone,” McDavid said.
It’s not just a space, though, he said. Visitors will be greeted “by a slew of people,” including career coaches, case managers, community engagement coordinators.
“People willing to be right where you’re at, to meet you where your needs are when you walk in, not look down upon you but get right next to you in the middle of it with you and help you take your next step,” McDavid said.
Among the services provided at the Epicenter in Edgewood, which will also be available in Aberdeen, are health and wellness (a monthly health fair and food giveaway totaling about 11,000 pounds of free food); recovery (100 people celebrating recovery twice a week) youth (before and after school care and summer camp); and life skills (a workforce lab and Second Chance job fair that have helped more than 700 ex-offenders get work).
Plans for the Epicenter at Aberdeen also include a 9,000-square-foot expansion that will serve as a basketball court, gym and will host church services on Sundays.
It can also be a space used by the community for city or county meetings or conferences with its state-of-the-art technology, lighting, LED screens and audio.
The community center through the Epicenter at Aberdeen is expected to launch by May, Cachiaras said, followed by the eight-week Camp Epic in the summer and then fall programming.
On Saturday, Nov. 9, there will be a prayer experience at the Aberdeen space, which will be open from 10 to 11 a.m. for self-guided tours and to write a prayer on the ground or wall.
Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady asked how the city can help with the Epicenter at Aberdeen.
“We’re looking forward to hearing what the needs are. And we’re looking for a smooth process in building permits for the 9,000-square-feet we’re trying to add on,” Cachiaras said. “Help us know how the community needs us and help us create goodwill.”
Mountain Christian mission
Mountain Christian has been in Harford County since 1824, 68 years longer than Aberdeen has been a city, Cachiaras told the council.
It’s a non-denominational church, “a group of people seeking to follow Jesus and his teachings and to live it out in authentic ways,” he said.
The church is reaching young and new families, many of whom aren’t regular church-goers. It’s average attendance among all four campuses is 6,500 people on a weekend.
In addition to the Epicenter in Edgewood and its main campus on Mountain Road in Joppa, Mountain Christian also has locations at the The Arena Club on Route 22 in Bel Air and in the Box Hill Corporate Center in Abingdon.
On the walls of the Epicenter at Aberdeen will be painted, in large letters, “This is for everyone.”
“We believe the love and the grace and the power and the presence of God should be open and available to everyone,” Cachiaras said. “A lot of people have past hangups with church or their faith and they become barriers for a person entering a Christian community or any faith community. We like to feel like that’s our target, to break down those barriers and connect people again with God.
The mission of Mountain Christian, however, is not to draw people in, rather to send them out, Cachiaras said. The church wants its people to get out to love and serve their community in the name of Christ.
“The greatest measure of a church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity, how many members are out there doing something good and for God,” Cachiaras said. “That’s our mission and we’re mission driven.”
The campuses are part of its mission, places where “good things happen.”
Kids get on the right track, marriages are saved, addictions are overcome and people find friends and forgiveness, he said.