- Letters to Editor
BY: WESTLEY METCALFE
A new Richmond hotspot has produced quite a stir throughout Eastern’s campus in recent years. This is a place where many students won’t go a weekend without and have a blast every time they go.
No, this hotspot is not a club or a bar, but in a church called Vineyard Community Church of Richmond, located in the old Richmond Mall next to Cici’s Pizza right off the Eastern Bypass.
The Vineyard is not your average “grandparents” church, with everyone dressing up in suit and tie and listening to a stuffy choir sing old hymns.
On the contrary, the Vineyard wants people to feel comfortable in the services, so casual clothes are perfectly acceptable. The Vineyard’s pastor Joe Wood said the church wants to have an inviting atmosphere, not one that turns people away.
When asked what attracts college students to the Vineyard, Wood said, “I believe it is the opportunity to be real. They don’t have to be plastic; they don’t have to agree with everything that is going on. We want them to come in and have questions, explore the Bible and worship God.”
Vineyard Community in Richmond was established in the spring of 2009 as a plant out of the Lexington Vineyard Church and joined by a number of folks from the Point of Grace Church, also located in Richmond.
According to Wood, the Lexington Vineyard had a small group of members that lived in Richmond, but these people would get together every week and travel to Lexington to attend church. They did this for years.
The group was looking specifically for a church with a community focus, not just a community name and because of it, the pastor of the Lexington church, Kevin Clark, talked to Wood and his wife about starting a church plant. After six months of prayer and lengthy meetings with executive staff members of the Lexington Vineyard, Wood realized this is what God was calling him to do.
“I’ve attended Vineyard for about two years,” said Melissa Christensen, a recently graduated communications studies graduate. “I love how real everyone is there. There’s nothing to hide and you don’t feel like you’re ever on display or judged for anything.”
From the minute you walk in the door, you’ll realize this church is not like most. After being greeted by friendly members of the church, visitors are welcome to a free, fresh brewed cup of coffee in the main lobby. Once you’ve had your caffeine for the morning, you then enter into the worship area, where a live band plays relevant and impacting music, which is followed by a biblically-based message, usually given by Pastor Joe.
“I love the whole atmosphere,” said Kendall Lamb, a sophomore. “Everyone is so welcoming and truly care about you and your walk with God.”
The Richmond Vineyard’s response to the church plant has been so massive they are now in the process of expansion. As of now, the church can seat 300 in one service, but with the remodeling taking place, the facility will be able to extend that number to 450 people per service.
The renovation will not only increase the seats within the sanctuary, but it will also include a food bank, as well as a clothing bank. Such assets will allow the church to be able to assist a person or a couple in need for a night or two until they can make it to one of the established food pantries in the Richmond area, Wood said.
Vineyard participates and conducts many community events and charities throughout the town. During the summer, the members have a Paradise Cove party right after public school is out, for the families in partnered elementary schools. Thanksgiving and Christmas is also a big outreach time for the Vineyard.
Every Sunday, Wood and his wife, Janice Wood, invite college students of their church to their house for a home cooked meal, which they call “mooching.” The Vineyard also participates in a ministry called Love Richmond. The church partners with advancing charities and other churches that are ministering to the needs of the disenfranchised.
The Vineyard has already begun remodeling and expanding the church and would love to continue to grow. Wood and the rest of the church’s staff invites, with open arms, anybody and everybody to their services.