Silver celebrations at St Albans church
PUBLISHED: 18:51 09 September 2013
A ST Albans church, which began with a dozen people gathering in a family living room, is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
The Vineyard Church now has a 700-strong congregation, meeting on Sunday mornings in a converted warehouse in Brick Knoll Park, off Ashley Road.
Since the early days it has moved from a house, to St Albans Girls School and Marlborough School halls, in to its own premises.
During this time, many thousands of people have become Christians through its welcoming ethos, contemporary music/worship style and accessible Bible-based talks.
Alongside the two weekly church services, Vineyard is a lively active community, which seeks to reach the wider local community through services, such as a day cinema for older adults, men’s breakfast talks and relationship guidance, including a parenting course and divorce recovery support programme.
One of its largest community ministries is food bank, Feed, which gives a bag of free essential groceries to 60 visitors a week.
Senior pastor Chris Lane said: “Vineyard people have always provided for others in need, but in 2008 when the UK financial crisis hit hard, the church knew it had to raise its game”.
Last year Feed received 15,500 contributions from donors. Many of the surrounding churches and local charities in St Albans regularly donate, as well as volunteer their time to help run the food bank.
Chris said: “It’s a real cross denomination and community effort. I am constantly amazed at how generous people are. When people see what’s going on here, and the genuine care for people, they just want to join in – whether they’re part of the church or not! The Vineyard vision is to gather, to grow and to give. And that really is what we’re seeing.”
Because it has become so large, they are searching for additional venues for Feed, as part of what Chris describes as “taking the opportunity to increase the ways in which we can serve our community, and to communicate our understanding and own experience of Christ’s love.”
Year long celebrations - to mark a quarter of a century of the church – have already included the launch of a free app, a classic car show, a picnic in the park and special guest speakers.
Worship pastor Samuel Lane, a former Verulam School pupil, also launched his solo album, The Fire, which is receiving international critical acclaim.
The 12-track CD was released under Vineyard Records UK and recorded at CatBeach Studio in Los Angeles, with Emmy award-winning producer Bobby Hartry; best known for his work with Jeremy Riddle. John Mayer’s drummer Aaron Sterling provided percussion.
The church is establishing a community gospel choir, which will rehearse a mixed repertoire from jazz to rock, weekly between September 24 and early December when it will make its debut performance.
There is a huge party on September 28 between 6.30 and 11pm.
Part of the ethos – and how St Albans Vineyard was born – is to church plant, which involves training up members to go out and set up new churches in different towns. On September 29, the church will celebrate its 25th birthday in a special service, by sending out its latest church planters.
And on November 3, there will be a talk from Ele Mumford, who is a respected director within the Vineyard movement and happens to be the mother of Marcus Mumford – lead singer of Mumford and Sons.
In addition, there is an arts and crafts event on November 15 to highlight and display talent within the church.
Charity work involves sending a team out annually to an orphanage in India, sponsoring a health centre and helping to build a school.
Vineyard St Albans also supports a Romanian orphanage and a group of church members went to South Africa and built a home in under a week.
Pastor Chris and wife Fliss Lane experienced what they describe as a spiritual awakening in their early 20s and became Christians. Chris said: “At the heart of the church was the wonderful person of Jesus – whom we were enthralled with.
“Yet we were both very aware, coming from outside of the church, that it wasn’t doing such a great job of communicating this person.”
Their passion to make the gospel more accessible led them to founding a Vineyard Church, which is one of over 1,500 international Vineyards, in St Albans in 1988.
For further information on anniversary events, which are open to the whole community, visit http://www.thevineyardchurch.co.uk/25th-anniversary-year.