Hearing it through the Vineyard

Dear Ace: A few months ago, you said you’d investigate the possibility of there being a “Vineyard Church” in Charlottesville. Ever find out anything about it?—Dee Cantor

Dee: Ace has never considered himself a religious man. In fact, in the August 12 article to which you refer, Ace specifically remembers shying away from any denominational partisanship. However, Ace also remembers establishing himself, many times over throughout his career, as a man of his word. He said he’d investigate further and, by golly, he did.

Before he gets started, though, he’d like to apologize. Ace was slightly less than correct when he noted, “the Vineyard Church isn’t represented in town at all.” The church is, in fact, present and accounted for. And, says co-pastor Jim Bleakley, does “indeed have the best wine one could ever taste.”

Jim and his wife, Megan, established the Vineyard Church in Charlottesville soon after their move to town in 2006, making it one of the more than 600 Vineyard Churches in the U.S. Jim says the Vineyard shares core beliefs with the three streams of the Church (capital “C,” he says, to represent the larger Church, including various traditions)—Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant.

Specifically, the Vineyard Church believes “God heals people, He speaks to people, He encourages people.” To that end, Jim and Megan’s congregation is a very tight-knit group. “We place heavy emphasis on building healthy and life-giving relationships with one another,” Jim told Ace. This might happen during Bible study, community life groups, or even—and this is where Jim started speaking Ace’s language—getting a beer and hanging out.

Jim also told Ace the Vineyard has a commitment to serving others outside the church community; they’ve worked with PACEM, Habitat for Humanity and Abundant Life Ministries. Vineyard also has a concern for restoring the environment and even gives out free energy-efficient light bulbs to those who can’t afford them.

But, to be honest, Ace was mostly curious about the wine. And after a little more prodding, he discovered this: The Vineyard Church doesn’t serve wine after all! “Although Megan and I really enjoy a glass of wine now and then,” Jim said, “we do drink unfermented wine {a.k.a. grape juice} for communion.” What a disappointment! And here Ace was thinking he might convert. 

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 19 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to ace@c-ville.com.