Artistic Faith: Vineyard Community Church

Local government in Chilliwack, British Columbia, is revitalizing the downtown area, working to bring in more residents, shops and restaurants. One church’s facilities are helping.

Vern Tompke and his wife Sue are co-pastors of Vineyard Community Church, but Vern isn’t keen on the title.

“I don’t call myself a pastor,” Tompke says. “I’m a team coach and an agitator.”

In the same way, it’s hard to label their newly acquired 17,000-square-foot location as merely a “church.” A three story building in the central marketplace of Chilliwack, the Wellington Emporium is a former arts venue that Vineyard Community sees maintaining its original purposes as a community center, art club and musical performance gallery.

“It’s church when we gather as the people of God,” Tompke says. “But it’s not a church building. We’re using it to create a place for conversations and meeting people.”

Since opening day on July 7, 2013, the “neutral space” with no overt religious signage has been used for Sunday morning services by the congregation of 100, but also by breastfeeding moms from La Leche League, by the city on Friday nights for the eight-week event Party in the Park, and as the venue for a street performer competition. Last Christmas, before the city’s holiday parade, families came and created decorations while the Lion’s Club performed Christmas music. Starting in January they began an “acoustic emporium” on Friday nights where local and travelling musicians perform.

According to Tompke, the goal of these events is not only to spread the “aroma of Jesus,” but to make a no-strings-attached contribution to the community.

“We want to be a blessing in the eyes of the city,” Tompke says. “It’s easy to say we’re a blessing in our own eyes, but we want to be seen that way from their perspective, and that’s a much higher standard.”

VINEYARD COMMUNITY CHURCH Chilliwack, British Columbia
Website: None
Lead Pastor: Vern and Susan Tompke
Founded: 1996
Affiliation: Association of Vineyard Churches
Locations: 1
Attendance: 100