The Desert Vineyard Christian Fellowship was born 30 years ago during a time of great change and transition for the church in America. The late 1960’s and early 1970’s witnessed a period of social and cultural upheaval that produced a huge wave of people leaving traditional churches and rejecting a traditional outlook on life. Young people in particular were on the edge of this wave, and many began searching for a fresh and more personal spiritual reality in their lives. In the midst of this generational and religious shift, a revival of personal faith in the relevance and meaning of Jesus for today emerged in the youth culture of Southern California, what some would term “the Jesus movement”, an influence that would touch many parts of the country and reach around the world. New churches began to form with an openness and acceptance of not only these young, less mainstream followers of Jesus, but also of people of every background and need. These new churches were less formal and traditional than those of established denominations, and typically they were casual, contemporary and Bible-centered in their approach.
The Vineyard church in Lancaster, originally a part of the Calvary Chapel movement of new churches, began in 1977 in a backyard on Horton street where a group of friends were studying the Bible and wanted to do more. After contacting Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa to ask for help, arrangements were made for Brent and Happy Rue to join this small group from the very first Vineyard church in West LA . Brent was on staff as a pastor with Kenn Gulliksen in the original Vineyard church in Santa Monica. From that backyard beginning, to a small karate studio on Avenue I, to various rental spaces in the old AV Fairgrounds, the Desert Vineyard grew as a place where everyone was welcome, where worship was genuine and contemporary, and where the Bible was taught and believed.
“The Vineyard” became a distinct association of new churches in 1980 under the leadership of John Wimber, and Brent and Happy were part of the national leadership team which saw the Association of Vineyard Churches grow to over 600 churches in the US and almost 1500 churches in 65 countries around the world today. Under Brent’s founding leadership, the Desert Vineyard embraced its casual, “coffee culture” approach to making the worship and practice of believing in Jesus more about relationship and less about religion. Compassion for the poor, investing in the gospel for the nations, and creative ways to serve people in Christ’s name are all hallmarks of Brent and Happy’s leadership that continue to characterize the Desert Vineyard today.
After a long and difficult fight with cancer, Brent Rue passed from this life into the Lord’s presence in May of 1993. In July of 1993, David and Nancy Parker and their young family moved to Lancaster from London, England so David could assume the leadership of the Desert Vineyard as its senior pastor. Almost immediately, David began to lead the church with a renewed sense of direction for being outward-focused and relevant to those who are searching for reality and meaning in Jesus. This focus on serving the searching and the unfamiliar first, resulted in a growing response that necessitated our move from the old Sage Pavilion at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds, to the purchase in 1996 of the Alpha Beta shopping center on the corner of Avenue I and Challenger Way. The first services in the new home of the Desert Vineyard were held in July of 1997.
The new campus and additional space made room for us to multiply ministries for children, youth, families and individuals that continue to grow in maturity and fruitfulness today. The evidence of that growth is ongoing with the addition of the new Ministry Center, completed in the fall of 2006, that houses our church offices, prayer room, Courtyard Café (our own Starbucks), Café Sanctuary and Youth Center. In the midst of all this expansion the church has remained true to its original calling. It is a place of welcome where people come as they are, it is a place of change where people leave different than they came, it is a place of encounter where God’s presence, power and grace are experienced, and it is a place of involvement where together we are making a difference in our community and our world.
Out of a desire to continue to do more with what we learn and know about Jesus, the church has sought to expand its local outreach with multiple services in multiple places. A new site to gather and worship began to be offered in the nearby mountain community of Tehachapi in the Spring of 2004. The Tehachapi Mountain Vineyard is an extension campus and congregation of the Desert Vineyard that has grown to over 400 adults and children with local pastoral leadership under Barry and Saundra Galloway. In 2011, a second satellite campus was started in the Lake Hughes community. The Sunday services at the Tehachapi and Lakes locations are linked to the weekend messages at the Desert Vineyard through video-cast teaching, which is also shared by two other services in the Café Sanctuary.. These multiplied services using a uniting and commonly shared message have made it possible for us to begin to experiment with adjusted musical styles and more intimate sizes for worship. Presently on the weekend at the Lancaster campus, the Main Sanctuary hosts regular services at 6pm Saturday and 9am and 11am Sunday, which have a contemporary soft-rock musical style. The Café Sanctuary services offer a smaller sized setting, with their own unique worship, as well as a coffee shop feel with tables and couches at 9am and 11am. The 11am service is also home to the Latino Service, in Spanish, in out prayer room.
We continue to try to innovate and grow in meeting the challenge of communicating the gospel in our culture, and serving God in our time. Ministries like our mid-week exploration of what it means to respond to God’s grace, “Monday Night Manna”, which includes a substantial meal for those who are hungry in body as well as soul, our “Vineyard Christian School and Pre-School” which seeks to serve children in a context of faith and encouragement, and literally one hundred other active ministries that serve our vision to gather, grow, and give in Christ’s name. The great blessing in having a history as we do is not in the retelling and remembering, it is in the carrying forward. The greater history of the Desert Vineyard is being written even now by all those who have made it their place of worship, service and sacrifice, who simply call the Vineyard their church home.