Oxford’s Vineyard Church will hold its first services in its new home at 4398 Oxford Reily Road, on Sunday, July 7.
“I don’t know if words can describe how excited I am,” senior pastor, John Richter said. “It’s been just a lot of waiting and being patient.”
While Oxford Vineyard was leasing its current location, at 127 W. Church St., from Bob Blackburn for the last nine years, Richter said he often prayed for the church’s own building. The congregation needed more space, but the timing was never right. He’d been searching hard for the last year.
When a former Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Kingdom Hall on Oxford Reily road came on the market in January, Richter said he jumped at the opportunity.
Oxford Vineyard will also celebrate its 10-year anniversary next month. It was founded by its Richter, 48, and his wife, Kim, as a non-denominational Christian church. In its infancy, the church spent several months operating out of Talawanda High School before moving to West Church Street. Richter said he’s thankful for the old building but is ecstatic about the new one.
“(Blackburn) has been awesome to us,” Richter said. “But we’ve been praying for a building. We wanted our own space. In fact, there was probably three or four different opportunities to go into a place. We’d pray and ask the Holy Spirit, ‘What do you want us to do?’ Each time, it wasn’t the right time. Then, I’d get frustrated and upset. But, this time, it was just so easy and clear that this was the place we were supposed to go.”
Oxford Vineyard purchased the building for $185,000 and posted a down payment of $40,000. The church launched a fundraising campaign and garnered $50,000—enough to cover the down payment and allow for renovations to the building.
Richter said the building didn’t need any structural repairs. The upgrades included painting and setting up the church’s stage and sound system for its Sunday worships.
The move will double Oxford Vineyard’s worship space capacity from 75 to 150 people. For an average Sunday service, Richter said the church draws approximately 50 people, comprised of both adult Oxford residents and Miami students. He said the church doesn’t target only one group.
“You need to have a space to bring in more people, and when you’re packed in like that, it’s not too comfortable,” Richter said. “Really, it was about expanding, and having more room to grow and reach the community.”
The Oxford Reily road location will also have two rooms for children and a large foyer.
While the Oxford Vineyard Church isn’t formally affiliated with other Christian denominations, it has allowed prayer and youth groups to use its current facility pro bono. Richter said he doesn’t like to say “no” to people, so the practice will continue at the new church.
Richter started the Oxford Vineyard Church in July 2009. While he was an associate pastor at the New Life Vineyard Church in Hamilton, he and his wife felt called to Oxford.
“My funny story about that is, Kim and I prayed and fasted twice to not plant the church,” Richter said, laughing. “We were like, ‘No, we don’t want to do this,’ but through those prayer and fasting times, God just kind of showed up and had this, like, incredible breakthrough. It was really, really clear that we were supposed to do this.”
Ultimately, he moved to Oxford and started the church from the ground up. He also became an engineering professor at Miami University.
Now, a decade after its first ever service, Oxford Vineyard Church will hold its first Sunday worship in its new home.
“It’s going to be awesome and amazing,” Richter said. But, he noted, “church is not about the building, it’s about the people. That’s a big thing for us. I feel, in my heart of hearts, the building is just a facility for us, to help us love on people and serve people. Really, that’s what it’s all about. It’ll help create new and better opportunities for us to love on and serve Oxford.”
After the service, the organization will host a cookout and let people explore the building and its grounds.