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3179: Vineyard Church of Anaheim, California, USA
Vineyard, Anaheim, CA (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Hungry Hopper.
The church: Vineyard Church of Anaheim, California, USA,
Denomination: Association of Vineyard Churches, Vineyard USA.
The building: Looks like an old warehouse. Large complex but not “churchy” at all.
The church: It’s charismatic, and the group was very boomer generation. This is the flagship of the denomination, and perhaps a good number in the congregation have been there since the beginning (1977). Someone told me they just celebrated their 40 year anniversary. Their ministries are well described on their website. There are two services each Sunday, morning and evening. The morning service includes available Spanish translation and signing for the deaf.
The neighborhood: Anaheim is in Orange County, just south of Los Angeles. It was founded in 1857 by a group of German immigrants who had first settled in San Francisco but were looking for a suitable location for agricultural development. The name "Anaheim" is a blend of "Ana" (the Santa Ana River flows through the city) and the German "Heim", meaning home. Before Disneyland opened in 1955, Anaheim was a sprawling but sleepy agricultural area. The demographics of today's Anaheim range from residential (from poor to affluent) to industrial, commercial and entertainment venues. Anaheim is home to the professional hockey team the Anaheim Ducks and the California Angels baseball team, who play in Angels Stadium (formerly called Anaheim Stadium). The original Disneyland is now only one of several leisure venues comprising what is called the Resort District. Vineyard Church is located on East La Palma Avenue, a primarily commercial and industrial area very near the Santa Ana River and the Riverside Freeway.
The cast: Lance Pittluck, senior pastor.
The date & time: Sunday, June 4, 2017, 10.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Uncertain, as the bulletin didn't say, and nothing clear made it to the projection screens. The website describes it simply as "Sunday service."

How full was the building?
It depends. There are three levels, the top tier being somewhat hidden by curtains. The lower two-thirds seemed about three-quarters full. I didn't notice if anyone was behind the curtains. I noted the generation that was most represented in the congregation seemed older – boomers, as I said.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I received several welcomes, and one fellow actually said, “Welcome. New here?” He then proceeded to lead us to the sanctuary.

Was your pew comfortable?
They were padded, connected chairs, and not uncomfortable, except that they are very close to the chair rows in front, so leg room was somewhat tight.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
A lot of socializing: people happily standing all over the place chatting and laughing. Seemed like an up atmosphere of people happy to be there.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
“Good morning, everyone. We’re going to get started.”

What books did the congregation use during the service?
No books. There was no space on the backs of the chairs for any either. No pens, no offering envelopes, no hymnals nor Bibles. The pastor did read from the New International Version and the verses were shown on a large screen.

What musical instruments were played?
Piano, keyboard, guitars, bass, drum.

Did anything distract you?
Nothing especially distracting, as I had a certain expectation that was fairly on point.

Vineyard, Anaheim, CA (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Sort of like easy rock. That’s what came to mind. They had the instruments and they played well, but it wasn’t overly loud – it was just sort of a steady state of mellow rock. A couple of the songs we knew, and there were several that we did not – nor were they especially memorable (sappy, unrefined lyrics). Many people had their hands in the air to worship God. There was an odd sort of mosh pit before the stage, where people went during the musical portion before returning to their seats. It was just some sort of “get closer to God” kind of thing, I’m guessing.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
33 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – The pastor preached more like a fellow who just got called to come up and share some thoughts, and he was fairly steady and just sort of mellow from beginning to end. He did make some good points, and he was not unlearned, but he struck me as a stereotypical Vineyard preacher. He dressed like he probably always dresses everywhere he goes: flannel shirt hanging out over baggy jeans.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
I gathered that this was part of a series, and it was Pentecost Sunday, but it seemed that the title may have been “Enemy Love,” as that is how the pastor boiled down the point of Romans 12:14-21 (“Bless those who persecute you”). I was surprised to learn from their website that the title was actually “Keep On,” which I wouldn’t have guessed. He said it is unnatural to love your enemy, but God calls us to it.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The atmosphere – it was very expectant. People were pleasant and seemingly genuine. There was also a woman who came up during announcements to share how and why she began serving the ministry of the church. It sounded to me like the same thing that I perceived about the church.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
It was just the confusion of what was going on not being announced. I wasn’t sure who was speaking, and I don’t recall the pastor being announced. He just sort of came up on stage and replaced the announcement man (who I originally thought was the pastor).

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Some of the people who were standing around us during the meet and greet came up and made farewell comments.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I didn’t notice any after-service coffee – it was all beforehand, I think. We were offered coffee to take into the service with us, but afterward, when everyone poured out, I didn’t notice any eats or drinks. The place is fairly large, and a lot of people funneled into the bookstore, others into the café. Others milled about talking like they did earlier before the service began.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – Not really my thing. I liked the people, but the mood was rather vanilla the whole way through. I prefer a little topography in my church experience.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
I suppose it did. The people seemed good and genuine and pleasant and happy. The church has been going for a long time, so I have no reason to believe it to be insincere.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Having been there. It’s an historic place and one that catapulted the denomination, and it was an experience that I won’t forget. It wasn’t the best service or the most beautiful building, but it is a significant piece of the modern Christian puzzle of which we are all a part.
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