Church History

Shoreline Vineyard Church is part of the Association of Vineyard Churches, a growing denomination that as of 2021 now includes over 2,400 churches in 95 countries (from Katmandu, Nepal to Berne, Switzerland) including over 600 churches in the U.S. (from Cambridge, Mass. to Palo Alto, California). The Vineyard story is about ordinary people who serve an extraordinary God. And we are simply one thread in the rich tapestry of the historic and global Christian faith. More simply put, from Catholics to Baptists, we are all part of God’s very big, very diverse Church.

The first Vineyard began inauspiciously in 1974 as a young man named Kenn Gulliksen led a small group of discouraged Christians in the Los Angeles area. Those first meetings included a lot of singing and praying to God in an attempt to experience Him as a living, life-changing friend and not just as a theory – which had been the experience of all too many in the group. Their little fellowship, many of whom were artists, musicians and actors, grew quickly as people got wind of the fresh things God seemed to be doing in their meetings.

When praying about what name to call themselves, they felt drawn to a passage in the Bible – Isaiah chapter 27, verse 3 – in which Isaiah quotes God as saying:

“Sing about a fruitful vineyard; I, the Lord, watch over it; I water in continually…”

and the name Vineyard Christian Fellowship was born.

By 1980, they began looking for someone who could give shape to what had by then become a rapidly-expanding group of seven churches, when they heard about a pastor named John Wimber, who had been experiencing some remarkable things in his own right.

When John was “conscripted” by God he was, in the words of Christianity Today magazine, a “beer-guzzling, drug-abusing pop musician, who was converted at the age of 29 while chain-smoking his way through a Quaker- led Bible study.” But John later spent several years pastoring, then training ministers at Fuller Theological Seminary, one of the most respected seminaries in the world.

He and his wife, Carol, much like those under Gulliksen’s leadership, were looking for a fresh experience with God that was more like the dynamic, supernatural experience of following Jesus that they read about in the New Testament.

In 1982, John was pastoring a church of more than a thousand people, which was bursting the seams of the high school gym where they were meeting in Anaheim, CA. That year, Wimber took over the leadership of Vineyard churches and in 1984, Gulliksen moved to Boston to start one of the first East Coast Vineyards in Framingham, Massachusetts. Although John Wimber died in 1997, he left behind a congregation of almost seven thousand people in Anaheim, CA and an association of churches reaching more than a hundred thousand people.

Vineyard churches have become known for helping people find God in an informal, but sincere context – with less of the stylistic/cultural barriers that have made many of us wary of organized religion overall. Many songs written and recorded by various Vineyard musicians (mostly in the folk/ acoustic rock genre) are sung worldwide, across many denominations.

That’s wonderfully in keeping with our intent to be humbly collaborative with as many churches and denominations as possible.

For further reading, check out Quest for the Radical Middle by Bill Jackson, an insider’s look at the formative influences and history of the Vineyard. (This can be ordered through the site.) Another good reference for people who have been around Christian circles for a while is “Empowered Evangelicals,” co-authored by Rich Nathan, a former law professor and now pastor of one of the largest Vineyard churches in the U.S.

About our fellowship here in Guilford, Connecticut:

We started public services in 1995 under the leadership of Tom & Deb Routolo. Tom was previously a pastor in a Christian Missionary Alliance church in neighboring Madison, and several couples/families joined with him to start a new congregation in Guilford that would soon become a Vineyard church.

Tom resigned in the summer of 2001, and for exactly a year, the church was without a formal pastor. During that period, the congregation declined to a small core but continued meeting together as a group of faithful, committed friends.

In July of 2002, John Reichart officially began as the church’s new pastor after what truly seemed divinely orchestrated timing and circumstances. John and Kate were born and raised here in Connecticut and had been part of three other Vineyard churches since 1984. In the four years prior to Guilford, John co-founded and co-pastored a growing Vineyard church in Hopkinton, Massachusetts that invested in helping the drug/alcohol addicted, and those honestly investigating God again.

In November of 2017 The Reicharts felt a calling on their life to move into a different aspect of vocation and ministry, and in March of 2018, we welcomed Chris & Tanya Syvertsen as our new pastoral team.

Chris Syvertsen has been part of various shoreline churches over the past 35 years serving in numerous roles as Youth Leader, Deacon, Treasurer, Elder, Associate Pastor, and Lead Pastor.

Chris has a passion for reaching into the community and presenting the Gospel message in a fresh and enjoyable way to those who do not yet have a relationship with Jesus as Savior. Together with his wife Tanya, they try to live out their faith and inject their fun and bright personality into every aspect of ministry.

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