OCV has had many beginnings. Over the last four to five years God has drawn our hearts to this venture gradually, through a series of twists and turns. What began as a general call to plant a church in western PA, took on a more specific shape over time. As we continued to discern this growing call we sensed that we needed to look into the Vineyard family of churches and begin focusing not on the urban center (Pittsburgh) that we had initially been drawn toward, but rather to move back home (almost).
At first we (and many of those we talked to) did not know what to do with this idea. It seemed to go against the grain of most current church plating models. So much of church planting today revolves around urban centers and the surrounding suburbs. We understood the opportunity and need the unprecedented growth of cities presents for the Gospel, but we couldn't help thinking about smaller places--the places where we have spent most of our lives. It seemed to us that Jesus never forgot about rural Galilee even as He spent time in cosmopolitan Jerusalem. Both places (and the suburbs in between) mattered to Him and were touched by His ministry in powerful ways.
As we thought and prayed about all of this we felt God confirming a call to invest in smaller places and to pray for a church planting movement among the small towns and rural villages of northwestern PA and beyond. We knew that there were plenty of people far from God in the rural places we typically characterize as more religious. Even among our friends who grew up in the church we saw many who were effectively "de-churched," having either adopted a "me and Jesus" individualism or chosen to leave the faith altogether. Rather than being saturated with faith, the rural places we observed were sometimes just as much spiritual wastelands as the cities, especially for younger generations.
As we began to turn our eyes toward home God did two important things. First, He helped us connect with the great folks at Multiply Vineyard's Small Town USA initiative. He also began to give us vision for planting a church in a specific place--Oil City (pop. 10,000). Once a town of more than 20,000 and the epicenter of the oil industry, today Oil City is a postindustrial town with many needs, but also with some exciting, though easily overlooked, potential. Over and over again God confirmed in our hearts and in the hearts of our community that Oil City was where he was calling us.
Based on this sense of call we (Aimee and Charlie) moved from Charlottesville, VA in June 2016, bought a house in the Oil City Area School District, and began hosting Sunday worship in our house that August. Eight adults attended the first gathering. Soon we were numbering in the teens and stretching the capacity of our little house on Innis Street. Once again God directed our path by leading us to the Oil City Civic Center and an opportunity to rent out a storage room and the Great Room of John D. Rockefeller's National Transit Building.
Fifteen people attended our first meeting in the National Transit Building on October 2, 2016. Soon more started stopping by. Sometimes they stopped just to check out Oil City’s newest “vineyard” (at least one person has been disappointed to find that the only wine we have available is for communion!). Other times a visit led to deeper involvement in a growing community built around relationship—first with Christ and then with each other and our neighbors. In the last year these relationships have multiplied and deepened. We’ve loved local kids at our Princess Party and by teaming up with folks at Angel Tree and the county's backpack drive. We’ve watched people display their artistic talents on canvas, through songs, through culinary creations. We’ve prayed for each other in the face of sickness, fragmented relationships, and unforeseen diagnoses.
Throughout all of this we've emphasized that "success" is not filling seats but living the way of Jesus, to love mercy, do justly, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). As we tried to do this we found that the seats we put out kept filling up. Soon the Great Room that had once dwarfed our little assembly of people seemed to be shrinking! By the summer of 2017 we began looking for a new home for our Sunday morning gatherings. After running into a lot of closed doors God surprised us with a door we didn't even know existed. In September 2017 we began meeting at our new home--the Oil City YWCA (109 Central Ave.). God has been good!
All told, we, a community of Christ followers who meet in rented space and call ourselves Oil City Vineyard, are becoming a family. In our first two years we’ve learned a lot about each other. We’ve seen glimpses of the amazing talents and hearts that we each bear, and we’ve watched as God has gradually brought the people of His own choosing through our doors and into our lives. We serve a God who is on a mission to save the world (including us earthlings!) he created. Praise God! It’s not us, the Church, who has a mission in the world; rather, it’s the God of mission who has a Church in the world. We get to join Him. It is both a privilege and a responsibility. We are grateful that we get to be part of this mission in this corner of the world.
We are glad to be part of the Vineyard family of churches. There are over 600 Vineyard churches in the US and over 2,400 in 95 countries of the world. Click here for more on the history of the Vineyard Movement past and present.
For more on the distinctives of the Vineyard Movement check out the Vineyard USA website or, if you have a bit of time and are really interested, check out this talk by Vineyard UK leader, John Mumford.
On one level our hopes are pretty basic: We want God's Kingdom to come here--in our lives and in our town/region--as it already has in heaven. Only God can initiate this reality, but we can participate in what He is doing. At OCV we find that it's helpful to think about our participation in God's mission by thinking in terms of the Great Commandment--love God with everything and love our neighbors as ourselves. In short, we hope we can be a community that demonstrates the goodness of God's Kingdom by reaching up to God and reaching out others.
Everything starts with God. Through Jesus, God reached down so that we could reach up and encounter the God who formed us and formed all creation. At OCV we hope that everyone who comes through our doors on a Sunday morning or attends a small group or an outreach senses the presence of God and has a chance to either enter into a relationship with Him or deepen the relationship they already have. God invites us all to know him intimately as our savior and as our friend. We don't want anyone to miss out on this opportunity!
Christ in us gives us hope that we can then take to our neighbors. We hope that our neighbors sense love and a taste of the Kingdom of God in us. We hope we never get tired of looking and working for the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God in our world. What does this look like? It looks like the goodness of God flowing into our lives and reconciling us with Him and with each other. It looks like God's beauty, truth, and goodness becoming more and more recognizable in our town. It looks like art. It looks like humility. It looks like healing. It looks like joy. It looks like freedom, forgiveness, and faithfulness. It looks like the cross and the empty tomb.
our Leadership Team
Charlie grew up just across the Venango County line in the Village of Kossuth. (For the record, he was born in Oil City!) After spending four good years in Charlottesville, VA, where he was a student at UVA, Charlie and Aimee moved back "home" and bought a house in Oil City in July of 2016. After spending time in various places and pursuing various vocational avenues (including one horribly failed run at being a punk rock star) Charlie has a settled confidence about his three callings--husband/father, pastor, scholar/teacher. If Charlie isn't changing Benton's diaper or waiting for Elliana and Anneliese to be done with gymnastics, you'll probably find him with his nose in a book, or enjoying coffee and a conversation with a friend at a local cafe. Seldom bored, Charlie also stays busy writing (books, blogs, etc.) and serving on the leadership team at the Project on Rural Ministry at Grove City College.
Pastor (Family Ministry, Outreach & Administration)
If you asked Aimee ten years ago where she would be and what she would be doing she would have told you that she was going to see the world and be either a missionary in Africa or Chicago or work in the health field. God had other plans. In the summer of 2009 an experience at a Christian camp convinced her that God was calling her to ministry. Within two weeks she and Charlie were enrolled in seminary. Almost as soon as she graduated Aimee gave birth to Elliana and made the choice to take on another full-time job--mothering. Five years and two more children later Aimee is still hard at work! She does, however, find time to coach gymnastics, play the piano, oversee OCV kids, sell hand-made, fair-trade jewelry through Trad Trades of Hope, and bake anything chocolate.
Pastor (Pastoral Care & Teaching)
Mark is a husband to his "bride," Diana, and father to Erika, Nate, and Josiah. In his words, he is also "a bum from the North Side of Pittsburgh, saved by grace." His oft-used self description hints at his colorful childhood in one of Pittsburgh's roughest neighborhoods and points to the goodness of God in drawing him from a life of addiction and self destruction to one that has blessed many through over two decades of pastoral ministry. As a pastor Mark's ministry has been defined by deep personal relationships and a genuine concern for the local community. Indeed for many, Mark's self description is far from complete. More than simply a down and out from a tough neighborhood who had an profound encounter with God, Mark is for many a faithful friend, down-to-earth teacher, and trusted mentor who genuinely cares about the common good in our area. By the way, he's also an avid hunter. Be sure to ask him about his hunting trips to Colorado. Just don't mention horses!
Chris grew up playing worship music with Charlie and Aimee in Knox, PA and later moved on to lead worship at a church plant in Niles, OH. While leading and helping to expand the Niles church to multiple campuses, Chris met his wife Courtney. When OCV was in its beginning stages Chris and Courtney decided to commit to being a part of it by moving to Pennsylvania and help in any way they could. In addition to his talents and experiences as a worship leader and church planter Chris also stands in as OCV's comedian in residence and in-house jack-of-all-trades. If you are working on a car or a bike or a locomotive engine (or pretty much anything else) Chris is your guy.
Marcella Dill and her family like bucking trends. Whereas many people have moved from our area to Dallas, TX following Quaker State Motor Oil's relocation in the mid-nineties, Marcella and her family moved from the Dallas area to Oil City in early 2017. Since then she has been actively investing in our community on behalf of the most vulnerable among us--children and the elderly. In addition to her work in these areas, Marcella brings experience as an international church planter and missionary (Albania) and expertise gained through her work with various youth ministries including Young Life. All this is to say she is a great addition to the OCV team! (Oh yeah, did we mention she's a huge soccer fan? Be sure to look for her at OCHS soccer games!)