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Dying and Rising Again in Napa Valley


Over the past two years, Valley Community Christian Reformed Church in Napa, Calif., has experienced the pain of death and the joy of birth.

In 2009, Valley Community faced a tough decision: close the doors of the church permanently or look for other options. The option they choose was to partner with The Gathering, a Christian Reformed Church plant in Sacramento, to close and re-start as a church plant.

“We had a very moving ‘memorial service’ where we celebrated the 24 years of the church’s history, and then disbanded,” said Rev. Ron Vanderwell, pastor of The Gathering.

Ministry Associate Dave Buurma at “The Church of Whatever God’s Up To.”

The next months were a struggle to heal, grow, and direct the church where God was leading. Vanderwell said, “We met only in homes, ‘fasting’ from the church’s building and immersing ourselves in the book of Acts, which we were studying in our home worship times.”

Membership declined to nine adults, and serious financial difficulties ensued before God strengthened the call of the church, provided grant money, and paved the way for the re-start.

“During the re-start process we referred to the church as ‘The Church of Whatever God’s Up To,’ which is still featured on the sign in front,” said Vanderwell. However, the group decided to keep the name Valley Community Church.

Now the church is experiencing the joy of rebirth. Ministry Associate Dave Buurma will lead the church as a part-time, bi-vocational pastor. Membership has more than tripled.

The church shares facilities with a pre-school and Hispanic ministry. And the church’s community garden has become a neighborhood outreach.

“We went door to door with the vegetables. You wouldn’t believe the way doors open. We could talk about the church all we wanted because we were giving away free produce,” said Buurma.

Even the church’s financial troubles have been alleviated. “The remaining core group continues to tithe, as do many newcomers. As a result, one year after the church nearly gave up because of financial despair, the church’s bank account has a generous balance, said Vanderwell.

“It is God in action,” said Buurma.


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