The Vibe Church in Curtis Park offers nontraditional services

Jeff vonKaenel

I have attended services at around 150 different Sacramento religious organizations. I do not know if this is a record, but I believe this much pew sitting gives me a certain expertise.

While each service is unique, The Vibe—a relatively new church in the Curtis Park neighborhood—is particularly special. I ended up there serendipitously, or perhaps it was divine intervention. I was at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral when my neighbor and fellow parishioner Jill Macdonell told me that she was headed over to the 10 a.m. services at her son’s church. I said, “Your son’s church?”

She told me that her son had established The Vibe Church, whose members were often homeless or in difficult situations. She clearly was proud of her son, John Macdonell, and really liked the services. I made a mental note to visit.

The Vibe started three years ago in the Old Soul Co. coffee shop in Oak Park. Then it moved to The Guild Theater, and recently to Sierra 2 Center for the Arts and Community.

Being an experienced churchgoer, I know it is important to pick the right clothes. At a Latter Day Saints service, wear a white shirt. At a Bayside Church service, wear weekend casual. For an African-American church, wear a suit. For The Vibe, I guessed: black jeans and a long-sleeve black T-shirt.

It worked. I arrived at the rented room with 100 folding chairs and an eight-member band that was already playing music. I found a seat next to a very pregnant young woman whose baby was due in five weeks. The congregation was a mix of young and old, many of whom appeared to have had a hard life. And there were a lot of children.

Macdonell, The Vibe’s founder and unpaid head pastor, stepped away from the band to hug parishioners as they came in. He was clearly thrilled to see them. It appeared mutual. Like a large family gathering where you expect to move around and connect with all your relatives, The Vibe members constantly got up to hug and sit next to others in the congregation. They ate snacks during the service and even left for smoke breaks.

The little ones were also delighted to be there. This is not surprising. First, like the adults, the kids could get drinks and baked goods during the service. It’s a wonderful improvement on most religious gatherings.

But the church is not just kid-friendly, it also is a kid celebration. The children were clearly loved by so many adults. The Vibe had this incredible sense of acceptance and of unconditional love. It’s a message that I often hear but rarely see so clearly demonstrated.

Usually when I go to services, I give $20 at collection time. This time, I put twice that amount into the plastic bucket with a hole cut in the top. I was moved.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.