By Emma Deihle
Rockbridge Church, a young and growing non-denominational church in an area of more established mainline churches with steady numbers, is meeting in a motel but expects to acquire a permanent space in Lexington by the end of the year.
The church’s 5 p.m. Sunday service, currently held in a conference room at the Best Western Plus Inn at Hunt Ridge, draws around 100 worshippers. The church leaders are actively seeking a larger space to accommodate even more parishioners and their families.
“We need a space that’s large enough to gather together,” Pastor Matt Vaught said.
Vaught is originally from Loudoun County in Northern Virginia, where he regularly volunteered with the Young Life program. After receiving degrees in religion and Christian ministry from Campbell University in North Carolina, he moved to Lexington with his wife Megan in 2012.
The Vaughts began attending Orchard Hills Church, an Anglican church in Roanoke. The idea for Rockbridge Church began after Senior Pastor Scott McLucas of Orchard Hills approached Vaught to ask him to serve as pastor of a new “plant” in Lexington.
Though Vaught was hesitant at first, he said he couldn’t escape the fact that it made his heart beat. “I had a vision for it, I was called to do it.”
Vaught and a core team of 25 interested members met for the first time in September 2014 in one of the member’s homes. The team decided to move in no time to the Best Western as their numbers continued to rise.
Rockbridge Church targets the unchurched, people who may not feel comfortable in a traditional setting or people with no religious background at all. Vaught said he wants the services to dispel some of the negative perceptions people may have about Christianity.
“We feel . . . that we’re called to be real people experiencing real life in the real world,” he said. “Jesus has a ton to offer about how we live life today.”
Vaught thinks that message resonates with churchgoers, especially young people.
Susan Lawrence, a member of R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church in Lexington and mother of four, said she thinks most mainline church’s youth programs have suffered from budgetary cuts after the recession. She’s hopeful budgets can begin to be re-tooled because youth programs keep younger parishioners engaged with the church at ages when it may be difficult for them to connect with their parents’ traditions.
“If there isn’t something there to hold them in the church, it’s very easy to fall away,” she said. “Teenagers want to challenge things and it helps to have somebody who’s not your parent that you can reach out to and engage with.”
Those relationships are what Rockbridge Church member Larisa Stephens said draw younger members and adults alike. She recently moved to Lexington with her family and she has a 16-year-old son who attends Rockbridge Church.
“They’re very authentic,” Stephens said. “You feel like they’re truly worshipping God. It’s not just a religion, it’s more of a personal relationship.”
Conrad Jenne, a third class cadet at Virginia Military Institute, said the atmosphere is “very welcoming and friendly” and after his first time attending last weekend, he’d “absolutely” return next Sunday.