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The Branch tackles concept of community

Children were called to the front of the church congregation, seating themselves on the floor in front of a whiteboard. It was an unusual scene for a church service, admitted Pastor Lenny Perata, smiling at the concept. Parents and fellow members of the congregation listened on, the occasional adult chiming in as Perata’s wife Linda explained the concept of repentance.

"We explained Teshuva, the Hebrew word for repentance," Linda said, "and it means turning, turning towards God and away from your sins. We brought the concept to their level. Like ‘OK, what is a sin?’"

The unusual format during the service was just a small part of the re-naming and re-branding of The Branch, formerly the Mountain Vineyard Christian Fellowship, which is a nondenominational Park City ministry that has been serving the community for more than three decades. The Branch debuted two weeks ago, announcing the new name, the new service hours and most importantly the new focus. As Park City’s new family-integrated church, The Branch hopes to make the church experience one for families and the community to connect.

"We wanted to be a community," Perata said. "We are now a family-integrated ministry, which means we don’t ship children off to another room. There’s a place for the adults and the children because we feel that children can sit next to the adults and get just as much out of a service."

To create that community setting, The Branch changed its service hours from the typical Sunday morning to Saturday night. Every Saturday at 5:30 p.m., members of the church gather for service and a potluck dinner afterwards.

On Sunday, they sleep in.

"People want to know, why Saturday night," Perata said. "We noticed there is a niche to fill.

"First couple of Sundays we slept in I remember thinking, ‘What do we do with ourselves?’ A friend called up and told us he was wandering around in a fog asking himself, ‘Aren’t I supposed to be somewhere?’"

But the new service time received a warm reception from congregation members. And it offers another option for out-of-towners to enjoy a full day of skiing during their winter vacation, an added bonus, Perata said.

"People spend thousands of dollars to come here and ski and they are always asking if there is a Saturday night service," he said. "Other churches in community offer Saturday night service and people fill in. We want to serve our community in that way too."

For more than a year, Perata had been contemplating the shift. As the church’s original founder in 1978, he has seen the congregation go from a small group of men and women living in communal housing and attending services in the Silver King Lodge to the church it is today.

"It just kept growing and growing," he said.

Since its beginning, Perata said the church has gone through name changes but never anything as dramatic as what he is aiming to do now. In an attempt to get back to church roots roots that go back to Hebrew traditions Perata said the new format creates new interactions, even from the simple act of breaking bread after service.

"We were feeling apathetic," his wife Linda said, "and we knew that needed to change. We started talking to the congregation, and we realized they were feeling the same."

Perata chimed in.

"The family is the church," he said, "that’s what we’re going for here."

The Branch

A Vineyard Community

1401 Kearns Blvd. (435) 649-8301

http://www.mountainvineyard.org

Saturday Worship is held from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Worship and Healing Services will be held on the last Sunday of the month at 10 a.m. No collections. Open to all community members.


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