‘Vine’ church for independent Methodists sprouts in Little Rock

Nick Schimmer, the pastor at The Vine @ Little Rock, is shown in an undated courtesy photo alongside a July 2010 image of Don R. Roberts Elementary School at 16601 LaMarche Drive in Little Rock. The Vine @ Little Rock, the sister congregation to The Vine @ Cabot, began meeting in the school's cafeteria in August 2023. (Left, courtesy photo; right, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staton Breidenthal)

Eight months after the launch of The Vine @ Cabot, it now has a sister congregation in Pulaski County.

The Vine @ Little Rock began meeting in August at Don R. Roberts Elementary School, 16601 LaMarche Dr., in Little Rock. After a few test runs, it's ready to go, said Vickie Logan, a member of the board of stewards.

"This next weekend should be a big one, and we're really hoping that we'll have very good attendance," Logan said in an interview Monday. "We have 98% worked out the glitches: 'Which door do you go in?' 'Why is the sound system not working?' Those kinds of things."

The new Little Rock congregation is led by Nick Schimmer, a 2022 graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary and the former associate pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church on Napa Valley Drive.

Volunteers show up at 7:30 a.m. to transform the school cafeteria into a temporary worship space. Services begin at 9 a.m.

Most of the congregants are ex-United Methodists.

"It's very Bible-based, conservative. It's really a very welcoming church," Logan said. "We are an independent Methodist church; we are not part of the United Methodist Church in any way."

Thus far, roughly 50 people are attending. Anticipating future growth, they've obtained a 100-cup coffee urn.

Both Vine churches view themselves as an "independent Wesleyan expression of faith," meaning they embrace the teachings of John Wesley, an 18th-century British preacher and the founding father of the Methodist movement.

The Lonoke County congregation was formed by former members of Cabot United Methodist Church after it was denied permission to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church.

The Vine @ Little Rock is a church plant.

It has blended worship -- a mix of traditional and contemporary music.

"I've been very surprised at how little I've missed the fancy sanctuary, the choir, the organ, the pipes, the robes," Logan said.

Given the venue, it's hardly high church.

"It's a little bit hard to do that in an elementary school," Logan said. "It's just much more informal."

When he was in seminary, Schimmer signed up for a class on 21st-century church planting that was "really one of the most valuable courses I took," he said.

Schools are a good place for new churches to meet, "especially if you want to reach younger families," Schimmer said.

Don Roberts is "a great location, and that school has been just wonderful," he said.

Before leaving his United Methodist post, Schimmer was offered a position at another congregation within the denomination but opted not to take it. He didn't want to uproot his family and move a couple of hours away, he said.

At The Vine @ Little Rock, "we're not actively seeking to pull people out of the United Methodist Church if they are happy there," Schimmer said. "We just hope that we can ... offer another opportunity for people to come and worship."

"There's something exciting about ... a chance to build something," he said. The Vine is a good place for people "that want to be part of something new and are excited about building something from the ground up."

Schimmer does expository preaching. Rather than skipping here and there, he tackles the texts sequentially.

"Right now, we're working through the book of Ephesians and we're going verse by verse, and we won't stop until we're done," he said.

"Biblical literacy is at an all time low. It just really is," he said. "We have this wonderful book that has a lot of answers to a lot of problems -- really all the answers to all of our problems -- and nobody's reading it," he said.

"We want to create an environment where people can come and hear the Word, struggle with it, but also be transformed by it," he said.