It was "love at first sight" for two area churches, resulting in a merger of their congregations to create something new: Vineyard Christian Church.

It was "love at first sight" for two area churches, resulting in a merger of their congregations to create something new: Vineyard Christian Church.

The community is invited to worship and celebrate the merger at 10 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 30, at the former East Columbus Christian Church, 1055 McNaughten Road, Columbus.

"It was a beautiful work to come together to help each other," said the Rev. Linda Reiter. "We are grateful to be able to unite our two churches and reach out to people neither church has met."

Reiter wrote on the church website, at vineyardchristianchurch.com, that when leaders of both churches met for the first time, "There was an immediate connection of hearts, an excitement as to what God was doing and an incredible expectation of 'what's next?' "

Before the merger, Reiter said she was the pastor of Vineyard Church of Reynoldsburg, "a church without a home." Members held services on Saturdays at the First Presbyterian Church on Jackson Street for six years, then switched to the chapel at Cotner Funeral Home in the past year to be able to have Sunday services.

In February, Elizabeth Wolfe, a member of East Columbus Christian Church, called Reiter and said that congregation was "a church without a pastor."

Wolfe, head elder at East Columbus Christian Church and a member since 1955, said they had an established church and building, but no pastor because their interim pastor, Andrew Hoover, resigned effective Sept. 1.

"I was on the committee to try to find a new pastor and I noticed an ad in the newspaper that the Vineyard Church of Reynoldsburg was having their services at the Cotner Funeral Home," Wolfe said. "So I called Linda and what was ironic is that they were having a meeting to try to find a building at the same time our elders were meeting to find a pastor."

She said elders from both churches met in February and began planning how to merge the two congregations.

According to Reiter, the local Vineyard congregation "came from the Vineyard Church of Columbus.

"The Vineyard philosophy is to send out leaders to start churches in a new community to reach people with the Word," she said. "We were the 21st or 22nd church sent from that location."

The first merged service was held May 27, to celebrate the Pentecost.

"We recognized not only the birth of the church but the birthing of a newly formed church with the merging of two into one," Reiter said.

She said both congregations spent the summer worshiping separately, but getting to know each other and reaching out together to the community for various events.

They made the final decision to merge the two congregations in August.

Wolfe said East Columbus Christian Church has been at the McNaughten Road address since 1969, but before that was located on Fifth Avenue.

"We were down to about 125 members and we were an older congregation with no children's ministry because we had no young children attending," she said. "Now we will be adding the 75 members of the Vineyard Church, who are younger and have children, so that we can have a children's ministry.

"I think there will be something for everyone and it is so nice that both our congregations are blending well together," she said.

Reiter said she hopes the community will come out to worship and celebrate the blending of the two congregations into Vineyard Christian Church.

"We are now one church and all are welcome, any time," Reiter said. "I think we are better together."