Vine Church is all about Jesus. We are a group of people who seek God, love others and serve the city. We don’t expect everyone to be Christian, in fact we love that many are coming to check out Jesus for the first time. Our prayer is that we would be a community where you can seek God in an honest and authentic way, where there is genuine love for others who are different from us, and where the city is served in creative and practical ways.
Watch the stories of people who are part of our church.
Read about the history of our church here.
If you would like to know how you can know God, please start here.
If you would like to discover more about Jesus in a relaxed atmosphere, please check out our Christianity Explored course.
As a church we seek to uphold the central truths of the Christian faith. For more information about what we believe see our doctrinal statement here.
Toby Neal, Lead Pastor
Toby’s journey to becoming Lead Pastor at Vine Church started more than 15 years ago when he took off to surf the reef breaks off Samoa with his brother. Worried for his safety, his dad asked to him, “Why are you risking your life surfing when you could be risking it telling people about Jesus?”
The lure of the waves proved too strong and Toby still went to Samoa, but he came back with a desire to travel throughout the Middle East sharing the hope and freedom that only Jesus brings.
He may not be risking his life talking about Jesus in Surry Hills, but Toby does think most people in our city are too distracted to give time to think through the claims of Jesus, and believes someone needs to help ‘undistractify’ them in order to save theirs.
Toby originally studied accounting and finance (B Com (Acc), B App Fin) and worked in the industry for a couple of years before moving into church work. He has worked for St Philip's York Street, St Andrew's Cathedral and Christ Church Gladesville. In 2011 he graduated with a B Divinity (Honours 2A) at Moore Theological College and is ordained as a Presbyter in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.
Toby lives in Surry Hills with his wife Liz and his three kids Maisy, Evie and Archer. He enjoys staying fit, and has competed in the Port Macquarie Ironman and Six Foot Track Marathon. These days he mostly just surfs at Bronte and Maroubra Beach.
Matt Straw, Assistant Minister - Magnification and Membership
Matt grew up in a home and church where he experienced the life, love and freedom that Jesus offers every day. It wasn’t long before he realised not many people get that, and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life sharing that joy with others. Having a deep love for design, Matt begun an Architecture degree at UNSW, before being called into ministry.
Matt has studied theology at three colleges in Sydney (Alpha Crucis, Moore Theological College and SMBC), worked for three churches (C3, Church Hill Anglican and St Stephen’s Willoughby), and carries one passion: to make the best news make best sense in (what he thinks is) the best city. Matt is ordained as a Deacon in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.
Matt likes to think of himself as a creative: creating relationships, creating music and creating spaces where people connect meaningfully with Jesus. He is good at creating mess too: in the kitchen, in copious notepads, trying to fly fish, and in whatever sport or
conversation or thing is going on... he will want to join in.
Matt and Naomi live in Kensington and can be found chasing their two year old son, Leif, who’s soon to have a baby brother.
Grant van der Merwe, Assistant Minister - Maturity & Mission
Grant’s love for Jesus and journey into ministry began almost 20 years ago in his local youth ministry. After being gripped by the life changing message of the gospel, he had a passion to see others reached with the very same message and he still desires to see revival in the city of Sydney.
Before completing his Bachelor of Divinity at Moore, Grant studied Psychology and Biblical Studies at Sydney Uni. He is married to Lauren and has a one year old daughter Evie. In his free time you’ll find Grant drinking coffee, eating fried chicken or making pizza.
Grant loves seeing people connect to the life, love and freedom of Jesus and seeing people play their part in God’s big story.’
Lauren van der Merwe, Assistant Minister - Ministry & Special Events - 2 days/wk
Lauren had the privilege of growing up in a home that always proclaimed Jesus as Lord. During high school Lauren experienced the power of God answering prayer and since then has always believed that God can do more than we could ask or possibly imagine. Experiencing the power of God has only increased her conviction to see more people come to know the love of Christ.
Lauren studied a Bachelor of Theology at Moore Theological College and is currently completing her Masters of Ministry at Ridley Theological College. She has served at St James Turramurra and St Andrew’s Roseville in Youth & Young adults ministry. She is a wife to Grant, a mum to Evie and a friend to many. She is passionate about seeing Sydney won for Christ. When not working or studying Lauren can be found at the park or a cafe hanging out with her family or deep in a good book.
Hayley Gibbins, Communications Director - 1 day/wk
Convinced Christians in general were killjoys and to live God’s way was burdensome, Hayley remembers praying to God to ‘un-reveal himself’ throughout her teen years. Prompted to reinvestigate the claims of Christianity in her early 20s, she came to put her trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus, to bring her life, and life to the full.
Hayley is married to Steve, a RAAF Anglican Chaplain, and together have 4 young children. Hayley has a Bachelor Creative Arts from Macquarie University and a Bachelor Theology from Moore Theological College.
Hayley works remotely from Newcastle 1 day per week. As Communications Director Hayley helps keep our members and the community around us (both physical and digital) aware of and excited about what God is doing in and through Vine Church.
Lloyd Steadson, Bread of Life Director
Lloyd is heading up Bread of Life. This ministry offers food and the gospel to men and women doing it tough every Sunday morning - rain, hail or shine.
Lloyd is married to Shella. He has experience as an outdoor educator, environmental scientist, photographer, disability and community support worker and pastoral ministry.
Lloyd works 1 day per week.
Kate Stace, Director of Ministry Operations and Children's Minister - Maternity Leave
Kate came to faith as a teenager in Wahroonga when her sister and a friend took her along to the local youth group. She loves history and she became a Christian when she realised that Jesus was a real person that even historians believed in.
Kate originally studied Business at UTS (majoring in HR and International Accounting) but it was through the AFES group on campus that she decided to change life direction and serve God in a full time ministry role. She studied at Moore College for four years (B. Div) and served at St John's Cathedral Parramatta, St Augustine's Neutral Bay and then Grace City Church in Waterloo.
Kate started in 2019 as our Director of Ministry Operations which means that she makes sure Vine Church is running well. She works primarily with the staff and ministry leaders to help Vine Church connect people to the life, love and freedom in the best way possible. In 2020, Kate begun running our Vine Kids and Youth programs as well.
Kate is married to Jackson, she loves making desserts and plays a lot of instruments (about 7 at last count).
Kate is currently on Maternity Leave.
Affiliation and governance
Vine Church started in 2011 as a new Anglican church in the city helping people who wouldn't normally go to church understand the relevance of Jesus to their lives. In August 2015 our Lead Pastor, Toby Neal, was invited to become the Lead Pastor of St Michael's Anglican Church, the oldest church in Surry Hills. Toby accepted this position because he could see the enourmous opportunities of bringing together all the people and resources of both churches under one mission to reach the city.
The financial management of Vine Church is overseen by Wardens and a Parish Council. These groups are chaired by the Lead Pastor (Toby Neal), and made up of two wardens and three parish councillors. These groups ensure the property and finances of the church are well managed and that any governance matters are dealt with in an ethical way. Members of the church are invited and should get in contact with one of the wardens if they would like to discuss any matters pertaining to the governance of the church.
The spiritual leadership of Vine Church is conducted by three groups: staff, ministry team leaders and community group leaders. Both these groups meet regularly during the year to plan how we will achieve our mission and care for those in our church. These groups are a mix of men and women who love Jesus and committed to the vision of Vine Church.
If you would like to speak to one of the men or women leaders at Vine Church, or would like more information about one of our meetings please don't hesitate to contact us below.
- ServicesSunday 9.15am, 11am and 4.30pm
The Whitehouse Institute of Design
2 Short St, Surry Hills
- Community groupsMidweek over dinner at