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From meager beginnings, The Bible Chapel thriving 50 years later

Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Paul Boardley passes out communion at the end of Sunday service at The Bible Chapel in Canonsburg on Sunday, March 16, 2014. The church draws nearly 3,500 people to services on weekends, so ushers pass out communion as the congregation stays seated. To the right, a cameraman films the service to stream it live through the churches website, where additional people log on to watch the service.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Paul Boardley passes out communion at the end of Sunday service at The Bible Chapel in Canonsburg on Sunday, March 16, 2014. The church draws nearly 3,500 people to services on weekends, so ushers pass out communion as the congregation stays seated. To the right, a cameraman films the service to stream it live through the churches website, where additional people log on to watch the service.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Carter Helbig (center), 7, and Xavier Kunz (right), 8, act in a skit illustrating the Bible story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River in a Sunday service for elementary school aged students at The Bible Chapel in Canonsburg on Sunday, March 16, 2014. The church is marking its 50th year and has grown to have give campuses.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Carter Helbig (center), 7, and Xavier Kunz (right), 8, act in a skit illustrating the Bible story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River in a Sunday service for elementary school aged students at The Bible Chapel in Canonsburg on Sunday, March 16, 2014. The church is marking its 50th year and has grown to have give campuses.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Emma Damiani, 10, of South Park, raises her hand to answer a question about the Bible story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River in a Sunday service for elementary school aged students at The Bible Chapel in Canonsburg on Sunday, March 16, 2014. The church is marking its 50th year and has grown to have give campuses.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Emma Damiani, 10, of South Park, raises her hand to answer a question about the Bible story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River in a Sunday service for elementary school aged students at The Bible Chapel in Canonsburg on Sunday, March 16, 2014. The church is marking its 50th year and has grown to have give campuses.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Sarah Behr, 15, of McDonald, pulls up a Bible verse from the book of Isaiah on her iPhone during a Sunday service for high school aged students at The Bible Chapel in Canonsburg on Sunday, March 16, 2014. The church holds separate services for adults, high schoolers, middle schoolers, elementary schoolers, and toddlers, drawing nearly 3,500 to its services on weekends.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Sarah Behr, 15, of McDonald, pulls up a Bible verse from the book of Isaiah on her iPhone during a Sunday service for high school aged students at The Bible Chapel in Canonsburg on Sunday, March 16, 2014. The church holds separate services for adults, high schoolers, middle schoolers, elementary schoolers, and toddlers, drawing nearly 3,500 to its services on weekends.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - Lia Chappell (front), 16, of McMurray, Lexi Vidonish, 17, of Canonsburg, and Connor Daley (back), 18, of Peters Township, lounge on couches during a Sunday service for high school aged students at The Bible Chapel in Canonsburg on Sunday, March 16, 2014. The service for high schoolers has ping pong tables, bean bag chairs, couches, and a worship band made up of teenagers as well. The church holds separate services for adults, high schoolers, middle schoolers, elementary schoolers, and toddlers, drawing nearly 3,500 to its services on weekends.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>Lia Chappell (front), 16, of McMurray, Lexi Vidonish, 17, of Canonsburg, and Connor Daley (back), 18, of Peters Township, lounge on couches during a Sunday service for high school aged students at The Bible Chapel in Canonsburg on Sunday, March 16, 2014. The service for high schoolers has ping pong tables, bean bag chairs, couches, and a worship band made up of teenagers as well. The church holds separate services for adults, high schoolers, middle schoolers, elementary schoolers, and toddlers, drawing nearly 3,500 to its services on weekends.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - People hang out in the cafe at The Bible Chapel in Canonsburg as one of the churches many TV's live streams the Sunday service on Sunday, March 16, 2014. The church draws nearly 3,500 people on weekends and films the services to stream it live through the churches website, where additional people log on to watch the service.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>People hang out in the cafe at The Bible Chapel in Canonsburg as one of the churches many TV's live streams the Sunday service on Sunday, March 16, 2014. The church draws nearly 3,500 people on weekends and films the services to stream it live through the churches website, where additional people log on to watch the service.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - A choir, band, television screens and singers are lit up on stage during the Sunday service on Sunday, March 16, 2014. The church draws nearly 3,500 people on weekends and films the services to stream it live through the churches website, where additional people log on to watch the service.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>A choir, band, television screens and singers are lit up on stage during the Sunday service on Sunday, March 16, 2014. The church draws nearly 3,500 people on weekends and films the services to stream it live through the churches website, where additional people log on to watch the service.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review - A choir sings to open Sunday service at The Bible Chapel on Sunday, March 16, 2014. The church is marking its 50th year and has expanded to have 5 campuses.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review</em></div>A choir sings to open Sunday service at The Bible Chapel on Sunday, March 16, 2014. The church is marking its 50th year and has expanded to have 5 campuses.
By Karen Kadilak
Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

In its 50th year, The Bible Chapel continues to grow.

The non-denominational church has about 4,000 members, 3,300 of them in Peters and the others at satellite locations in Robinson, Washington and Wilkinsburg.

Services also are streamed online.

Just 11 adults attended the first worship service in June 1965 of what then was known as St. Clair Bible Chapel.

“Over the past 15 years, we've steadily grown,” said Scott Arvay, the church's executive pastor. “With Pittsburgh being community-centric, we've had to do more outreach, which has helped.”

Also, “with Marcellus shale development, we're also receiving interest from people moving from the Bible Belt for work.”

In Peters, the chapel has a 1,450-seat worship center built in 2006, as well as an Educational Activity Center where classes, conferences and other events are held.

A sports ministry offers basketball, cheerleading and flag football to boys and girls in kindergarten through sixth grade.

“Sports are a big draw,” said coach Paul Schaeber, 37.

Susie Garin, 37, said the Bible school her three children attend is much larger than the one she took part in about 30 years ago at the church.

“There were maybe 75 kids then,” Garin said. “One family would run it. Now, there are (hundreds of) kids.”

Retired Elder Harry Obley, 80, is impressed by the growth.

“There are more bells and whistles, but the doctrine is the same,” said Obley, who joined the chapel in the late 1960s.

“The music is contemporary, but the teachings haven't changed,” said Dan Gabriel, 65, a member since 1993.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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