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From meager beginnings, The Bible Chapel thriving 50 years later

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
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.

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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