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Monroeville's Grace Life Church plans grand opening in new location

| Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Times Express
Pastor Bruce Schafer, Jr., Church Administrator Marianne Finch, and Pastor Amy Schafer of Grace Life Church prepare fare ready to welcome guests to the new building in Monroeville. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Times Express Photo Credit: Photo by | Lillian DeDomenic
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Times Express
Pastor Amy Schafer and Pastor Bruce Schafer of Grace Life Church at work in the office of the new building in Monroeville. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Times Express
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Times Express
Pastors Amy and Bruce Schafer of Grace Life Church stand in front ot the new building on William Penn Highway in Monroeville. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Times Express

A Monroeville congregation with a history of uncommon housing will hold a grand opening for its new — and equally unorthodox — new home next week.

Grace Life Church, after renting space in everything from an empty movie theater to a technology center, has laid down permanent roots in a former Levin Furniture store on Route 22 in Monroeville.

“We're not in the business of building buildings, but helping people,” executive director Marianne Finch said. “Now, we have a permanent presence in the Monroeville area.”

The April 7 grand opening comes after months of remodeling to turn the long-vacant furniture store into a functional, up-to-code church. The nondenominational church was founded in 1997 and had been meeting at the former Destinta movie theater in North Versailles. The church has about 500 members.

“We basically gutted the (Levin) building and had to pretty much start from scratch,” Finch said.

From rewiring and replumbing to replastering and repainting, Finch said, the building needed all the love and care the congregation could give.

“It's been a lot of work — a lot of donated time and talent,” she said. “Folks within the congregation have been amazing.”

The congregation landed at the Levin location after the church's pastor, Bruce Shafer, began looking for a permanent home for his church. After stumbling upon a Levin location for sale outside of Monroeville, Shafer was given an even better offer: the vacant Levin Furniture on Route 22 — that Levin's management was willing to donate.

“It was our desire to have a permanent home,” Finch said. “And Levin's — they wanted to release this building, too. It's a win-win.”

The new church location includes a top-floor sanctuary, where services are held, and a children's center. A youth center, for teenagers, is in the works. The center will include a snack bar, lounge areas, a fireplace and video games.

“It will be just a fun, safe place for teenagers to come,” Finch said.

Finch said the church's aim is to deliver a contemporary message.

“There's no pipe organ or stained-glass windows,” she said. “We don't want to be some old staunchy church; we want to be appealing to young people and people of all ages, really.”

While services have been held at the new location since December, the church will welcome the community at a grand-opening event April 7. The 9 a.m. service will be held as usual, and the 11 a.m. service will be abbreviated to accommodate the event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Finch said there will be food and activities, but most importantly, it will welcome the community to the church's new location.

“Looking back, I just think, ‘I can't believe we're really here. How did this happen?' Finch said. “We're actually sitting here. We're in the business of helping people, not building things, but through the grace of God, we're here.”

Megan Guza is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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