Murrysville's Word and Worship Church finds a new home in former gym

| Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

For the first time in five years, pastor Gavin Hassell won't have to deconstruct his worship space Sunday morning.

Instead, the pastor of Word and Worship's Murrysville campus can take his time to visit and talk with church members.

On Sunday, the nondenominational church will hold its first services in its new home — a former car dealership turned gymnasium — rather than at Murrysville Community Center.

“We would have 15 or 20 people to set everything up every Sunday morning and, at the end, tear it down, load it in a large trailer and haul it away,” Hassell said.

“We've been setting up and tearing down for five years. A lot of people are excited for this possibility.”

Since 1982, Word and Worship Church has made a habit of meeting in nontraditional spaces, said Alexander Paladin, arts director for the church. It opened the first of its three campuses in Turtle Creek 30 years ago at a recreation center before moving to a Holiday Inn in Braddock Hills.

That campus was the first to find a permanent home — the former Hartman Junior High School in North Braddock. A third campus meets in White Oak in an office building.

In Murrysville, dedicated volunteers have worked to keep a sacred yet easily dismantled space for the 115 people who regularly attend Word and Worship's services.

That's almost more of a challenge than converting an unconventional place such as the former Steel City gymnasium, Paladin said.

“It is an odd place for a church, but God opens doors in amazing places.”

“Now, rather than bringing kids into a makeshift conference room nursery, children can play in our own nursery while their parents worship.”

At the community center, the space was very wide but not very deep, Hassell said. That space required worshippers to gather around the speaker. In some cases, speakers would have to address people to the far left or right or nearly behind them.

In their new home, worship will take place in a deeper space. In some ways, Hassell, said he will miss the constraints of the community center and the closeness it encouraged.

“With a theater in round, you can see one another and create more of a community,” Hassell said.

“Looking across the space, you're looking at others looking at you. You have more of a community feel than a centralized feel — we're all here together.”

Moving to a space of their own not only gives members a set of permanence but also enables Word and Worship to host its small groups in private. While some groups meet at leaders' homes, others meet in coffee shops or small restaurants, which don't lend much privacy, Hassell said.

In all, the new location will offer plenty of opportunity, church leaders said. Being located on Route 22 gives it more exposure, Paladin said, and could add to the more than 400 members who attend the three campuses.

Not needing to compete with other groups to book space will help leaders schedule events easier.

“We can do more during the weeknights,” Hassell said. “It gives us more of an ability for people to just know that we have a place for people to go without having to vie for time with someone else.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or

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