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Roethlisberger, fiancee find acceptance at Christ Church

It is not uncommon to see Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and fiancee Ashley Harlan stay after Sunday service at Christ Church at Grove Farm in Ohio Township, mingling with parishioners where the couple will marry this weekend, a pastor at the church said.

"Ben and Ashley have been very consistent and genuine in their worship," the Rev. Bruce Cote, senior associate pastor and interim lead pastor, said Sunday. "I often see them talking with other people before and after services."

The couple joined the church about a year ago. After they did, a letter was sent to parishioners asking them to treat Roethlisberger like any other member. Cote said it is hard to know what Roethlisberger goes through, being such a popular sports figure, but added he and Harlan have embraced the church community.

"That is refreshing," Cote said. " 'Good job' I say to how they handle themselves."

Christ Church at Grove Farm offers two choices of worship. Roethlisberger and Harlan enjoy what is called the "Third Service," held in Wilson Hall. It provides high-energy music and a media-driven experience.

Their wedding most likely will be in the Sanctuary, which holds 1,300 people. Sanctuary services are a blend of traditional and contemporary styles in which music is presented by an instrumental ensemble, a robed choir and clergy, and a liturgical style of worship.

The Lakeside Cafe also is an important part of the Sunday experience for Roethlisberger and Harlan. It is centrally located and serves as a bridge between the Sanctuary and Third Service. It is where members mingle before and after services and have a cup of coffee, sandwich or pastry.

Cote is unsure how Roethlisberger and Harlan came to worship at the church but said other Steelers players are members.

Founded in 1995, the nondenominational church was formed from the Episcopal/Anglican tradition of worship and theology, which is reflected in the worship style of the church's Sanctuary services. Christ Church at Grove Farm is more than 2,000 members strong. Most attend one of two Sunday services every week.

The first Christ Church service was held in the ballroom of the Sewickley Country Inn on, coincidentally, July 23, the same day as Roethlisberger and Harlan's planned nuptials.

One of the greeters said yesterday that Roethlisberger and Harlan are a wonderful couple who attend service weekly when they are in town and that both come from Christian households from which their foundation of faith was formed.

"I know Ben's parents, and they are pillars of faith," Cote said. "And as you know, the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree."

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