Ohio Township Church Injects Burst of Style in Its Substance

By Santoni, Matthew | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 26, 2009 | Go to article overview

Ohio Township Church Injects Burst of Style in Its Substance


Santoni, Matthew, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Josh Glover, 16, slid into a booth with his brother and three friends, sipping coffee and sodas from the snack bar while the five- piece band warmed up onstage. Others settled into seats in the middle of the high-raftered space, sat at tables across the back or perused items at a booth by the door.

Take away the wooden cross hanging high overhead, families in their Sunday best mingling with teens in T-shirts, and the fact that the booths were pews arranged around wooden tables, and one might mistake the scene Sunday morning at Christ Church of Grove Farm for a small concert venue.

That's exactly what the organizers of "The Third Service" -- aimed at attracting a wider and younger audience to the Ohio Township megachurch -- were going for.

"It's a different style, but the same substance, is what we've been saying," said the Rev. Bruce Cote, senior associate pastor. "We're holding onto the old while reaching out to the new."

Framed by contemporary, Christian-rock hymns led by North Hills resident Brad Lebakken, traditional elements like the Apostle's Creed, reflection upon Scripture, prayer and Cote's sermon create what he called a fusion of "ancient and future" worship.

Projection screens behind the band displayed verses from the Book of James during the scripture reading, a short video introduction and talking points for Cote's sermon.

Some people had crossed the central hall from the more traditional service, where Senior Pastor John Guest was preaching before a white-robed choir.

More than 500 people attended this month's premier of Third Service, including at least 150 who were coming to Christ Church for the first time, said Mark Helsel, director of young adult ministry.

Third Service got its name from being the third service offered on Sundays. Cote said organizers wanted to avoid labeling some services "traditional" and some "contemporary."

"They preach the same word, but I find myself paying more attention here," said Cliff Aleshire, 49, of Sewickley, who has been attending the traditional services at Grove Farm for the last eight years, but tried the Third Service for the first time last Sunday.

"We feel closer to God, more connected," said Jason Duble, 33, of Robinson attending with his wife, Amy, and two children. …

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