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Church cleans cars for free

no donations allowed

July 19, 1998

photo: MIKE CRUPI / staff photographer

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Free carwashBy MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer

Jim Chevalier and the Real Life Community Church aren't interested in bricks and mortar and steeples. They're building their church with people.

That philosophy was in full force Saturday as members of the congregation washed more than 100 cars for free at The Venice Inn on Hagerstown's Dual Highway.

"We just wanted to show people that God loves them," Chevalier said.

There was no catch, no hidden agenda. Some patrons were open to hearing about the church that meets at Eastern Elementary School, but others rolled up their windows and stayed in their cars.

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Either way was OK.

"These are random acts of kindness," Chevalier said. "Many people are surprised because they aren't used to this."

Others who pulled in actually argued with Chevalier and his dedicated crew. They want to give them money and the members wouldn't accept it

"I didn't want it to be free," said Art Crampton, of Hagerstown. He said he saw the sign for a car wash when he was at the Hagerstown post office.

Crampton said he came out to help the group, not realizing that it was free. When he learned that, he seemed determined to send the church a donation but the members said no.

The car wash Crampton got was first-rate in his opinion - wash, rinse, dry and even a vacuum.

Church member Donna Clevenger was manning that vacuum when Crampton drove his car through the line.

"It makes me feel so good to do this," Clevenger said.

A relatively new member of the congregation, she is a typical story at the Real Life Community Church.

"I just needed a place to worship," she said. She heard about the congregation from her niece and gave it a try.

"They are wonderful people at this church," Clevenger said.

Clark Smith was ready to pay $5 to $6 for a car wash, but they did it for free. "These people have their heads in the right place," he said.

Chevalier and his wife, Chris, came to the Hagerstown area last fall from Alexandria, Va.

"I was a Southern Baptist pastor for 14 years, serving as a youth pastor and senior pastor," Chevalier said. "But God wanted me here."

That calling and a study of the demographics of the Tri-State area led Chevalier to believe there were a large number of unchurched people in this area, people he felt he could reach.

Armed with that mission and a lot of drive, the Chevaliers started having services, first at The Venice and then at Eastern Elementary.

"We have no plans to build a building, ever," Chevalier said. "We're not about architecture."

The 10 a.m. Sunday services are filled with high energy, drama, videos and people in casual dress who want to rejoice in God while reducing the stress in their lives.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Real Life Community Church is urged to call Chevalier at 301-739-5703.

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