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Church shares free goodwill at City park

August 26, 2002

marlob@herald-mail.com

Four years ago, Jim Chevalier said he and his Real Life Community Church members weren't interested in bricks and mortar. They were building their church with people.

It seems Chevalier and his church are sticking by that philosophy, having initially introduced themselves to Hagerstown in the summer of 1998 via a free car wash.

On Sunday afternoon, the congregation was again trying to interest people in the church, this time giving away free food, snow cones and soft drinks at a free band concert at Hagerstown City Park.

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Some people tried unsuccessfully to offer donations for the hot dogs and other goodies but the church members were adamant - everything was free, including the fellowship and the message.

The benches in front of the park bandshell filled up quickly with music lovers, hot dog lovers, children with snow cones, people needing to rest a bit - and the curious.

Church members roamed about welcoming people to the two-hour event, which began at 2 p.m. By 3 p.m., the crowd had swelled to about 100, with dozens more farther back sitting in the grass or on lawn chairs.

"I started attending the Real Life Community Church after they had been here about three or four months," said Dolores Fitzgerald. "Now I have been going for nearly four years."

The church meets at Eastern Elementary School on Yale Drive each Sunday at 10 a.m.

Fitzgerald said she keeps coming because of the friendly, family atmosphere at the church.

One of those enticed to the bandshell by the sounds of PS 150, the church band, was Rebecca Martin.

"I was at a picnic here in the park when I heard the music," Martin said. "I liked the music so I came over and I stayed."

PS 150 refers to Psalm 150, which says to praise God with drums and dancing, with stringed instruments and with loud crashing cymbals. No mention was made in the Bible about bongos, but they were Chevalier's instruments in the band.

Addie and Art Bloomfield of Falling Waters, W.Va., had a particular reason to be at the park Sunday.

"Our son plays in the band ... see, he's the blonde in the back row with the guitar," said Addie Bloomfield.

The proud mom said music is a big part of their family life. "I go to Bob's church when he plays and he comes to mine when I sing," she said.

Chevalier came to the Hagerstown area from Alexandria, Va., five years ago.

He said he was a Southern Baptist pastor for 14 years, serving as a youth pastor and senior pastor until God called him to Hagerstown. The goal was to reach the large number of unchurched people in this area, Chevalier said in 1998.

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

Anyone interested in learning more about the Real Life Community Church can call Chevalier at 301-393-4443.

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