Calvary Chapel finds its new home in Chadds Ford

It’s been a long and winding road for Calvary Chapel. While
it’s normally a 15-20 minute drive from Media to Chadds Ford, it took seven
years for the church to make the trip and open its doors for worship.

Pastor Bob Guaglione, in January 2003, walked the grounds of
a property along Brandywine Drive in Chadds Ford Township and wanted to bring
his church there. The church bought the property later that year and began the
process of getting township approval for construction. There was a conditional
use hearing and the usual land development protocols to be negotiated. Final
approvals came in October 2008. Ground was broken in 2009 and the church opened
its doors for real earlier this year.

When the Chadds Ford Township Board of Supervisors gave
their approval during the October 2008 meeting, one resident shouted,
“Hallelujah.”

She’s not a
member of Calvary, but understood and appreciated the bureaucratic journey the
church had gone through. Now the church is a part of the Chadds Ford landscape,
on several levels. In addition to a place of worship, Calvary Chapel is now the
new polling place for voting in Chadds Ford Township.

“We want the church to be a blessing to the community,”
Associate Pastor Steve Smickley recently said.

In the beginning, opponents of the church were concerned
about excessive noise, but many of the items on the initial plan were removed
from the table. Gone were the proposed softball fields and basketball court,
and gone was the proposed outdoor amphitheater.

There was also a compromise on a property setback where the
church property abuts Harvey Lane.

“When we first came into the meetings with a concept land
development plan, it was strictly a concept,” Smickley said.

The footprint now is 18,000 square feet and the entire
three-story building is 36,000 square feet. Any further construction, Smickley
said would be toward the Endo building on Brandywine Drive, but would stay
within the confines of the church’s driveway.

Calvary Chapel has 1,200 members. With a 905-seat sanctuary,
there are two worship services each Sunday on the 18-acre site. The church also
owns another 4-acre site across Brandywine Drive.

In addition to the two worship services, there are events
for youth on Wednesday evenings and every other Friday.

While the church will be used as a polling place, Guaglione
said the primary mission of the church, and the best way it can be a blessing
to the community, is as a church.

“Our job is to see people get to heaven,” Guaglione said.

He said Calvary Chapel ministers to many people who have had
life changing experiences, those who didn’t go to church but were looking for
one. People, he said, who had an “encounter with Christ and their life has been
changed.”

Some of them, he said, are professionals—doctors and
lawyers— who previously had drug and alcohol problems, or were involved with
pornography, who have turned their lives around.

“Maybe, in the community, we turn a drunk driver into an
average citizen.” Guaglione said. “Our mission is for people to find Christ.”

Calvary Chapel is a nation-wide nondenominational Christian
Evangelical church. The local Delaware County branch began in the early 1990s
in Ridley Park. Prior to moving into the Chadds Ford building, the church held
services is the old Media Theater.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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