In obedience to the Lord’s call to start a church in Pittsburgh, and in response to what was described as a spiritual “cry for help,” that came from the Homewood community, Elder Ralph and Mother Bernice Groce founded Bible Center on June 21, 1956.
Bible Center’s first worship facility was in the Groce’s home, at 7214 Tioga Street.
From 1956-1964 the congregation grew, and in 1965 it moved to 7236 Bennett Street. Bible Center’s early ministry in Homewood included a strong foundation of prayer, Biblical education, vibrant worship and community development.
As its first community development project, Bible Center purchased and renovated two homes in the 7100 block of Bennett Street. From 1967 to 1971 Bible Center operated these homes as licensed residences for senior citizens with intellectual and physical disabilities.
From 1956 until his death in 2003, Elder Groce faithfully lead the spiritual life of Bible Center as well as the acquisition and renovation of property to stabilize and beautify the Homewood community. From 2003 until 2004, Mother Groce led Bible Center, and continued the church’s ministries of prayer and service until her death in 2008.
In January of 2004, Elder and Mother Groce’s grandson, John M. Wallace, Jr., PhD became the senior pastor of Bible Center. Pastor John was born and raised in Bible Center, where he accepted Christ and received his foundational training in ministry. Building upon his early ministry training, he received his formal education at the University of Chicago and the University Michigan. He received additional preparation for ministry through his experiences as a professor at the University of Michigan and as the young adult pastor at Christian Love Fellowship Ministries, International in Ypsilanti, Michigan. In addition being the senior pastor of Bible Center, Pastor John is a full professor at the University of Pittsburgh, where he holds the Philip Hallen Chair in Community Health and Social Justice.
While in Michigan, Pastor John married his college sweetheart, Cynthia. Prior to moving to Pittsburgh, Cynthia was a principal in the Ann Arbor Public Schools, the co-founder and principal of Christian Love Fellowship’s school, Genesis Christian Academy, and an adjunct professor at Concordia University. During her time in Pittsburgh, Cynthia has been the principal of Pittsburgh Montessori and an adjunct professor at Carlow University. In 2013, she retired from the Pittsburgh Public Schools. She currently serves as the Executive Pastor of Bible Center, with responsibility for oversight of the administrative operations of the church and its community ministries.
Since 2004, the pastors, leaders and members of Bible Center have continued to build upon the foundation of prayer, Biblical instruction, vibrant worship and community outreach and development and that was laid by Elder and Mother Groce. In 2007, Bible Center purchased three abandoned residential units on Fleury Way (i.e., the Triplex) and transformed these former active crack houses into Bible Center’s administrative offices and educational, prayer, ministry and fellowship space.
By 2010, the membership of Bible Center outgrew its worship facility at 7236 Bennett Street and moved its worship services to the auditorium of Westinghouse High School. In 2010, Bible Center also launched its residential urban ministry training center, the Ralph and Bernice Groce ministry house, in the Groce’s former residence and Bible Center’s first home, 7214 Tioga Street.
In 2012, through God's blessings and the faithful support of its members, Bible Center purchased the former Rite Aid building in Homewood and have begun to transform it from a vacant community eyesore to a multi-purpose facility called the W.A.R.M.—worship, arts, recreation and ministry—Center. The opportunity to reclaim, re-use, and revitalize this structure to worship God and to serve the children, youth, families, and senior citizens of Homewood is a blessing and honor. Bible Center moved from Westinghouse and began having service in the WARM Center in January of 2014.
In total, Bible Center has purchased and productively re-use more than two-dozen parcels and properties in Homewood. In addition to senior homes, and housing for college students and young adults being trained in urban ministry, these properties have been used to teach young people the construction trades, for a new community playground, as classrooms to teach seniors how to use their smart phones, for parenting and financial literacy classes, and most recently as the home for the “Maker’s Place” an ESTEAM (entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, arts and math) focused out-of-school time program that teaches young people 21st Century skills including, computer coding, website development, fashion design, and digital media and manufacturing.
In 2013, Bible Center launched Oasis Transportation Services, with two vans and two 28-passenger buses. Oasis is as a church-owned company whose mission is to, “transport our community to opportunity.” To date, Oasis has focused on transporting young people to and from to school, to out-of-school time activities and on college tours and to various art, culture and recreational field trips.
As Bible Center celebrates its 60th year of ministry, and continues to pursue its mission—to love God, love people, and follow Jesus, and to accomplish its mission—to advance the Kingdom of God, we thank the Lord for our legacy, we praise Him for our present and we seek His wisdom and guidance for our future.