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Congregation marches to its future

October 19, 1997

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Nearly 200 members of St. Paul United Methodist Church made their final journey Sunday morning to a place they can finally call their own.

"This is a day of overwhelming joy for me and this congregation," said the Rev. Harold E. Posey, senior pastor.

Almost three years after its near century-old brick church at the corner of Second and Queen streets was destroyed by arson, the congregation made its way along the streets of Chambersburg in a mile-and-a-half winding route that led them to their new church at Fifth Street and Norland Avenue extended at the edge of the borough.

Carrying Bibles, hymnals and other supplies to the new site, the sneaker-wearing crowd followed behind a crucifer, banner bearers and a small marching band to the almost-completed, 46,000-square-foot structure on a 10-acre parcel of land that sits atop so-called St. Paul Hill.

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"This is a transition from what we were in to here. It's a new beginning of the church," said Terri Yeager, a member and walker.

Since the February 19, 1995, fire gutted the church downtown, the 800-member congregation has met in five different locations throughout Chambersburg, Posey said.

Though members were divided on whether to build on the original site or move to the new location, there was never a doubt among the members of the congregation that they would eventually have their own church again.

"We knew we'd do it. This is wonderful," said June Plummer of Chambersburg, a member of the chancel choir who sang in the new church for the first time Sunday.

The congregation met in the church's family life center - a large all-purpose room designed for recreation activities, dinners and other large gatherings - for a short service after the walk.

They will meet there until construction of the nave, or main part of the church, and a two-story vestibule are completed, which Posey said is expected in January.

The nave and chapel will feature windows from restored and reproduced stained glass from the former church, which was built in 1896. Also placed in the new church will be some restored antique furniture from the burned structure.

Finished is a modern, two-story Sunday school building with several classrooms wired for computers, a library, a choir rehearsal room, youth center, a child care facility and the family life center that adjoins the church. An administrative annex with offices, conference rooms and a reception area connects on the other side.

The $6 million building project is financed with an insurance settlement of $4.2 million and pledges from the congregation of $1.2 million. The church will have to borrow about $1.4 million, Posey said.

"It's a real inspiration. It's a long time coming," said Debbie Addleman of Chambersburg, who walked in the procession with her husband, Jeff, and son, Jason, 9.

"We just wanted to be a part of it. This is something we'll remember for the rest of our lives," said Jeff Addleman.

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