Pa. church sings praises of expansion

April 05, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - In 1884, the small congregation of Antrim Brethren in Christ Church held its first services in a barn that, 120 years later, probably could have fit in the church's new Family Life Center with plenty of room to spare.

Although completed last November, the church held a grand opening for its new addition on Palm Sunday with more than 600 congregants and guests coming to the 10:30 a.m. contemporary worship service. After the service, the center was being set up for an evening concert headlined by the British band Delirious? that was expected to draw about 1,000 people.

"God wants us to do something here that is bigger than any individual," Senior Pastor Dwayne Potteiger said in the voluminous center, which has the floor space to accommodate a collegiate basketball court. It can be used for a full-court game, or divided into two junior-size basketball courts or three volleyball courts.


"I have a vision of people who have given up on church, but have not given up on God," Potteiger said. He said part of that vision was to provide events and activities that would attract people from outside the church's official membership of approximately 500 people.

"We have more attendees than members," said Carl Shank, the pastor for adult discipleship. That is the opposite of the situation for many churches and Shank said, "We're happy to have the reverse."

The members of the congregation and others who attend the church on Kauffman Road in Antrim Township raised more than half the $4.18 million for the addition of new space and renovation of existing areas of the church, Shank said. The balance was financed, he said.

Almost $3.6 million of that was for construction and renovation, with the rest of the money spent on furnishings and equipment, according to a fact sheet about the center. Shank said about 44,000 square feet were added or renovated at the church, which has about 77,000 square feet under roof.

"I've been coming to church here for 31/2 years and I've seen such significant growth," said Dana Given of Greencastle, Pa. "Now we have a place for extracurricular activities."

In addition to its large multipurpose room, the Family Life Center includes a youth room, kitchen, nurseries and hospitality area where people can mix before or after services, Given said. There also are 11 new classrooms, one of which more closely resembles a college lecture hall than a Sunday school class, with live television simulcast capability, Given said.

After the service, the youth room had a couple of dozen kids inside playing pool, table tennis and other games. It also serves as home to Chill Point, an after-school program, said Greg Lescalleet, who works with the church's youth programs.

"It gives kids a place to hang out, rather than be latchkey kids," Lescalleet said.

"What youth wouldn't want to be here?" asked Given, the mother of two teenage sons.

Given said that, before the addition, the church was holding three Sunday morning services in the old sanctuary, which still is used for the 9 a.m. traditional worship service.

"My wife's family goes back 80-some years at this church," Greencastle Mayor Robert "Red" Pensinger said at the beginning of the service. He said the Greencastle area is one of the fastest-growing in Franklin County "and because of your foresight, you are in a position to grow with the community."

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