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Retiree devotes time to repair his church

July 06, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

When it became apparent that Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in Hagerstown was in need of repairs, Robert McKinley agreed to be project manager for two reasons.

"I'm retired so I have the time," McKinley said. But more importantly, he said, he is devoted to the church in which he and his wife, Elizabeth, were baptized in 1957.

In the 1950s, McKinley began studying the Bible with a man with whom he'd been working at the former Fairchild plant in Hagerstown. "I was interested in what the Bible really teaches, having become disillusioned with organized religion," McKinley said.

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It was that interest that drew McKinley to Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, which is at 30 Nottingham Road in Hagerstown's West End. "I knew this was for us. Elizabeth and I have examined the Bible together and were baptized here together," he said.

McKinley, 68, said his association with the Jehovah's Witnesses has had a tremendous impact on his life. "Christianity is 'the way' and witnesses today look at it the same way the disciples did in the Bible," he said. "It affects every facet of one's life."

So putting his faith into action for the current project at the church was hardly a stretch for McKinley. With a background in electrical engineering and drafting at both Fairchild and later for 35 years with Potomac Edison (now Allegheny Energy), McKinley has been overseeing the work during the renovations.

The original small church building was constructed in 1953 at the current site. In 1975, a large auditorium was added and in 1993, a project McKinley described as redecorating occurred.

"We needed to upgrade our heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and once we got into that, it was decided to do some other things while we were at it," he said.

Lighting fixtures were replaced throughout and some new ceilings were installed, he said. The 228 chairs in the auditorium were removed so they could be reupholstered.

The work at the church is being done by local volunteers through the week, McKinley said. On the weekends, the regional building committee for the Baltimore/Washington area of Jehovah's Witnesses sends groups of workers in with expertise in certain areas such as drywall and painting.

"It's great they have these people to send to us," McKinley said, adding that Jehovah's Witnesses from Hagerstown often are assigned to other churches that are doing work. The local congregation pays for supplies and equipment, he said.

Born in Frostburg, Md., McKinley attended schools there. It was the job at Fairchild that brought him to Hagerstown.

"After I retired from Potomac Edison in 1996, I entered the pioneer ministry of our church," McKinley said. "That means I devote at least 70 hours a month to Bible studies and making home visits with my wife who has been with pioneer ministry for 11 years."

While the work has involved long days since it began on April 23, McKinley said it has been rewarding, both for the building and for his faith.

Part of the 200-member west congregation, the McKinleys attend services on Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings. The east congregation, which is of a similar size, meets in the same building on Sunday afternoons and Tuesday evenings.

"We share the hall and we also have joint book studies in private homes," McKinley said. "It's a worldwide brotherhood. That means Elizabeth and I have friends everywhere."

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