Area church builds for the future

September 13, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

HAGERSTOWN - As parishioners with Concordia Lutheran Church asked for God's blessing on Sunday during a groundbreaking for the estimated $1.1 million first phase of an expansion, Pastor James Murr Jr. spoke of the congregation's vision.

"We know buildings are not the true vision," Murr said. The true vision is changing lives with the good news of Jesus, he said.

The congregation's long-term vision is to have day care and a Christian school for students in kindergarten through high school, Elder Robert Shives said.


The more immediate need is space for Bible study classes, which are being held in almost every nook and cranny the church has, as well as in peoples' homes, church officials said. The church, which is near Halfway, has even used donated empty retail space.

"We literally have class in every room but the bathrooms," said Shives' wife, Sylvia, who teaches Sunday school.

Robert Shives said he thinks the church at 17906 Garden Lane near Oak Ridge Apartments could have day care within five years, maybe sooner.

Church members are planning for the day care and school because of the need in the community, Shives said.

"Certainly with the families that have both parents employed and require that care during the day," Shives said.

The 13,000-square-foot educational wing will have six classrooms, two offices and restrooms, said Building Committee Chairman Ron Golem. The new wing will be almost three times the size of the 5,000-square-foot-church.

The first phase includes excavation for a basement under the new wing. Church officials have not begun raising money to finish the basement's interior, which includes a multipurpose room.

Golem hopes to have the ground floor done by the end of 2005 and the basement done "as the Lord permits."

While church leaders dug their shovels in on Sunday, the actual excavation isn't expected to begin until March.

The new building will take up much of the church's front yard and upper parking lot, requiring the current construction of a new parking lot that Golem hopes will be done in mid-October.

The expansion will include a new front entrance and lobby connecting the educational wing and church.

The St. Louis-based Laborers For Christ will help build the educational wing, as will parishioners, Golem said.

Laborers For Christ is a group of retirees who, for minimum wage, help congregations build church facilities, Golem said. They will live in motor homes parked at the church, he said.

On average, the group reduces project costs by 18 percent so the first phase could cost less than $1.1 million, Golem said.

Church members have raised approximately $220,000 of their $300,000 goal, Golem said.

The congregation consists of about 240 members from areas such as Hagerstown, Frederick, Md., Chambersburg, Pa., Greencastle, Pa., and Martinsburg, W.Va., church officials said.

The congregation's growth led to a second Sunday morning service being added in January 2003, Shives said.

Church officials also want to add three rows of pews to the sanctuary, but aren't sure when that will happen.

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