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Murr helps congregation realize dream with construction project

June 23, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN

The Rev. James O. Murr Jr. arrived at Concordia Lutheran Church about two years ago, smack dab in the middle of a dream - someone else's.

But that dream, or at least Phase I of it, quickly became his dream, too, and now the expansive new classroom areas, administrative offices and a narthax addition nearly are ready for occupancy.

A dedication ceremony is planned for July 16, and an open house is set for sometime in September, Murr said.

"The architectural plans had already been drawn when I was new here," Murr said. He was installed in June 2004 as pastor of the church at 17906 Garden Lane.

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Coming to the church seemed like almost fate for Murr.

Born in Pittsburgh, Murr attended both Concordia College in Bronxville, N.Y., then Concordia College in Ann Arbor, Mich. He graduated in 1988 with a bachelor's degree in religion, and minors in psychology, sociology and Greek.

When it came time to continue his studies, Murr chose Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. After three years in Philadelphia and another nine in western New York, the Murrs found themselves at Concordia Lutheran Church.

The building project was launched mainly because the needs and the numbers (115 to 120 average attendance) at Concordia were growing.

But there also was another, more long-range goal.

"The members here have had a vision of starting a preschool," Murr said. "It's an old dream, but all of this has been in furtherance of that dream."

Much of the Phase I exterior construction was performed by The Laborers for Christ - retirees and their spouses who are associated with the Lutheran Church's Missouri Synod. They and their recreational vehicles were on site from April through October 2005, Murr said.

Concordia volunteers and paid subcontractors have continued with the work since then. That has included expanded parking areas and extensive landscaping.

Phase II will involve completing the lower level, which now is just a shell of what will be a multipurpose area and a commercial kitchen, Murr said.

"I've never been involved in anything like this before," Murr said, adding that it has been a rewarding experience. He said he has had some ideas, and he got a new office out of it.

Bottom line, the expansion project is expected to increase opportunities for ministry to the community.

The congregation already hosts a free breakfast the first Sunday of every month for anyone who wants to come. Murr said three teams of five or six members take turns preparing those meals.

Murr and his wife, Karen, and their daughter, Alexis, 7, are happy to be farther south from their previous upstate New York church.

"There was a lot of snow there," Murr said. "We like the cool springs and summers here."

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