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Pa. church breaks ground for 50,000-square-foot worship center

July 17, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Eugene and Lorene Martin were still actively farming corn and alfalfa on their 24.7-acre parcel of land in the late 1990s when Lorene had a dream that a church stood there.

Six months later, the Chambersburg First Church of God approached the Martins about purchasing their land at the intersection of Grand Point and Kohler roads. It wasn't for sale at the time, but the Martins appreciated the church's plans and sold the property in 1997.

The couple sat under a tent on the land Sunday as the church broke ground for a 50,000-square-foot facility costing an estimated $5.8 million.

"We're bridging generations because we're building this church for generations to come," the Rev. Earl E. Mills said.

The next generation was a prominent fixture of Sunday's service, during which the children were featured in a skit, pulled a plow and teamed with adults to build a bridge with bricks. The children's classes raised $14,000 for the new church in 12 weeks.

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The church, which has 450 members, raised more than $1 million, financed $2 million and rounded out the cost of the new facility by selling the 27,000-square-foot facility on U.S. 30 to Jesus is Lord Ministries from Biglerville, Pa.

Expected to open in a year, the new facility with 29 Sunday School classrooms and a sanctuary for 750 people was the vision of 100 church members on planning committees, Mills said.

Those planners designed the sanctuary, decor and everything "right down to the kitchen sink," he joked.

Wayne Boyer, executive director of the Churches of God General Conference, reminded the hundreds of people gathered for the service that construction crews are building a church, but God is building his ministry.

"There are 160 new homes across the road. We're going to be surrounded by community (and) all sorts of ministry opportunities," said Tom Kennedy, speaking for the building committee.

The Chambersburg First Church of God had its beginning in 1850 and opened its first building at the corner of Queen and Water streets in 1858. A new building opened on the same site in 1867 after Gen. John McCausland burned the original building on July 30, 1864.

The Chambersburg First Church of God moved into a formerly Methodist church at the corner of McKinley and Second streets in 1894.

In 1964, the church moved to 339 Lincoln Way East and was rebuilt in the late 1970s. A congregation voted 89.6 percent in favor of purchasing the farm at the intersection of Grand Point and Kohler roads on Nov. 1, 1997.

An outdoor ministry area with pavilion and baseball field became functional in the fall of 2001 at the site.

Mills acknowledged the move could be bittersweet for people who said goodbye to friends, had been married, were committed to Christ or had a child dedicated at the altar of the old church.

"I got emotional when I thought about some of the events that have happened in that sanctuary," Mills said, but he then looked over the crowd and reminded it that a church is about the people.

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