Five years ago, in July 2012, a property was acquired on Orchard Road in Walker Township that members of the Community Chapel of Hesston hoped and prayed would become their new church home.
Thanks to the relentless faith, prayer, hard work and support from the congregation and the larger community, the first official service in the new church home will be held at 9 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 9. Sunday school will follow at 10:30 a.m.
The original location of the Community Chapel of Hesston on Turkey Farm Road in Hesston had been the congregation’s home since 1983, but substantial growth members in recent years prompted leadership to think about a new location.
In 2013, the church began to hold two services to accommodate people, as normal seating capacity of the previous church is approximately 216 in the sanctuary, but as many as 240-280 currently attended both the 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. services each Sunday.
Now, with the arrival of the Christmas season, there’s now more room at the inn, so to speak, as seating in the new facility accommodates 550 people, and all members can be united in one building.
For Rev. Scott Decker, senior pastor, the new location is bittersweet, but definitely more sweet than bitter.
“I think of the 38 and one-half years of ministry that have taken place at the old facility, you think of the heart and dedication of the leaders and the lives that have been touched,” he said. “It’s not the closing of a book, but it’s definitely the closing of a chapter.
“We’re sensitive to the ties that people have with the original facility,” he said. “But, we also want to remember that we didn’t leave the church, but we left the building, but we also want to remember the ties that people have to the old church.”
The congregation’s new chapter will begin in a 29,444-square-foot building with more classroom space for Sunday school classes, Pioneer Club and youth ministries, larger offices and a multi-purpose facility with a large kitchen to be used for monthly senior citizen luncheons the church hosts and other functions.
Though congregants believed they would be in the new facility by mid-summer, delays kept them from moving in until now.
“On the concrete, there was cure that needed to dissipate before carpet could be installed,” said Decker. “The contractor worked hard to grind it off before they could install the carpet.”
Construction of the building was led by Leonard S. Fiore Inc. of Altoona; electrical work was done by Fulton Electrical Services LLC of Harrisonville; the sprinkler system was installed by D.C. Goodman & Sons of Huntingdon; and HVAC work was completed by Goodco Mechanical of State College.
According to Decker and assistant pastor, the Rev. Doug Wagner, despite the delays, the congregants of the church were relentless with their patience and prayer, knowing that they would eventually move in “God’s time.”
“It required patience, but we knew the anticipation was growing,” said Decker.
An “unofficial” service was held Dec. 2 for congregation members, and Decker and Wagner were overjoyed to see the faces of 300 people.
“The sweetest part was to be able to hear the voices of 300 people singing together,” said Decker. “I had to stop singing because I wanted to hear them sing all together once again.”
Decker noted the delays did not add to the final cost of the project, but that they tried to save costs on as many things as possible, including using furniture and other items from the old church, including the original pulpit that was built by founding member Frank Norris.
Additionally, many vendors offered discounts on items and services, as they believe in the vision of the church.
Many congregants helped to prepare the church by painting rooms, moving items and getting them ready for services.
While a new church location is a momentous occasion for all involved, it means the most for Decker and Wagner, as well as church members and leaders, is they can offer a “healing word to a hurting world” to more people, no matter the location.
Wagner said specifically the youth ministries can grow, and the new Community Chapel of Hesston can become a place where young people can come and find refuge through various activities and ministry opportunities.
No matter the age, Decker said the Community Chapel of Hesston will always be a place where people can find refuge and solace with the relentless pursuit of Christ.
“The number one thing we do in our ministry is the relentless pursuit of Christ and the relentless pursuit of the lost,” he said.
A spaghetti dinner will also be held at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, to support members in their missions trip to El Salvador between Christmas and the new year, which will be the first time they will use the new commercial kitchen facility and multipurpose room.
The church location at the corner of Turkey Farm and Seven Points roads in Penn Township is currently listed for sale with Dustin Brenneman of Starr & Associates Realty of Huntingdon.