Ephrata Community Church plans $15.3M expansion

By on April 9, 2018

Congregation began in a converted barn

Pastor Kevin Eshleman looks out his office window to the distant farm house where a small Bible study group forged the foundation of what has become a growing Ephrata Community Church.

Those beginnings in the 1970s blossomed into a large congregation that is starting an estimated $15.3 million building expansion to serve those within the church but also the community.

The project that is due to start this month will more than double auditorium seating from about 700 to 1,600 and add more than 56,000 square feet to the building along Clay School Road.

“We need to provide for the growing needs of the congregation,” Eshleman said. He told the congregation earlier this month that the expansion, five years in the making, is moving forward with a groundbreaking planned for April 8.

“The reaction was good and people are looking forward to it becoming reality,” he said. The addition’s contemporary design includes a new auditorium, a youth and multi-use gymnasium, more secure children’s ministry area, kitchen, and indoor play area for children. Eshleman estimated 400 to 500 children attend the church each weekend.

“God has really led us through this,” Eshleman said. “The challenges we’ve faced have not been overwhelming.”

The church began in 1977 with 12 people and moved into a converted barn in 1979 that now houses Gateway House of Prayer. The current church building opened in 2005 and hosts a Saturday evening service and three Sunday services.

Eshleman said another practical aspect of the expansion focuses on what is beyond the boundaries of the 22-acre property.

“A second reason is to care for our community,” he said. The lead pastor said that with government cutting back on some of the basic services people need, the church can help fill the gap. Eshleman said that can include hosting various support groups, job retraining and other services.

“We want to wear the building out with use,” he said. The current 43,000 square foot church is located along state Route 322 in Clay Township. He said the church has worked with the municipality and neighbors as plans have progressed.

“We expect to be fully done by 2020,” Eshleman said. Horst Construction and Cornerstone Design-Architects, both in Lancaster County, are working on the project. Eshleman said initial cost estimates haven’t really changed since planning began.

“The congregation is very, very generous,” he said. He said the congregation had no debt when it moved into the current building. He said that if there were ever a choice between preserving the ministry and the burden of debt, ministry would win out.

“We want to be very careful that we don’t tax the congregation,” he said.

The interdenominational church attracts members mainly from Lancaster, Lebanon and Berks counties and is active in mission work.

“We really have people here from all backgrounds,” he said. “This congregation really is diverse.”

A public groundbreaking ceremony is planned for Sunday, April 8, at 3 p.m.

 

About Patrick Burns

Social media editor and staff writer for Ephrata Review and Lititz Record Express.

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