Sunday, October 06, 2002

Growing church prepares for more

$3.3M expansion being planned at Faith United

By Karen Vance
Enquirer contributor

        WEST CHESTER TWP. - In five years the Faith United Methodist Church in West Chester has doubled in size. Now, the congregation, which grew from 350 to 750 people, is taking steps to more than double the size of its building.

        “Our goal is not to grow a large church, it's to grow a healthy church,” said Pastor David Bridgman, who is leading his fourth congregation through a building project.

        Much of the $3.3 million, 27,000-square-foot expansion of the church on Cox Road is intended to make more room for the services necessary for a healthy church, such as space for Sunday school and small-group meetings in a Christian Living Center.

        The church is renting 15 classrooms on Sundays from the nearby Hopewell Junior High School, and starting today, it will be renting the gymnasium for two of its five weekend services, Pastor Bridgman said.

        Three of the services, at 9:15, 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., are contemporary services, while concurrent traditional services are held at 9:15 and 11 a.m. in the church's 300-seat chapel. The project includes a 500-seat gathering area for the contemporary services.

        “We feel one of our values is to honor the different varieties of service and lift them up as both valid ways to worship God,” he said.

        Currently, the services are about evenly attended.

        The church also has a strong music ministry with nearly 200 volunteers, and classes and programs for nursery-aged children through adults. Pastor Bridgman hopes to support a possible congregation as large as 1,500 people.

        Much of the growth can be attributed to the booming area, but for members like Carol Lockard it has a lot to do with the spirit of the church itself.

        “It's a dynamic church, and you can just feel the spirituality. And I really like the pastor. He preaches the Bible, not about football or baseball games, and how to live your Christian life,” she said. “If you have those things happening, you can't help but grow.”

        Mrs. Lockard and her husband, Paul, moved to Liberty Township from the Cheviot area about seven years ago. But they didn't settle on a church until about four years ago. Now, they're on the building committee and are excited to be a part of the church's new chapter.

        “We're not doing this in anticipation of future growth. We have a real need now,” she said. “There are times now when we have trouble finding a place to meet because there are so many things going on. I just hope we don't outgrow the church before it's built.”


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