Although the congregation of St. James Lutheran Church claims 1789 as its founding date, the cornerstone for the building that graces the corner of Stratton and York Sts. declares 1911 as the date the current building was completed.
The building has been the focal point of worship, the hub of community programs, the gathering place for the ministry and the work center for the staff of the church. It also houses the St. James Early Learning Center, which nurtures more than 100 children. Since 1911, the building has survived two significant fires, in 1928 and 1969, and completed an extensive expansion in 1997-98 as well as significant renovations in the worship area in 2013. New maintenance improvements are next on the horizon.
Nine months ago, the congregation enlisted the Reverend Renee LiaBraaten, Renaissance Consulting, and assistant to the Bishop for Generosity, New England Synod ELCA, to help raise funds for a three-year capital campaign. The priority is to complete a new rubber roof; re-point brick and replace old windows and HVAC units. Improvements on the Slentz House, which is used as the Gettysburg C.A.R.E.S. Resource Center, are also scheduled. In addition, the project will include security improvements, upgraded alarm systems, improvements to lighting and audio systems in the worship space, refurbishment of the kitchen and renovations to enhance hospitality. The church hopes to raise $1 million.
LiBraaten has helped to identify needs and create a deeper sense of community development. The co-chairs for this project are Dan Bringman and Denise Wood, who have each brought unique leadership skills to this vision.
“This process has been truly amazing,” said Bringman, “as we have been able to energize the congregation for this important venture!”
Hanaleigh Hill, 8, and her younger brother Harrison, even opened and ran a lemonade stand, raising $300, all of which she gave to the campaign. She is planning a hot chocolate and hot cider stand in the coming months.
“I am truly grateful to see how many people have stepped up to become involved,” said Wood.
Nearly 200 commitments from congregation members as well as friends of the community and of the church have been received at this time.
“The goal of $1M appears to be in sight, and this is only possible because of the hard work and vision coming from our congregation members and the wider community,” said associate pastor Andrew Geib. “Some of the upgrades have already begun, but we will continue to keep the energy alive for the next three years.”
As lead pastor Mike Allwein captured in his sermon on Commitment Weekend, “we want to reclaim this building for the work of God’s Kingdom within this community. I pray with gratitude for so many for helping this building and the ministry it generates continue to breathe greater life into our community.”