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St. Paul's church conducts renovations

| Thursday, June 5, 2014, 1:30 p.m.
Cami DiBattista | for the Ligonier Echo
Rita Horrell of Darlington shows the new entrance way leading into St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church. The 126-year-old church recently received an upgraded, handicapped accessible entrance way, complete with French doors. Additionally, a front pew was adapted to add space for a wheelchair or other motorized device. Improvements to the building will also more easily allow full funeral services to be held at the church. Previous preparations included temporary removal of several of the back pews.

Congregation members of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Darlington recently completed an addition to the more than 125-year-old church.

A new handicap accessible entrance way was completed several weeks ago.

“It came out really well,” said the Rev. John Tollner. “It's much more accessible and it looks wonderful.”

While both the front and back original entrance ways remain, the new ramped entrance complete with two French doors, is level with the parking lot and allows for easier access into the building.

“When the church was built, people came in horses and buggies and didn't think much of climbing a few steps,” said Tollner, who resides in Derry. “But today many of our congregation, myself included, needed better access.”

Tollner, who has been with St. Paul's for the last decade, said additional improvements include splitting a front row pew to allow space for a wheelchair.

Chairman of the committee for the project, Larry Geary said the addition has been in the works for quite some time but was deferred due to a recent sewerage project.

“We didn't want to put up an addition and then have to dig it back up,” Geary said.

St. Paul church members hope that those in the community who wish to attend services but were previously unable due to limited access, will now be able to come and worship.

Longtime church member and committee member for the project, Rita Horrell, said the church will now also more easily be able to hold full funeral services due to the improvement.

In the past, back rows of pews had to be temporarily removed to allow for a casket.

Horrell, whose grandparents were charter members of the church, said often memorial services were held at the funeral parlor.

Last year marked St. Paul's 125th anniversary. Church members celebrated with an afternoon church service and lunch.

“We had six guest ministers attend, along with some of our past ministers and the assistant for the bishop,” said Horrell.

Pictures and memorabilia were displayed for the event, which drew in over 100 people.

“It was a really great day,” Horrell recalled.