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Mill Run church breaks ground on 'new beginning'

Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review - The Rev. Randy Newell closes the groundbreaking ceremony with a blessing on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, at the site of the former Mill Run United Methodist Church in Mill Run.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Eric Schmadel  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The Rev. Randy Newell closes the groundbreaking ceremony with a blessing on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, at the site of the former Mill Run United Methodist Church in Mill Run.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review - Parishoners toss shovels full of dirt during the groundbreaking on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, at the site of the former Mill Run United Methodist Church in Mill Run.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Eric Schmadel  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Parishoners toss shovels full of dirt during the groundbreaking on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, at the site of the former Mill Run United Methodist Church in Mill Run.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review - The Rev. Randy Newell prepares to take part in the groundbreaking on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, at the site of the former Mill Run United Methodist Church in Mill Run.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Eric Schmadel  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The Rev. Randy Newell prepares to take part in the groundbreaking on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, at the site of the former Mill Run United Methodist Church in Mill Run.
By Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

A year ago, volunteer firefighter Doug Meyers fought to quell the flames engulfing Mill Run United Methodist Church, the church where he was baptized. On Sunday, Meyers, a lifelong church member, joined about 60 others who drove shovels into frozen dirt where the church had stood since 1896 and where a new church likely will stand by November.

“The building may burn, but the church cannot be destroyed,” said Randy Newell, the church's pastor.

Meyers, a member of the Normalville Volunteer Fire Department, attended the groundbreaking with his wife, daughter and parents.

“It's long-awaited,” Meyers said about the groundbreaking. “I'm glad for the new beginning.”

The original church's bell and steeple will be restored and incorporated into the new building. Newell said nothing else was salvageable except for the altar Bible, which will be displayed in a case.

“We never lost a page,” he said.

The flames destroyed the church's wooden structure, which collapsed in on itself. The decades-old church stood three stories tall along Route 381 in Mill Run, a part of Springfield Township in Fayette County.

The fire occurred just after completion of a five-year renovation project.

Building plans include a single-story church of the same square footage with a sanctuary, fellowship hall, gym and kitchen. Newell hopes construction will be complete

In the meantime, the congregation of about 70 regular weekly attendees worship at Camp Christian, about two miles from Mill Run United Methodist Church.

At the groundbreaking, a line of children and adults heaving shovels gathered at the snowy site where the building once stood.

Roy Shipley, president of the church's trustees, said the group has been meeting three or four times a week and has looked at dozens of other churches for ideas.

He estimated the project's cost at $900,000 to $1 million. Site preparation work will begin once the wintry weather ends, Shipley said.

Insurance coverage and “bits and pieces” donations will fund the project, Newell said. He said the church plans to rebuild without borrowing money.

“We will work within our means,” he said.

The groundbreaking occurred on the first Sunday of Lent.

“It's been a long time coming,” Newell said. “God is never late. He is never early. He's just on time.”

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or rskena@tribweb.com.

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