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Cranberry church plans added classroom, activity space in centennial year

| Sunday, May 8, 2016, 8:12 p.m.
The Rev. Chris Suehr, left,  Heather Cotariu, director of youth and family ministries, and the Rev. Ron Brown, senior pastor, stand in the area where an expansion at Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cranberry will take place, Thursday, May 5, 2016. The church also is celebrating its centennial.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
The Rev. Chris Suehr, left, Heather Cotariu, director of youth and family ministries, and the Rev. Ron Brown, senior pastor, stand in the area where an expansion at Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cranberry will take place, Thursday, May 5, 2016. The church also is celebrating its centennial.
The bell tower at Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cranberry, Thursday, May 5, 2016. The church is celebrating its centennial as well as launching an expansion project.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
The bell tower at Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cranberry, Thursday, May 5, 2016. The church is celebrating its centennial as well as launching an expansion project.
The area where the expansion at Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cranberry will take place, shown Thursday, May 5, 2016. The church is celebrating its centennial as well as launching an expansion project.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
The area where the expansion at Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cranberry will take place, shown Thursday, May 5, 2016. The church is celebrating its centennial as well as launching an expansion project.

Keeping up with the growth of Cranberry over the past few decades has been no easy task.

But a church that has called the township home for 100 years seems to be doing exactly that.

As Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church on Rowan Road prepares to celebrate its centennial, church officials have been putting the finishing touches on plans for a 6,600-square-foot expansion. Plans are awaiting final township approval, which could come next month.

The expansion will include increased classroom space for the church's religious education programs, added office space and a fellowship area that will accommodate more than 350 people with just chairs alone or 168 people using tables and chairs.

According to Steve Smith, chairman of the church's property committee, the project not only will provide more room for the church's in-house programs, but also will allow for more outside community groups to use the church's facilities.

“Serving the community is an important part of the church's vision,” Smith said.

The Rev. Ron Brown, who came to Hope Lutheran in 2003, said the expansion is just the latest step in what has been a remarkable period of growth for the church, which now has nearly 1,300 baptized members.

The congregation, he said, has embraced the project, with 94 percent expressing their approval.

“This project will meet our needs for the foreseeable future and beyond,” Brown said. “But we also have to be fiscally responsible. We need a bigger building, but we still want to be able to fulfill our mission.”

That mission, Brown said, involves “knowing God, inspiring people and transforming lives.”

The church held a stewardship appeal in the fall of 2015 that saw 170 members pledge a total of more than $500,000 to the project over a two-year period. That, along with a building fund balance of $475,000 and $1.3 million in loan proceeds, will be used to fund the expansion.

The project represents Phase II of an expansion that began in 2010, when the existing worship space was renovated and enlarged, while a narthex, or lobby area, was added.

Even then, Smith said, work was done with an eye toward the future, as parking accommodations and stormwater maintenance facilities were built in anticipation of the church's continued growth.

After a groundbreaking is held May 22, the first step in the process will be the razing of the Hope house on adjoining property the church purchased in 2013. That is scheduled for June 6.

Smith said there is an anticipated seven-month construction period. He said the impact the construction will have on weekend worship services should be limited, since the sanctuary itself will not be under construction. Parking, however, could be affected.

Heather Cotariu, director of youth and family ministry, said religious education classes likely will be moved to temporary classrooms that will be placed on site during construction.

The church was chartered in October 1916 with 44 original signatures, and work on the first building along Franklin Road began the following year.

As a result, according to the Rev. Chris Suehr, the centennial celebration will begin this year but continue into next, when it will also coincide with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation — essentially the founding of the Lutheran religion.

A combined dedication of the new addition and celebration of that 500th anniversary tentatively is set for October 2017.

Ground was broken at the current Rowan Road site in 1971 on property that had been purchased from the Graham Estate. The new building was dedicated in May 1972.

Vince Townley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-772-6364 or vtownley@tribweb.com.

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