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URBANA — A new fellowship hall for Urbana’s Trinity Lutheran Church is on the way.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the $2.5 million project is planned for 10 a.m. Sunday, and construction is expected to start this summer after the existing hall is demolished.

The fellowship hall has been closed since last year for safety’s sake due to a leaking roof and a ceiling that “is literally falling down,” said David Kuehn, a church member since 1985 and chairman of the church’s building committee.

Given the pandemic and restrictions that went with it, Kuehn said the church wouldn’t have been able to use the current fellowship hall much last year anyway.

“But prior to the pandemic, we really did use the fellowship hall a lot, and we really need it,” he said.

Church leaders began exploring replacing the building after learning that a roof replacement was going to run about $500,000, he said.

As part of the planning process for the new fellowship hall, church leaders met with residents in the neighborhood to get their input, Kuehn said.

Plans call for replacing the existing building with one that will accommodate about 200 people.

It will have a similar footprint to the existing hall — minus the basement — but will be more accessible, with everything on one level and no stairs, Kuehn said.

In addition to the main gathering area, it will have two classrooms, a commercial kitchen, two restrooms and a covered entrance, he said.

The church itself, along with its classroom wing and preschool area, are remaining intact, and services will continue in the sanctuary through the construction project, Kuehn said.

The new hall is being funded with $1.3 million in church member pledges and a loan, he said.

The church’s pastor, the Rev. Shawn Boylan, said this fellowship hall is needed not just for church gatherings but numerous other activities, some involving the broader community.

Just some of the uses this church needs its fellowship hall for, Boylan said, is its live Nativity scene, vacation Bible school, rummage sales and preparing Operation Christmas Child boxes.

The fellowship hall has also been used to host the DREAAM program. And church leaders are also exploring and praying about the potential for using the new building for outreach to “people forgotten in our community,” he said.

“Our goal is really just to draw closer to Jesus, and in doing that, we believe God will inspire us to use it for his glory,” Boylan said.

Trinity Lutheran, which has a congregation of about 150, already supports two schools in Haiti with a daily meal for each school child through a partnership with the Lutheran ministry organization Trinity Hope.

The new hall is set to be completed at the end of the year or in January 2022, he said.

A groundbreaking ceremony is set for this Sunday behind the church at the corner of Florida Avenue and Anderson Street, and all are welcome, church leaders said.

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