More than the usual excitement will be in the air this Easter at Hillside Community Church in Bellwood.
The church has added a service to welcome newcomers.
While that is not significant in itself, the location of the service is.
(Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski) Youth Pastor John Poe and music director Pam Meiser will be part of the team serving two campuses when Hillside Community Church opens a second site at 11 a.m. April 8 in Juniata. Poe also will serve as campus pastor at Juniata.
It will be held seven miles away in the Juniata section of Altoona where Hillside will launch a second campus at the former Community Bible Church, 522 N. Sixth Ave.
The Juniata campus answers a need and a prayer and was acquired in a way the congregation did not expect.
Ken Beichler, senior pastor at Hillside, said he began to get a desire to help meet the spiritual needs of the people in Juniata last spring when visiting his father who lives in the area.
"There seemed to be a lot of unchurched people in Juniata," Beichler said.
Beichler shared his desire with his pastoral staff and elders and gave them a book to read about churches with multiple sites.
Then in April, Beichler said he got a call from an elder at Community Bible Church in Juniata.
Out of the blue, he asked if Hillside wanted to buy the church, Beichler said.
"They were dissolving and their bylaws required that they sell to a church that agreed with them in doctrine," he said.
He presented the proposal to the congregation, but asked them to articulate their thoughts and to consider any questions they might have. Because people take vacations in the summer, Beichler said the church waited until September to answer questions and put the acquisition to a vote.
He said because no additional staff initially is being hired for the second site, the Juniata building is expected to cost the churchcost about $50,000 for the first year.
On Dec. 22, Hillside legally purchased the Juniata church and its parsonage for $1.
"God was opening the door," Beichler said. "God gave us an opportunity, and we get to be good stewards of it."
The first service at the Hillside Juniata campus will be held at 11 a.m. April 8 with about 50 members traveling from Bellwood to Juniata to welcome newcomers to the service.
The congregation has sent invitations to about 5,000 residents in the Juniata and Fairview areas, telling them about the new church.
"I love it," said music director Pam Meiser of the second church. "I'm excited to see what God is going to do."
Meiser of Altoona and a 30-member choir, along with about 10 instrumentalists and several singers on the praise and worship team, will be part of an entourage making the 15-minute trip.
The Juniata campus also will be staffed with greeters, nursery workers, a sound technician, other volunteers and pastors from the Bellwood campus.
John Poe, youth pastor, has been named campus pastor at the Juniata site. He will leave Bellwood after the 8:45 a.m. service to prepare for the Juniata service, along with some of the volunteers.
The praise and worship team will leave the 10 a.m. service in Bellwood about 10:30 a.m. They will lead worship at Juniata while Beichler gives his message for the second time at Bellwood. Beichler will then join them in Juniata. By the end of the morning, some staff and volunteers will have been part of three services.
"It has been overwhelming to see the amount of people who signed on the dotted line from the Bellwood campus," Meiser said of the volunteers.
Although the choir only sings during certain times of the year, she said 10 musicians will make the trip weekly as well as praise and worship singers.
She said there is a strong unity in the church.
"It's been good to see the church people come together and commit to this purpose. It's been awesome so far, and I don't expect anything less [in the future]," Meiser said.
The support became evident after Christmas when volunteers began sprucing up the second campus.
"Fifty people would show up on a Saturday," Beichler said. "They cleaned, hauled away materials and painted."
He said about 70 different people helped with the project, including his son, who recently moved back to the area and has experience as a maintenance director.
"The support from the people, that's what makes it work," Poe said.
Beichler said the cost to refurbish the building was about $15,000 to $20,000, and Poe said that because Community Bible Church dissolved, it left a lot of equipment the Hillside campus could use, including a drum set.
Poe called the Juniata church a blessing.
"It wasn't something we were looking for," Poe said. "From our vantage point, it's God at work."