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Pastors ready church’s move

Center City congregation plans to relocate downtown

When Jim and Jessica Kilmartin came to Altoona from Tyrone and founded a congregation two years ago, they named it Center City Church, although it’s in suburban Pleasant Valley.

Now, the pastor couple is moving the congregation into the building they’d targeted all along — one that helps the name they picked make sense.

It’s the vacant brownstone catty-corner from the Gables Building parking garage, the former First United Methodist Church.

“We heard God’s call to come to Altoona,” Jim Kilmartin said. “To plant a church and be a part of some of the great things happening here.”

The call included “a vision to restore the building.”

“We want to bring it back to life,” he said.

The building is in fairly good shape. Roof leaks fixed by the previous owner damaged some plaster, two cast iron roof drains need to be fixed and the old gas boiler may need to be replaced.

Otherwise, the work needed is mostly cosmetic, Jim said. It includes lots of painting.

The sanctuary restoration especially will respect the existing beauty and tradition of the place, according to Jessica.

The repairs will take place in phases, with work on the sanctuary and annex classrooms in the first phase; work in the kitchen area and social hall in the second; and work on the offices and the old parsonage in the third, Jim said.

The couple is gathering information on costs. They expect to begin a fundraising campaign after the new year.

Jim, who is the founder of Joshua House in Tyrone, isn’t sure what form the fundraising will take, but it will reach beyond the congregation, he said.

The couple’s goal is to occupy the building by fall 2020 and to hold a grand-opening before Christmas that year, Jim said.

The congregation intends to use the church to serve the community at large, Jim said.

The “beautiful” sanctuary could be a venue for weddings, and the social hall and annex could be venues for Thanksgiving dinners, preschool classes, day care services and after-school programs, perhaps in collaboration with other organizations, they said.

The kitchen could support a food program, Jessica said.

Those are especially useful at the end of the month, “to help people get through,” she said.

The chapel could be available around-the-clock for people who might want to pray there, probably through a keycard arrangement, Jim said.

“We have a big heart,” he said.

The couple has talked to city Mayor Matt Pacifico, who’s “excited” about the plans, Jim said.

Is the prospect daunting?

“How do you eat an elephant?” Jim asked rhetorically. “One bite at a time.”

“It’s a big project, but it’s something we’re passionate about,” he said.

Blair Gastroenterology Associates owns the congregation’s current building, formerly home to the Pleasant Valley Assembly of God, so it’s up to the doctors what to do with it when Center City Church leaves, Jim said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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