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Last updated November 24.

June 18, 2007 issue

Three years after fire, Kansas church has new home

By Laura Campbell Hillsboro Free Press

HILLSBORO, Kan. — It was called “Transition Sunday” June 3 when members of Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church walked from Brown Gymnasium at Hillsboro High School — their Sunday morning site of three-plus years — to their new $5 million building on the east edge of town.

Joe and Brenda Sechrist, center, with children Tanner, Emily and Abigail, walk with Kandis and Terry Pankratz during Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church’s “Transition Sunday” trek from Hillsboro High School to the church’s new home.

Joe and Brenda Sechrist, center, with children Tanner, Emily and Abigail, walk with Kandis and Terry Pankratz during Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church’s “Transition Sunday” trek from Hillsboro High School to the church’s new home. — Photo by Dan Ratzlaff/Hillsboro Free Press

But another “T” word will share the spotlight this summer at Hillsboro MB: thanksgiving.

More than three years after a March 2004 fire destroyed its church building, Hillsboro MB met for the first time in its new home for the second half of its Sunday morning gathering.

On Entrance Sunday June 10, it celebrated its first full service in the sanctuary.

So began a gratitude-filled phase in what church moderator Don Ratzlaff said has been a challenging but rewarding journey for the congregation.

It has involved much more than just replacing one church building with another.

Ideas of merging with another Mennonite Brethren congregation in town, purchasing the building of another congregation and building on the Tabor College campus had all been floated.

“So we had to work through all of that, which is one of the reasons we’re three-plus years in getting done,” Ratzlaff said.

Ultimately, the congregation settled on constructing a 40,000-square-foot building on an 11-acre campus at Prairie Pointe and C streets. But the lengthy decision-making process took the congregation into spiritual reflection as well.

““I look back at the fire, and I think of it as a great blessing in a sense,” Ratzlaff said. “Not that we wanted to lose our building, but it forced us to deal with issues that ultimately will be helpful — to us and our faith, but also in terms of service to the community.

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