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Church has a moving experience

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    A sign sits on the Boerne United Pentecostal Church property as buildings arrive at their new home on Highway 46 across from the Hill Country Veterinary Center last Sunday. Star photos by Crystal Henry
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    The Rev. Kerry Hammer stands on his new church property after the buildings arrive.
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Movers make sure everything looks good before parking the structures on the new property.

Several years ago, the Rev. Kerry Hammer built his church with his own two hands. With help from his friends and father, within 24 hours the Boerne United Pentecostal Church was framed and ready to finish.

His small congregation has been worshipping inside the structure since work was complete, but earlier this week the house of worship received a new address – literally.

The church was lifted off its foundation and driven down the road to a new piece of land with the hopes of filling the building with new church members.

Hammer said the decision to move the three buildings – the church, an annex and a storage shed – has been in the works for more than a year. Hammer bought the original property on Frey Street in 2001, but he said he didn’t feel like the church had much visibility and there were challenges with developing the land on that site.

When a developer building nearby cottages made an offer on the Frey Street property, Hammer saw it as a blessing. The sale made it possible to sell the 5.5 acres in a less-visible location and purchase 6.5 acres of property off Highway 46 East where Hammer saw a lot of growth and opportunity to reach new people.

“Everything just fell into place,” he said.

But about a week after Hammer signed the paperwork to sell, Highway 46 went under construction, so there wasn’t a clear pathway to the new site. Hammer and his members waited patiently for the construction to move far enough along so they could relocate the church.

Finally, on a cool, crisp, morning last Sunday, while parishioners were worshipping God in churches across the city, Hammer and his family gathered around their buildings on Frey Street as their church was lifted onto the bed of a semitrailer and hauled about 2.5 miles east.

The lot on Frey eventually was empty and quiet as the church buildings were removed one by one. The buildings moved slowly along River Road and Highway 46 as Boerne police cleared a path.

The trucks arrived in the new lot across from the Kendall County Veterinary Center. Hammer said the buildings will stay on the trailers for a while until the site is fully prepared and the foundation is poured. He proudly pointed to the rebar running inside the ruts and painted a picture of church doors and parking spaces he hopes to fill.

Hammer said the church really has only three families who attend regularly, but he’s hoping the new location in the middle of so much new construction will attract new members.

“But we know visibility doesn’t always mean growth,” he said. Right now he said “when everyone shows up” the church has about 25 attendees, but the building will hold 72.

For now, the small congregation will meet Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings in the kitchen of a Methodist church in town until the buildings are settled in the new location. Hammer said it will likely take at least three to four months.

“There’s a lot of work to be done here,” he said.

Although moving three buildings seems like a monumental task, Hammer said it was cheaper than erecting new buildings. He estimated the total to move the buildings to be about $52,000, but with all the site prep, septic and concrete pads he said the move will cost about $200,000.

“We haven’t outgrown it, so why leave it to be torn down?” he said.

Hammer said the master plan for the development shows the church eventually building on a hill on the property where water tanks currently sit. They also will have two RV spots for traveling ministers, evangelists and missionaries, a parking lot with about 50 spots and a storm drainage retention pond. Next door, a landscape supply company is set to start construction.

Hammer’s two daughters sat patiently as their father walked the land on the new site, waiting patiently for him to fulfill his promise to take them to get doughnuts after the move.

“We didn’t have service today, but we definitely had a move of God,” 21-year-old Larrilyn Hammer said.

The girls said it was a bittersweet day, and 23-year-old Kerri Hammer said she remembers when her father built the church on the old property.

“It’s very surreal. It’s going to be very weird to look out the doors and not see the trees,” Larrilyn said.

“Same doors, different scenery,” Kerri said.