New opportunity for old church

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — When you travel through downtown Wilkes-Barre, there are a number of empty or vacant properties.

With a bit of divine intervention, one spot was spared the wrecking ball. What’s old is new again here with some additions and to think, this was all almost a parking lot.

“After careful study, we thought the best use for a church might be a church,” Reverand John Ryan said.

The former Memorial Presbyterian on West North Street closed back in 2008 and sat vacant for three years before King’s College bought the property. The church, with a vibrant community history that dates back to the 1870s, was welcomed back into the world by former and future parishioners Thursday afternoon. Some had special connections with the old establishment.

“I was very anxious to see it because I grew up here. I have very fond memories of that. My grandparents were members here and my parents and we were married here,” Marion Swatt said.

“It’s wonderful to see this. We lived in fear that the wrecking ball was going to come and this is a beautiful structure,” Kenneth Swatt said.

“Every day when I would go to work, I would drive by the building and see all the work being done on the outside. To be able to come inside, I hope a lot of people have watched this happen and get the chance and opportunity to come in and see what we have in this community and take advantage of it,” Mary Martin, a former pastor’s daughter said.

Although King’s College’s first thought after buying the property was to make room for more parking, the decision ultimately became to serve the faithful, school and community.

“The fact that it’s going to be used by King’s College as a worship center for the whole campus, it just makes us feel really good about it,” Kenneth Swatt said.

The new addition will serve as an office and meeting space, while the re-opened church serves as a collection and representation of Wilkes-Barre past and present.

The new chapel also features the George and Giovita Maffei family commons. And the engineer who was brought in for the renovations was a King’s College grad fresh off of a joint-engineering project between King’s and Notre Dame.

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