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Twin Ponds West

The Twin Ponds West facility at 200 Lambs Gap Road in Hampden Township.

Lancaster County Bible Church says it already has as many as 450 congregants at a temporary location for its West Shore branch, which is expected to move into the Twin Ponds West facility once alterations are completed this year.

In a news release, LCBC said it had roughly 450 attendees at its inaugural Christmas Eve service for what is being called LCBC West Shore.

The congregation is meeting at Silver Spring Elementary School but is projected to move to the Twin Ponds West facility in 2020. Work will begin in April to convert the ice rink into a church, LCBC officials said.

Twin Ponds owner Reed Patton announced last month that he sold the facility on Lambs Gap Road in Hampden Township to LCBC. The Patton family will continue to operate Twin Ponds East in Dauphin County, consolidating hockey and ice skating at that facility, Patton said.

Only half of the 86,000-square-foot facility is occupied by the rink, with the other portion of Twins Ponds West housing gym and fitness spaces as well as facilities for turf sports. Those operations could stay indefinitely, LCBC officials said.

“All current tenants of Twin Ponds West will continue leasing the space through March,” LCBC said in its release. “During the first quarter of 2019, LCBC plans to meet with each tenant to discuss future leasing arrangements for when LCBC takes over day-to-day operations of the facility in April of 2019.”

LCBC’s expansion into eastern Cumberland County comes at a time when the United States as a whole is becoming less religious, but not evenly so.

Pew Research data shows the portion of Americans who attend a religious service on a weekly basis dropped from 39 percent in 2007 to 36 percent in 2014. A similar Gallup poll shows that 45 percent of Americans attended a service “almost weekly,” but that number dropped to 38 percent in 2017.

Localized data is more scarce, but the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies carried out a survey in 2010 that showed 52.8 percent of Cumberland County residents considered themselves adherents of a defined religion, according to data published through the Association of Religion Data Archives.

The ASARB changed its reporting standards for certain faiths in 2010, making historical comparisons difficult, especially with older data sets carried out by different groups.

But older data sets don’t show a significant change in overall faith membership; the ASARB’s 2000 version of the survey showed 54.9 percent of Cumberland County residents were religious adherents.

The largest single denomination in Cumberland County is Roman Catholicism, with 36,186 adherents in 2010, according the ASARB study.

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of Catholics in the county increased 2.6 percent, less than the overall population increase of 10.2 percent, although some of that may be due to reporting changes.

Most mainline Protestant faiths saw declines, although the largest such denomination — the United Methodist Church — was also subject to sampling changes. UMC churches had 19,511 members in Cumberland County as of 2010.

Faiths that beat the spread were generally smaller evangelical Protestant groups. Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal branch, gained nearly 60 percent over the 10-year period, with 5,637 total adherents in the county in 2010.

Numbers for nondenominational evangelicals were not surveyed by the ASARB in 2000, but the 2010 data puts their numbers in Cumberland County at 7,075.

LCBC describes itself as nondenominational. The group claims 17,000 weekly attendees across 13 locations, and is ranked the 18th largest church in the United States by Outreach Magazine, a Christian service publication.

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Email Zack at zhoopes@cumberlink.com.

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Cumberland County/Investigative Reporter

Reporter for The Sentinel.