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A Christmas present -- 3.5 acres of prime Clarence land -- was given Sunday to the congregation of Faith Fellowship Church.

"This gift allows us to go ahead and start building our church," said the Rev. David W. Anderson, pastor of the 125-member Independent Baptist congregation he formed three years ago.

"We have $112,000 in our building fund, and we hope to have the church done by the middle of the summer."

The vacant land, on Main Street near Barnum Road in Clarence, was donated by John N. and Irene M. Smith of Clarence.

"It has always been John's desire to help a ministry that is willing to help people," Mrs. Smith said at the Faith Fellowship's morning service in the Lancaster Christian Community Center, 5580 Genesee Street, where the congregation currently meets.

Accompanied by 12 of her 14 children and five grandchildren, Mrs. Smith accepted a plaque from the congregation, thanking the Smiths for the land. Six of the children are from Bogota, Colombia, and were adopted by the Smiths in July.

The church that Faith Fellowship expects to build on the Clarence land "will be contemporary architecture and will seat 300. We're looking at an auditorium and educational facilities, something that, once built, can grow," Anderson said.

The Smiths do not attend Faith Fellowship, he said.

John Smith is the J & I Landfill owner who was hit in October with $6 million in state fines and penalties for violations of a 1987 order limiting the amount of waste the landfill could accept at his Orleans Sanitary Landfill.

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