Saratoga County

Growing congregation plans move to new, modern church

What’s the polar opposite of a stark white church topped with a steeple? If you can’t picture it,

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What’s the polar opposite of a stark white church topped with a steeple? If you can’t picture it, you’ll be able to see it in real life next month at a Grooms Road location when the doors open at the new Parkside Covenant Church.

The local congregation is one of more than 750 Evangelical Covenant Churches across the country, which bills itself as a rapidly growing, multiethnic denomination on the cutting edge of ministry in the 21st century. Its headquarters are in Chicago.

The Rev. Paul McCart and his 150 parishioners are all about following this mission. In mid-July, they’ll make the move from their bare bones space at the Ballston Lake Community Center to a new church that features a modern stone entryway, an open, inviting lobby with large fireplace and the new trademark for comfortable gathering places, a coffee shop.

“We’re being innovative and creative in our approach, doing things that may be something new and different in this area, but in other places, it’s become better known that churches need to be instilled as part of the community,” McCart said. “Different churches have different personalities, and ours is one of being welcoming and accepting.”

The church was a magnet for families at the community center site for almost eight years before finding space to call their own. Built on land donated by a private local family, the construction of the modern facility carries a $1.5 million price tag, and was funded with help from the national Covenant properties organization.

But church members also dug deep into their own pockets to support the project.

“We all shared the vision,” said Tony Agresta of Clifton Park, a church member since 2000 who attends with his wife Julie and two daughters. “We put our resources into it so that we’re all in this together, and from small donations to large, it all counts. People had the options of donating to specific parts of the project, from bricks for the garden to buying the pulpit.”

Agresta said church members brainstormed for ways to create an open atmosphere appealing to people of all ages.

“It’s a very casual, genuine place, and this new building reflects who we are,” Agresta said. “The warm fireplace, the New England style, earth tone colors; it all feels like home.”

Worship services, now held Sunday mornings, also trumpet the uniqueness of the congregation.

“We have live contemporary music, drums and keyboards,” McCart said. “We use video equipment and screens and stage lighting. If someone has never been to church, they’ll feel they fit right in here and examine their faith in a comfortable place.”

People raised attending more conventional church services with organ music and hymns sung in unison will also find familiarity at the church.

“Once we’re in the new building, we’ll be adding a Thursday night service that’s very traditional,” McCart said. “There are whole generations of people who want the cohesiveness of worship services like the ones they’ve always known.”

Congregation members have also examined the practicality of opening a new space and only having it open to people a few days each week. In response to that, they’ll be making the church available for other events, such as after-school programs, Scout meetings, space offered for free to businesses for seminars, birthday parties and even performance space for bands and comedians.

The modern approach for the new church includes doing away the traditional signboard out front with press-on letters announcing church services and times. The new church is slated to have as its roadside calling card a flashy lighted sign designed both to grab attention and serve another practical purpose.

“We can change the sign from inside, because who wants to stand out there in snowbanks in the middle of winter and change those letters?” McCart said.

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