As hundreds of people prepared to listen to Pastor Buddy Cremeans as he delivered one of his sermons Easter Sunday morning, he was ready to welcome both returning church-goers as well as newcomers.
'It's great to see you in God's house," he called to the crowd, before launching into a sermon that, was at times both overarching and personal, dotted with experiences from his own life which he tied into the verses he was reading from the Bible.
It is only the second year Northway Church has held Easter services in its 40,000-square-foot sanctuary, located at the corner of Ushers and Pierce roads off Exit 10 of the Northway. The church moved into its new facility, which features parking for more than 400 vehicles and seating for more than 1,000 people, in December 2017.
Buddy and Debbie Cremeans, its founding and senior pastors, first brought the non-denominational congregation to the North Country Commons Plaza in 2002. In the 17 years that have passed, they have expanded the church, which also broadcasts on television, to locations in White Plains, Massachusetts and Delaware.
Sunday's four, nearly hour-long services — one at 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and one at 5 p.m. to accommodate those working during the day — culminated a particularly busy weekend for Northway Church. On Saturday afternoon, it hosted its second annual massive helicopter Easter egg drop, during which approximately 30,000 eggs stuffed with candy were dropped over the athletic fields at Shenendehowa's Tesago Elementary School. Rainy weather failed to deter more than 2,000 children from attending the event.
According to church employees, around 500 people attended its Good Friday service.
Josey Dorr of Niskayuna, was helping out during the 9:30 a.m. service on Sunday. Northway Church is particularly close to her heart, as the church community was there for her a few years ago when she was battling cancer.
Northway's service are special, Dorr explained, because they give something to everyone. Buddy Cremeans doesn't care who walks through the doors to his church, and will be as open and transparent about his own struggles and experiences with one person as he would be with another, she noted.
"He's amazing. This is who he is. We've had a lot of miracles here," she said.
Buddy Cremeans, speaking with the Daily Gazette after the 9:30 a.m. service, explained that both Northway's draw and much of its success, stem from its operations as a strictly non-denominational church. Many people attending the Sunday services mentioned that they had never asked any of their fellow church-goers which religion they practiced.
The church is not only multicultural, noted Cremeans, but multigenerational. Young families with children attended Sunday's services, as did older couples, single adults, and others.
"You're going to see people here from every culture. We have a lot of diversity," he said, as people poured out of the auditorium after the service to chat with friends and family, many stopping to personally thank him for the service and wish him a happy Easter.
And, Cremeans said, part of the reason people continue to attend services at Northway Church is because this church has shown them that they can have an experience and relationship with God without having to go to a more traditional service that could be, for any number of reasons, inaccessible to them.
Buddy Cremeans also makes a point to talk about topics during his sermons that other churches might shy away from. Over the next few weeks, he will address living with anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts. Nothing is too big or too bad for the community to tackle, he said.
"Being applicable and relevant, we're all about that. If it's big enough to worry about, it's big enough to talk about," he said.
Much of his Sunday sermon focused on remaining reflective and reacting with grace and calm to a world that, especially now, never seems to be at peace. And for the next year, until Northway's next Easter service, he hopes that his congregation will hold on to the idea that with just some faith, anyone can make their own day better.
"You can have peace in a troubled world," Cremeans said.