By Cady Kuzmich
CLIFTON PARK — The Northway Church in Clifton Park, the only megachurch in the Capital Region, has plans to double its size with a new 45,000-square-foot church on a 6.8 acre-lot at the southwest corner of Ushers Road and Pierce Road.
Pastors Buddy and Debbie Cremeans brought the non-denominational church to Clifton Park and settled in the unassuming North Country Commons Plaza, next door to the Upstate Concert Hall, in 2002. In the 14 years since, the Cremeans have expanded The Northway Church, which also broadcasts on television, to locations in White Plains, Massachusetts and Delaware.
On May 23, Donald Cremeans, aka Pastor Buddy Cremeans, submitted a project proposal to the town Planning Board for the new church. The cost of the project was not available Tuesday.
The project includes a parking area large enough to accommodate more than 500 cars and a 7,500-square-foot outdoor patio at the church’s entrance. The property is categorized as a light industrial site.
The church, which is expected to seat 1,000 people, would be just an eight-minute drive from the original church. According to a Daily Gazette article from 2008, the original Northway Church can hold up to 500 people.
Town Planner John Scavo said the proposed building site would be an acceptable place to build a church, though he said a site plan review and approval was still required. Scavo said the Planning Board would review several items, including the site’s topography, groundwater concerns and vegetation. He said that the project’s design and aesthetics would be reviewed as well. Scavo said those aspects “will be explored in greater detail at the time of preliminary site plan consideration.” Traffic issues and stormwater management will also be important issues to address, he said.
At a town Planning Board meeting Tuesday evening, resident Pam Marshall told the board, “If a traffic study is done, it should be done on a Sunday when Corpus Christi and other area churches are getting out. There’s an awful lot of traffic.”
Near the end of the meeting, Pastor Buddy Cremeans talked about Northway Church’s message of hope, saying, “We have discovered in this life that Monday through Saturday people are beaten up. People thrive in an atmosphere of encouragement. In the times we’re living in, there’s bad news everywhere. We need hope. Hope is faith. We believe faith is for everybody.”
He added, “it’s not all senior citizens. It’s not all young people. I think we may have one of the most diverse congregations in the Capital Region.”
According to a database compiled by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, there are 41 churches, including the Northway Church, that qualify as megachurches in New York state.
Shelly Squires, a hairdresser in Schuylerville, is a member of the United Methodist Church in Schuylerville but said she has attended services at the Northway Church several times. Squires described the Northway Church community as positive and welcoming.
“The energy is amazing. The sermon is always real and they give people what they need, which is hope,” she said. “I have recommended this church to some people that have had their hearts broken and really needed to have help to believe again,” she said.
According to the Northway Church’s website, the Cremeans were drawn to Clifton Park because it was in “the most post Christian region of the United States.” Today, however, the website boasts, “[the] Capital Region is no longer the most post Christian region of the US.”
Actually, Clifton Park is home to a slew of places to worship, ranging from non-denominational, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Catholic churches and synagogues.
The latest Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape study released in February ranks New York as one of the least religious states in the union with just seven states behind it. Neighboring Vermont is among the least religious states at number 48 while New Hampshire and Massachusetts tie for least religious states.
“We have a diverse and growing faith community representing many religious beliefs,” Town Supervisor Phil Barrett said. “The proposal submitted by Northway Church recently is just one example of various churches embarking on aggressive expansion plans to meet the needs of a growing congregation.”
Reach Gazette reporter Cady Kuzmich at 269-7239 or email@example.com.