Church hopes to cultivate Suffolk flock

Published 9:29 pm Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A well-known Peninsula church is looking hard at North Suffolk in its quest to find the location of its first satellite campus.

Liberty Baptist Church has applied for a conditional use permit to convert two units of the Bridgeway Technology Center I, located at 7025 Harbourview Blvd., into a place of worship. The main campus of the church, which has nearly 7,000 members, is located on Big Bethel Road in Hampton.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend approval of the request.


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Rising executive pastor Scott Payne said the move is a “leap of faith” for the church, which has a mission of “changing lives, communities and the world.”

“We’re excited about the opportunity possibly to be in this location,” Payne said during Tuesday’s meeting. “We recognize that not everybody can drive to our campus in Hampton.”

Payne said the church has roughly 600 members in the North Suffolk area and welcomed about 700 first-time guests from the area in the last year alone.

If approved, the campus likely would have its own pastor but would usually watch sermons by Dr. Grant Ethridge, the church’s senior pastor, by video from Hampton. It would have a live praise band and worship. On-campus office staff is a possibility, and midweek services would be held for various age groups, Payne said.

After deciding to research the possibility of a satellite campus, staff members settled on the North Suffolk area and decided to drive around. The Bridgeway site was one of the first they stumbled across, Payne said.

It seems like a marriage made in heaven to Gregg Christoffersen, part-owner of the Bridgeway Technology Center.

Since the closing of nearby U.S. Joint Forces Command, the tenant market for tech companies and Department of Defense contractors has dried up, Christoffersen said during the Planning Commission meeting. Putting a large church there will provide a tenant for the building, draw customers back to local retail and dining establishments and provide a “stabilizing force” for the area, he said.

“We believe it will serve a number of economic benefits,” he said.

Church services and events at night and on the weekends also will help keep unwanted attention away from the parking lot, said Matt Brady, president of New Day Office Products and Furnishings, another tenant in the center.

Brady said they frequently see people drive in near dusk and park in the large lot. One truck driver brings his tractor-trailer and parks there every Tuesday night.

“We don’t want to see that kind of thing continue,” Brady said. “We would absolutely welcome (the church).”

City Council will take up the request on Sept. 19.