Hampton church coming to Suffolk

Published 12:09 am Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Hampton church got the blessing of City Council on Wednesday to start a 600-seat satellite campus in North Suffolk.

Liberty Baptist Church, which has its main campus on Big Bethel Road in Hampton, will retrofit two units in the Bridgeway Technology Center I on Harbour View Boulevard to become a multi-site church. What the church is calling its “Liberty Harbour View Campus” will open in early 2013, according to a tweet from the church’s senior pastor, Dr. Grant Ethridge.

In an Aug. 26 sermon at the church in which he announced the plans to members and guests, Ethridge said the church is driven by urgency to reach the multitudes.

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“It is nothing new,” he said. “It’s what the early church did. They didn’t meet at one location; they met throughout the area.”

Ethridge, who said he lives in Suffolk, touted the benefits of the site as plentiful parking, proximity to Interstate 664 and an array of nearby restaurants and stores for after-church meals and shopping.

“It’s just a dream,” he said of the site. He added the church has about 600 members from the North Suffolk area and has had about 700 first-time guests from the area in the last year alone.

“Our mission is changing lives, communities and the world,” he said during a phone interview Friday. “The best way we can do that is by being in the communities where our members are. We’re excited about bringing a Liberty campus to Harbour View.”

Once operational, the campus likely would have its own pastor but would usually watch sermons by Ethridge by video from Hampton. About three to four office staff would be on hand during weekdays, and weeknight services would be held for various age groups.

Speaking at this week’s City Council meeting, Ethridge drew laughter from members and the audience when he said the church would probably contribute to economic growth in the area.

“If you know anything about Baptists, we love to eat,” he said. “We believe we would be a blessing to the local restaurants.”

Gregg Christoffersen, part owner of the Bridgeway Technology Center, agreed.

“We have here an opportunity to work with a solid, stabilizing market force,” he said, adding that the original intended market for the center — tech companies and Department of Defense contractors — dried up with the economic downturn, closure of nearby U.S. Joint Forces Command and defense funding cuts.

The project also has received positive responses from other tenants in the center, who believe it will help chase away unwanted attention from the large, vacant parking lot at night, he added.

Responding to a question from Councilman Robert Barclay, Ethridge said the church plans to stay in North Suffolk as long as the needs of those who attend that campus are met.

“We definitely are interested in a long-term presence in Suffolk,” he said.

For more information on Liberty Baptist, visit www.libertylive.com.