Written by Debora Toth Friday, 31 July 2009 00:00
The Living Faith Christian Church, in the midst of completion along Hempstead Turnpike, plans to open its doors for worship in January 2010. The five-acre parcel of land will contain a 37,000 sq. ft. building for worship, Sunday school, and youth programs; a worship hall with seating for 550 congregants; and on-site parking with 250 paved spaces and 100 land-banked spots. Total cost, according to Dr. Ed Kirkland, Living Faith’s senior pastor, will be $12 million.
“God has blessed our congregation and given us so many miracles to make this church happen,” says Kirkland. “We met our budget last year and our congregation continues to support us. When we began our first capital campaign three years ago our congregants committed $1.5 million and donated $250,000 in one day. Our second capital campaign began in June 2009 and our congregants committed $1.1 million and donated $200,000 in one day.”
While the congregation awaits the completion of the new church, they continue to hold two services each Sunday at their two-building site in Wantagh. The church was founded in 1952 as Wantagh Baptist and for several years had no official pastor. Prior to Dr. Kirkland’s arrival, the church averaged about 350 to 400 members in the summer. But for the past five years since his arrival, the church has grown to 500 to 600 congregants every Sunday and 75 to 100 children in the Sunday school classes.
“We’re out of space in Wantagh,” he says. “Our building in Wantagh only holds 250 people and there is no on-site parking. Our parishioners have to use on-the-street parking or a municipal lot. Most of our parishioners are from western Suffolk but we have congregants from as far away as Queens, Long Beach and East Moriches.”
The new site in Farmingdale has been evolving since the church purchased the original building and two pieces of property in 2001. The original building was a Red Lobster restaurant, which after it closed was set to be an assisted living community by the developer who could not get the necessary permits. Once the church bought the property, it began renovating the original building in 2004 and moved its church offices and multi-purpose room for youth group meetings to Farmingdale after it got its Certificate of Occupancy (CO) that summer.
Planning the new building took more time. Originally, the church hired an out-of-state architect to propose a plan for the space in Farmingdale. The church took the plan and filed it with the Village of Farmingdale for approval. However, the village came back to the church with changes and wanted the building to be set further back from busy Hempstead Turnpike.
“This required us to go back to the drawing board,” says Kirkland. “We began to work with John Notaro who owns his own architecture firm in Glen Head. Since he knew that I had been a pastor for 26 years, he asked me to sketch out a design that I thought was appropriate. From there, he took my design and embellished it to maximize our space. To create the interior space of the church, we approached CDH Partners, Inc., an Atlanta-based firm, which has a reputation as one of the largest church architects in the United States. They gave us an estimate as to what they would charge but we couldn’t afford their cost. When we went back to them and explained our situation, they agreed to perform the work at our price and our budget.”
Since then, the church has secured permits from the Village of Farmingdale (since the Farmingdale Village line runs diagonally through the property), the Town of Oyster Bay, and the New York Department of Transportation. Once the building is completed, it will need a final Certificate of Occupancy from the Village of Farmingdale.
While the main entrance may seem to be on Hempstead Turnpike, Kirkland explained that it is in the rear of the building. A two-story glass entrance was designed with a porte-cochere to provide shelter from the rain or snow when congregants enter the building. The first floor features the sanctuary, children’s ministry, library, kitchen, ministry spaces, and common areas. The second floor will accommodate the administrative offices and have a view into the sanctuary. The 14,000 sq. ft. lower level with 10-foot high ceilings is home to the infant, toddler, and preschool suite as well as almost 2,000 sq. ft. of meeting and worship space for teens. In addition, there is 6,000 to 7,000 sq. ft. of storage and mechanical rooms along with 3,600 sq. ft. for future expansion.
When the new building opens, the church will also undergo a new name. “Since we are moving from Wantagh to Farmingdale, we don’t think the name Wantagh Baptist is appropriate anymore,” says Kirkland. “It can get confusing. So we’re changing our name to Living Faith Christian Church. We are also changing the name because many of our parishioners are not Baptists; we are all Christians.”
Kirkland has held the senior pastor post for the past five years. Previously he held similar positions in Jacksonville, Florida and Dallas/Fort Worth. He is originally from Florida.