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Great Bend church planning to expand

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GREAT BEND — At a typical Sunday morning service, the City of Refuge Christian Church is so packed that the Rev. John. E. Swearinger sends teenagers to their own service in a back room.

But all that should change come October, when construction of the church’s new 9,700-square-foot facility is expected to be completed.

“We’re moving forward,” the Rev. Mr. Swearinger told his congregation Sunday. “August we said we were going to build a building. We took seed and put the seed into a basket — that’s money — and we did it by faith and we told the congregation we’re going to build a building and it’s going to be debt free. ... Anything we build is going to be here when we leave, just like 25 years ago when Pastor John Jordan had a vision to build this church.”

Members of the multicultural, interdenominational church answered the pastor’s speech with an enthusiastic “Amen.”

The project is expected to cost $1.7 million, of which roughly $42,000 already has been paid to the architects and builders. The blueprints were developed by Aubertine and Currier Architects and the building contract is through DC Building Systems Inc., both of Watertown.

As for financing, the Rev. Mr. Swearinger said only, “God has been good.”

The church was first built in 1993 by former pastor the Rev. John W. Jordan. Before the church was built at 32500 Route 3, the group met in the Rev. Mr. Jordan’s home. In 2012, a Kingdom Kids children’s church was built beside the facility and will open as a weekday day care in May.

Following the completion of the new facility, the current worship center will become a teen ministry.

Of the new worship center, the Rev. Mr. Swearinger said, “The way the building is designed is not to look like a church. ... The building will not only be a facility for services, but for community events.”

The new building will feature a sanctuary able to accommodate 300 people, larger restrooms, rooms for a nursery and toddlers, a cafe, classrooms, offices and storage rooms. The parking lot should bear 80 spaces. The current facility sees about 250 visitors per service.

The change is to accommodate the vastly growing number of members. Since 2011, membership has grown from 433 covenant partners to 650. Not only that, but the number of visitors to the church has grown immensely since 2011, when there were close to 12,00 visitors. In 2013, the number was more than 18,000.

Upon completion of the new facility, an additional Sunday service is expected to run in the afternoon. The church now holds two services in the morning, although it has been down to just one at 10 a.m. on account of winter weather.

The Rev. Mr. Swearinger said he hopes to see the congregation continue to grow, especially with the new building.

“One of my challenges as a pastor is that the prior pastor was a black pastor and people perceived this as a black church,” he said. “I’ve worked diligently to make everyone understand that though I am a black man, this is a multicultural church. We’re interdenominational. All different denominations are represented. We’ve got Jewish people, Muslims, Catholics, Baptists.”

The proposal was sent before the Jefferson County Planning Board on Feb. 25, but was handed back to the Champion Planning Board for consideration. The board is expected to meet March 11.

To learn more about the church, visit its website at www.corccnny.org, or download its app under CORCCNNY for events, sermon excerpts and notes.

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