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Parkside Bible Church soldiering on, plans for expansion

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Parkside Bible Church on Eastern Boulevard is so cramped for space that closets have been turned into offices and classrooms.

And its congregation has more than tripled during the past decade, from about 125 people to nearly 400 now.

So the church, 491 Eastern Blvd., will embark on a $1.5 million, 12,500-square-foot expansion next spring that will house a lobby and multipurpose room. It will give the church enough space for receptions, concerts and banquets and will be used for the many ministries offered.

“It can become lots of things with lots of people,” said the Rev. Justin E. Morris, associate pastor.

Construction is slated to start in April and the building is to be ready for use in August.

Parkside Bible Church embraces military members and their families, with the congregation split between area civilian residents and those with military connections, said the Rev. Mr. Morris.

It’s customary for church members to help soldiers and their spouses watch their children, help a family when a spouse has been deployed or just let them know there’s somebody they can turn to when needed.

There have been times when Parksiders have been at the bedsides of deployed soldiers’ wives when the women were giving birth and and no other family members were nearby, he said.

“This is their home,” he said. “And we are family.”

Deborah S. and Maj. Douglas P. Herrmann joined the church when he came to Fort Drum in 2002 and stayed until he was transferred to Texas. When they returned to Watertown a few years ago, the couple returned to Parkside, where their children, ages 6, 8, and 9, have found friends and the parents are involved in the children’s ministries.

“It was great to come back to a place we know,” she said.

As soldiers deploy or leave the military, the congregation keeps changing. Gaps have to be filled by new Parksiders to volunteer in the young children’s and junior and senior high school youth ministries, Sunday school and prayer groups.

“We have to be flexible so they can see they are welcomed,” the Rev. Mr. Morris said.

In the six years since the Rev. Mr. Morris has been at Parkside, the biggest growth has been in the children’s and youth ministries, with about a third of the congregation in sixth grade or younger. At any given time, 150 to 300 children may be attending the church as members, he said.

The church focuses on the young because of the challenges, distractions and obstacles they face as they grow up, said the Rev. Joshua M. Albrecht, who moved to Watertown in January to work as the youth and worship pastor. The church provides “age appropriate” worship for them, not day care, he said.

And young parishioners can join in a variety of activities during the year. For instance, a Halloween trick-or-treat-type event will be held this month featuring candy, a bounce house, games and face-painting.

The new wing will be used often by the youth and children groups, but it also will be used by young singles, young couples, women’s and “daytimers” groups. There will be enough room for Bible studies, ladies’ nights out and other meetings.

In existence since 1945, the church moved into the existing building about 40 years ago. It employs three pastors and an administrative assistant.

The Lundy Group, Carthage, is designing the project. The city’s Planning Board looked at the site plans on Tuesday but took no action.

The project will include space for a kitchen and cafe, a new parking lot and converting about nine acres into parkland and a playground. The addition’s exterior will match the existing, nearly 50-year-old building in height and style. The church has some money saved for the project and will approach its members for contributions.

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