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Baptist church to open in Potsdam

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POTSDAM — A new church is beginning in an old building being renovated on Route 56.

The Potsdam Area Neighborhood Church and Meeting House, 6950 Route 56, is scheduled to open in the late fall.

The Rev. Joseph Selenski, senior pastor of Lifeway Community Church in North Bangor, is the starting pastor for the new church.

Lifeway Community is the sister church for Potsdam Area Neighborhood Church and both are part of the American Baptist Churches USA denomination.

“People will not be coming from my church in North Bangor. It will just be new folks that are here,” the Rev. Mr. Selenski said. “That’s why we call it planting a church — it’s growing a brand new church, so folks who aren’t served by a church, whatever their reasons are, may have that opportunity to start off at a new church operation.”

The Rev. Mr. Selenski said the American Baptist Churches Association wanted him to start a new church in the Potsdam area because there had been one for about 100 years before it closed its doors two years ago. After closing, the former church donated leftover treasury money to the Potsdam Area Neighborhood Church, providing for the property purchase as well as most of the construction and renovation process.

The pastor said the building they purchased used to be a convenience store and gas station.

He plans to transform it into a café space with comfortable seating to be used as a fellowship area for the church.

To the right of the structure, a new building will be constructed for the meeting hall.

Although volunteers will perform 80 percent of the renovations for the purchased building, the churches contracted with Adirondack Storage Barns to do a majority of the work for the new structure.

The Rev. Mr. Selenski said he’s been working with the Potsdam code enforcement office to ensure all codes and safety procedures are followed.

“It’s gone a little slower than we expected it to, but we know in the end run it’s the best for everybody,” he said.

Douglas R. Buchanan, editor of The Malone Telegram, is leaving the newspaper July 19 to become an interning associate pastor for Lifeway Community and the new Potsdam church with the expectation he will eventually take over as head pastor in Potsdam.

Mr. Buchanan said although he loves the newspaper business, he was looking for something to do on a more direct level that involves his faith.

“My faith has always been very important to me but I never really considered myself the pastor type,” he said. “When Joe asked me to consider it, it just seemed like a great fit. I prayed about it and counseled with a lot of people that I trust and came to the conclusion that this is something that hopefully I’ll be well-suited for and be able to do a good job in.”

The pastor said the vision for the church is not to bring in thousands of people, but to have a smaller congregation.

“We’re kind of doing away with the consumer model in Christianity, where the success of a church is judged by how many seats are filled on a Sunday and how many people attend programs,” the Rev. Mr. Selenski said. “We’re concentrating on how many lives we’re actually affecting and bringing in to Christian day-to-day lifestyle understanding.”

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