AGAWAM — A contemporary church opening in Agawam is more than just a new church. It will be the first of several satellite locations planned to create a multi-site church franchise in the region.

The New Day Church is expanding by creating a new campus where Sunday services will be simulcast from its Enfield church on large monitors in the Agawam auditorium. An official opening is planned for March 31, Easter Sunday.

Construction is in the final phase at the Southgate Plaza on Suffield Street, where the church will be flanked by American Freight and Dollar Tree stores. Peter Axtmann, the campus pastor overseeing construction, said it will be a “picture of what the future could be and should be — which is to one day have multiple New Day locations throughout this region.”

Peter Axtmann, the campus pastor overseeing construction of the New Day Church in Agawam, stands in what will be the auditorium when it opens March 31, Easter Sunday.
Reminder Publishing photo by Mike Lydick

The congregation is outgrowing the building it owns in Enfield, and considered renting space at schools and movie theaters. It even looked at returning to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, where it rented space before moving to Enfield in 2018.

“Most of these locations weren’t interested in taking on renters or were incredibly expensive to rent for only six hours on Sunday,” said Axtmann.

Church officials then explored lease options for a second location, and learned of space in Southgate Plaza. The left half was under construction for what is now the American Freight store, but the right half — 12,500 square feet — was empty. Once its architectural firm confirmed the square footage would accommodate space needs, church officials signed a 15-year lease.

Axtmann said the most appealing aspect of the new site is that a large portion of the Enfield congregation already lives in Agawam. Additionally, having a space with all-day access, as opposed to renting space one morning a week, allows church officials to do more than just offer Sunday services. He said the church plans to “use every inch” of space for its programs.

The cost to renovate the site is about $1 million.

“We’ve been able to pay this through the faithful giving of tithes and offerings from church members. They also believe in our vision of building Jesus-loving, Gospel-preaching, disciple-making churches across our region,” said Axtmann.

Axtmann has been working closely with the construction company, First Peak Construction, and the architectural firm, Space Design. Since construction began six months ago, Axtmann said both firms have transformed a long, very narrow storefront into “a wonderfully inviting space that people will love.”

“Others in our church playing significant construction roles include Andrew Charko, executive pastor, who keeps the project on budget, and Jon Watson and Dan Johnson, who are responsible for audio-visual installations,” Axtmann said.

Interior design has been a joint effort among Space Design, First Peak and Axtmann’s wife Rachel, the interior designer, along with Sam Scrivner, owner of Peak Graphics.

“Together, they’ve created a beautifully modern, visually appealing, fully New Day-branded, energy-efficient space,” said Axtmann.

Being located in a shopping plaza will serve New Day Agawam well, said Axtmann. The location doesn’t appear to have any disadvantages and offers many advantages. It has plenty of parking, which has become an issue in Enfield, and the plaza has high visibility, with many people going there to shop at the supermarket, go to the movie theater or eat at one of several eateries in the plaza.

Soon after opening in Enfield, attendance averaged more than 740 people. Now, it’s almost double — about 1,200 people in person. Online services, added during the coronavirus pandemic, give the services another 600 remote viewers every Sunday.

Axtmann said growth slowed slightly during the pandemic, but increased once the church opened its doors again.

“A contributing factor was that we opened our kids’ program before many other churches in the area did,” he said.

Axtmann said the church was established in 2008 by Mike Sorcinelli, lead pastor, and his wife Kristin, who decided to start a nontraditional church in traditional New England. Most churches in the region have a traditional feel — large steeples, wooden pew seats, choirs that sing hymns, he said.

“Our foyers are comfortable and welcoming, with a cafe offering free coffee and tea. Our worship music, played with a full band, music is relevant, upbeat and likely played on current Christian radio stations. Our auditorium seating is comfortable and our message is always biblically focused by what’s relevant to us today,” said Axtmann.

“We treat every Sunday at New Day like it’s Super Bowl Sunday. Our staff works very hard every week to make Sunday special and meaningful for our guests,” he said.

When New Day Agawam opens, Axtman — who has been with the church since its start — will become campus pastor, greeting guests from the stage and interacting with them in the foyer. He will take the lead for any weddings, funerals or counseling as well as oversee staff work, building upkeep and volunteer teams.

Axtman said the experience of renovating its Enfield building, a former pool store on Route 5, in 2018 has been a “huge help” in creating the Agawam space.

“We learned what we need and some things we don’t need,” he said.

“One of the best decisions our church made is to take a franchise model approach at the Enfield and Agawam sites, as well at future locations. “It keeps paint choices, tile choices, bathroom accessories, carpeting, chairs, kids’ spaces, and everything else very simple, on-brand, and streamlined, since most of the items and designs are the same,” said Axtmann.

Axtmann said the church’s directional leadership team hasn’t determined where its next locations might be.

“We’ve talked about continuing up Interstate 91 north toward Chicopee or Holyoke, or perhaps east in areas of Springfield. Right now, we’re focusing our attention on making Agawam a success,” he said.

mlydick@thereminder.com | + posts