FALMOUTH – There are so many people who don’t go to church that “the church for people that don’t go to church” is soon going to be one of the biggest churches in New England.
“It’s massive,” said Frank Kilduff, a member of Cape Cod Church and a volunteer helping with the construction. “It’s a huge undertaking. I’m just amazed that all the parts are going together.”
The “entrepreneurial” Cape Cod Church, aka the Cape Cod Baptist Church, which started 21 years ago in a plumbing building in East Falmouth, is constructing a 40,000-square-foot building, including a 1,000-seat auditorium for services, on 10 acres of land on Route 151 in Falmouth.
Alongside the building will be a 100-foot tall steel coated cross, with a concrete foundation, and a covering designed to resemble sails.
The site is located across the street from the Barnstable County Fairgrounds, two-tenths of a mile from the Mashpee town line. Construction started last June and is scheduled to be finished next spring.
“The legal name is Cape Cod Baptist Church,” said Senior Pastor Ben Feldott, “but I tell people that ‘Baptist’ is like a middle name… A lot of people will tell you church is boring. ‘I don’t have time’ is just code for ‘church is boring and I’d rather be golfing.’ Well, we are the church that attracts people that don’t usually go to church. We made a concerted effort to build a church for people that don’t go to church.”
In that spirit is the architecture of the new building, he said. “Churches are generally seen as mysterious and secretive,” said Feldott, 44. “But before people ever visit Cape Cod Church, we want them to see inside.” Thus, there will be a 40-foot tall and 90-foot long glass wall facing Route 151.
The building will have 25,000 square feet on the first floor and 15,000 on the second floor. “A lot of the building is open air like this,” he said, standing in what will be the foyer whose ceiling was two very tall floors high. A key feature of the building, he said, are the many areas for families, children and teens to congregate, including a playroom that will be visible through glass to those walking into the front door of the church.
Perhaps the church grew by the sheer force of Feldott’s amiable personality. He takes his church seriously, but he is lighthearted about his role. “I’m not crazy about the term, ‘Reverend,’ “ said Feldott, when asked how he wanted to be identified for this story. “Most people call me Ben, or Pastor Ben. I’m fine with anything but ‘late for dinner.'”
No New England Steeple
In a Cape Cod landscape dotted with white steeples, this new church building looks like it comes from out west or down south. It is an auditorium church.
“Listen, there’s churches down south with auditoriums that seat 5,000 to 10,000 people,” said Feldott. “Significantly larger than this. And there are some large churches in New England, particularly in Boston, he said. “There’s larger churches in New England,” he said. “I don’t know which ones they are but, yeah, this is a big building.”
The 1,000 seat auditorium will be the second largest on Cape Cod, after the Barnstable High School Performing Arts Center. Feldott said there are 1,200 individuals who are a regular part of the church, and typical Sunday attendance is currently 600 to 700, with peaks of up to 1,500 at Christmas.
Although the church has its roots in Falmouth, Feldott said, “A growing percentage of our population is from towns outside of Falmouth. This is a perfect location. Route 151 is a good place for us to reach out to the mid-Cape and over the bridges and other towns.”
There will be close to 400 parking spaces and there is a secondary access being built onto Courier Road, he said. “This doesn’t fit in downtown Falmouth,” said Feldott. “It’s not on a side road. It needed to be on 151. This is a really appropriate site for it.”
There will be two Sunday services, he said, at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., and the building will be used all week as there will often be groups holding meetings. Plus, the new building will have many new features, especially for families, he said.
For instance, there will be three different rooms providing babysitting for families during church services. There are separate rooms for infants, crawlers, and toddlers, he said, and “there will be radiant heat on the floor for the kids crawling around on it.” There will also be a game room and a teen cafe, he said.
Architectural plans took three years, said Feldott. It is an $8 million project, he said. Gifts of labor by the congregation are estimated to be worth worth $1.8 million of that, and another $3.2 million has been donated by the congregation, he said. The church took out a $3 million bank loan for the project, he said.
The labor gifts were significant, he said. “Cape Cod Church is building this thing. We have 200 volunteers signed up.” He noted that, “Ninety percent of this is subcontracted. You don’t have volunteers out raising steel.” But he added, “There’s a lot of stuff the volunteers can do, including pushing a broom, painting, and landscaping.”
Mark McSherry, director of development for the church and clerk of the works for this project, said, “Whenever I put out a call for volunteers, I get four to six people every day.”
Touring the building, in which lines of steel beams were the scenery, Feldott said, “We’re getting ready to install a full-service cafe. There will be free coffee along with a full service cafe. Proceeds from the cafe will go to local service organizations,” he said.
The building will be a modern church in every way, said Feldott. It will feature solar power, wifi, and a full audio-video production room “We invest a lot in technology,” he said. “It’s a tool.”
“If you really want to reach people where they are at, these are the tools that you use. We have a lot of people that come in and they open their Bible on their phone,” he said, citing a popular app. “Now, you can take out your phone but if we catch you playing Angry Birds, there’s a special place in Purgatory for you… even though we don’ believe in Purgatory,” said Feldott with a laugh.
There will also be a half-mile fitness trail on the property with a series of exercise stations, such as pull-up bars, along the path.
Feldott said that “people need a place to come to gather and congregate and connect. For hundreds of years, churches have been community gathering places.”
Cape Cod Church is doing everything it can, architecturally, to attract that community.
“But programs and facilities are meaningless without relationships,” said Feldott.
Perhaps as surprising as the size of the new building is that Feldott and his wife, Tammy, started the church in part of a plumbing building 21 years ago. In fact, his very first service, after moving to Falmouth, was in his home.
“The first Sunday, we met in our house and it was just my wife and I,” said Feldott. “Preaching to just your wife is the hardest thing you’ll ever do.”
Since then, his congregation has grown. After that initial first week in his house, his church met for five years in the first building before buying their current 1-acre property in East Falmouth that includes a 7,000 square-foot church and a 3,000-square-foot office building. The church has outgrown that building, he said. “We use satellite parking (at the Falmouth Lumber Design Showroom) and shuttle people in on a bus,” said Feldott. The church owns one shuttle bus, he said.
Although he described the church as “entrepreneurial,” Feldott said he has been as surprised by the growth as anyone. “You don’t start a church in a plumbing building and think that this is what’s going to happen,” he said.
In fact, he said, he didn’t initially plan to start a church but felt compelled to after he was given some tapes to listen to by a then unknown preacher from California, Rick Warren. Warren, who has gone on to write the bestselling book, “The Purpose Driven Life” suggested in his tapes that there was a need for churches for people who don’t go to church, said Feldott.
At the time, Feldott was 23 and a fresh graduate of Boston Baptist College. “I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Springfield, Massachusetts. I didn’t know anyone on Cape Cod, but my wife did,” he said. As a child, his wife summered with her grandmother in Cataumet, he said.
When Feldott heard Warren’s tapes while on vacation in Pennsylvania, he decided to start a church. Feldott said starting the church was “either divine providence or foolish ambition.”
He started the church and took other jobs, including delivering the Cape Cod Times, to help support himself and his family. He has four children. Over time, the church grew and a few years ago the congregation began planning for a new larger building.
— Brian Tarcy