By AMY HEGGEN
---- — PLATTSBURGH — A brick building that was once a general store in Keeseville has transformed into a place of worship and community gathering place.
The Bridge Keeseville, Rick and Kathy Santor’s first pastorate, serves as a link between God and man, Kathy said.
Seven years ago, the Santors were ready to move south to be closer to their five children and their grandchildren when the prior pastors at The Bridge Keeseville asked them to step in.
“I never would have seen myself here, and I couldn’t be happier to be here,” Kathy said. “It’s an amazing thing to see people’s lives change.”
MOVE TOWARD MINISTRY
The Santors grew up in Keeseville, but the couple left the area when the U.S. Navy moved Rick elsewhere.
Rick and Kathy both attended Florida Baptist College.
Rick, a retired naval officer, received his bachelor’s degree in business from Eastern Connecticut State University, and Kathy earned a bachelor’s in psychology from Liberty University.
Today, both are ordained, and Rick is studying at the Liberty University Seminary.
“There’s a big difference between leading people in the Navy and leading people as a pastor,” he said.
The large church, which was once a general store, has been refinished room by room, though some spaces haven’t been renovated yet.
Members of the church include carpenters and electricians, so all the improvements done thus far to the building have been completed in-house, Rick said.
The church has a large common area, a commercial kitchen, playrooms for children and a meditation room, in addition to the area of worship.
Rick hopes to use some of the space in the church to offer tutoring and other services to the youth in the area. He would also like to get them involved in the community. But, he said, they don’t have the facilities yet.
“There’s so much more we can do,” Rick said. “The goal is to develop some sort of community center.”
The biggest challenge might be their location, he said. The brick building next to a grocery store doesn’t look like a traditional church, and he has found that some people in the community aren’t aware the church is there.
“I see all kinds of potential,” Kathy said of the community. “Right now, there’s a lot of growth going on … there’s a lot of energy in the youth.”
Currently, the church is putting together an emergency preparedness program after they saw a need when the area was flooded. They hope to link with other churches, to be a network for help instead of part of the problem, Kathy said.
“Being a nondenominational church, it leaves us open to work with people of other denominations,” Kathy said. “It’s not about religion, it’s about relationships. It’s not about agreeing on every point; it’s about agreeing we can work together.”
They’ve also started a bread ministry, where 48 loaves of bread are given out each week at Keeseville Country Gardens, a senior living community.
JESUS IN THE STREETS
“The emphasis is more on worship than it is on preaching. The real mission is not here (in the church). The real mission is to go out and live what you have,” Rick said.
“It’s taking Jesus to the streets … to be his hand and feet here,” Kathy added.
About 50 families attend the church, which holds services at 10 a.m. each Sunday. Rick said the church believes in the gifts of the spirit.
“We believe in the different way he (Jesus) speaks through dreams, through visions, he speaks through the Bible,” Rick said.
FORGIVE AND HEAL
The Santors also believe in a school of ministry known as Elijah House. Elijah House finds a person’s area of trouble and allows him or her to forgive and heal, Kathy explained.
“When you’re able to forgive … people find freedom from things that have plagued you all your life,” Kathy said of Elijah House Ministries.
Kathy has received training to counsel from Elijah House Ministries and sees about 10 people each week. Her goal is to be a facilitator of Elijah House Ministries, she said.
Rick said the problem with clinical counseling is that people are taught to cope with their problems.
“But here, you’re freed from your problems,” he said.
THE BRIDGE KEESEVILLE
Services: Sundays at 10 a.m.
Location: 1724 Front St., Keeseville, in the brick building next to Mac's Market.