Sunderland church opens center to community
Maple Ridge Church in Sunderland welcomes a variety of groups to use it building that functions as a place of worship as well as a community center. KATHLEEN McKIERNAN Purchase photo reprints »
SUNDERLAND — A local church has opened a new 30,000-square-foot facility on Amherst Road both as a worship site and as a venue to serve the community.
The Maple Ridge Church, of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, does not intend to limit its space at 659 Amherst Road to religious services. It has opened its doors to tennis players, home-school groups, theater groups and dance studios. The atmosphere as different groups come in and out of the building is similar to a local YMCA.
“We’re just trying to provide a service to the community. The vision we had was for a building that serves the community and not just church purposes,” said Pastor Sanjoy Mazumdar.
The Christian and Missionary Alliance is an evangelical Protestant denomination within the Christian faith. Maple Ridge has church members coming from 13 different towns — from Ashfield to Springfield.
In 2007, the congregation purchased the facility, which housed three indoor tennis courts, on 3.5 acres of land. The goal was to build a building that would be multi-purpose in use serving the local towns and congregation.
Since then, the center has undergone major renovations, which turned one of the tennis courts into a lobby, sanctuary or auditorium, bathrooms and kitchen space.
Renovating the center was not an easy job for the church, which relied mostly on donations. In the winter of 2007, the heating system broke down and Maple Ridge had to conduct its church services at the Amherst Middle School.
The 85-member church group spent the next few years moving from one location to the next while renovations were under way.
In 2009, the building needed a more extensive fire alarm system than originally intended and more fire safety precautions, including huge firewalls at a cost of about $90,000.
In 2010, for $15,000, the church finished the second floor of classrooms and office space. Then, for an additional $150,000 price tag, it installed the sprinkler system, which included bringing water from across Route 116.
In October, five years after initially purchasing the building, Maple Ridge opened its community center. All that remains is the installation of ramps for the handicapped and roof repairs for approximately $20,000.
“For a small group of people, it’s been mind-blowing. God keeps providing for us. It keeps us going,” Mazumdar said.
The final piece planned is to open a 2,500-square-foot coffee shop at the front of the building. Mazumdar said the church will lease the space to someone willing to continue to house a kids’ cafe and wireless Internet access.
“There are not a lot of places to go to in the winter. We want to make it family friendly and also have a section for the college crowd,” Mazumdar said.
Many groups have already taken advantage of the center. The University of Massachusetts-Amherst women’s and the Deerfield Academy girls’ tennis teams both practice at the two remaining tennis courts. The newly surfaced US Open blue tennis courts make up 12,000 square feet of the building. In addition, a group of professional tennis players — Mike Kolendo, Jon Aronstein and Ryan Paquette — teach youth tennis at the center.
Several different theater and dance groups, including Starlight’s Youth Theatre of Amherst and Amherst Ballet, perform in the 250-300-person auditorium. On Tuesday afternoons, a local home -school group tutors students. On Sundays, the church holds worship services for church members.
And recently, the Sunderland Zoning Board of Appeals gave the church permission to use its front and back parking lots for farmers markets and tag sales.
Maple Ridge plans to complete final inspections on its new venue this week.
You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.