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Eagle Brook megachurch plans 2011 Woodbury opening

Minnesota's largest church is bringing its contemporary style and mass appeal to Woodbury.

Eagle Brook Church, a megachurch with three worship centers in the northern Twin Cities, is planning a 75,000-square-foot complex in Woodbury. It wants to offer services beginning in late 2011.

The Rev. Scott Anderson, Eagle Brook executive pastor, said the Lino Lakes-based church chose Woodbury for one of its two new satellite worship centers because many east metro residents attend Eagle Brook.

"We have hundreds of families coming from that part of the Twin Cities," he said, citing visitors from Woodbury, Lake Elmo, Lakeland, Afton and Hudson, Wis.

The two-story church is planned for a 40-acre site east of Settlers Ridge Parkway and north of Brookview Road. Eagle Brook chose the site in part because it could accommodate future expansion of the worship center in a second construction phase.

The project still is in the early stages. City staff are reviewing the church's development plan. The proposal could reach the Planning Commission by February, said Eric Searles, Woodbury associate planner. The project will require an extension of Eastview Road east of Settlers Ridge Parkway, at Eagle Brook's expense.

Anderson could not pinpoint the project's estimated cost, but said "certainly it's in the tens of millions" of dollars.

The plan includes a worship center for up to 1,500 people, in floor-level seating and theater-style seats in the back to allow for better viewing. It also would feature gathering space and room for education and children's worship. It would be Eagle Brook's second-largest facility, behind the 2,100-seat Lino Lakes worship center.

Eagle Brook is affiliated with the Baptist denomination, but is "multi-denominational in our make-up," Anderson said. It draws people from a variety of church backgrounds.

Many are attracted to Eagle Brook's high-tech, contemporary worship. Each site has a worship band that leads visitors in song, but the church's three teaching pastors deliver their sermons from the main worship center. Sermons are broadcast live to the satellite locations.

"A large screen would come down and the message would be broadcast from our Lino Lakes campus," Anderson said, later adding: "We're a pretty media savvy church, and that's one of the reasons people are drawn to us."

Eagle Brook plans two Saturday services and another two on Sundays, though it may start with a smaller worship schedule.

Woodbury and Eagle Brook share similar demographics, Anderson said. Church visitors average 35 years old. It is popular with young families and people who are seeking a faith community after having been away from the church for years.

Anderson encouraged mega-church skeptics to visit the church, but acknowledged that Eagle Brook's approach may not be for everyone.

"For those people for whom a large church would just be the wrong fit, that's why there's diversity in churches," he said.

It is a large and growing congregation, but Eagle Brook does not intend to squeeze out smaller Woodbury churches, Anderson said, noting that no church within 10 miles of the Lino Lakes campus has closed in its four years.

"It is our desire to be part of the church community," he said. "We have no desire to take over the church community."

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