EAST MANATEE -- It was pushing 90 degrees in the summer heat and sweat was dripping in ropes down their foreheads and necks, but this crowd of 500 didn't mind.
They pushed their arms in the air to worship and sing in front of a semi-completed building they would soon call home. All of the steel beams, the silver skeleton of the new Bayside Community Church, were exposed and ready to be splashed in prayer.
The task was simple, but serious.
"They're going to be writing the names of loved ones, friends, family members, anyone that they have on their heart
or mind that could benefit from the expansion of the church," said church volunteer Angela Moore. "They're simply writing a name of somebody who is on their heart and who will have life change because of the church."
Bayside staff welcomed the crowd on Wednesday with wicker baskets full of black Sharpies.
Kadynce Bivins, 10, and her sister Audrina, 6, were two of the first to pen a name. They chose their father, Jerry Bivins, who is in prison for burglary and will be released in 2017. "He doesn't know God," said the girls' mother, Sara Keiper.
Bayside, which as recently as 2009 was meeting in leased space at Freedom Elementary School, is continuing its meteoric growth with an expansion of its campus at 15800 State Road 64 E.
Planned is a 73,347-square-foot enlargement of the sanctuary, including a 2,500 seat auditorium with tiered seating and an elevated performance platform. Also lined up are several lounge areas, offices, a cafe and a commercial kitchen. A new children's area will include a lagoon-themed play zone and 10 new classrooms.
"This gives us a real opportunity to reach more people with God's love," said lead pastor Randy Bezet. "It's what we have to do."
When Bayside, a non-denominational congregation, opened its multi-million dollar East Manatee campus in 2010, the 55,000-square-foot facility had been scaled down from an originally planned 100,000 square feet due to the plummeting economy.
But as the church gained momentum, Bayside's membership began to grow.
"We moved into the current facility a little over four years ago and within a year we filled it up," Bezet said.
Willis A. Smith Construction is building the expansion, which is slated to be completed by December.
Bayside also has campuses in West Bradenton and in Sarasota. Members from those campuses also showed up to write names on the beams.
One person wrote "Barack Obama and his wife." Another wrote "Summer, because she's crazy."
Ted Granger scribbled the name of the guy who cuts his lawn. Stu.
"We believe he needs to be here. He's unhappy," said Granger, 62. "If we can't do it, the Lord will."
Susan Burriss, a five-year member of Bayside, wrote down her ex-husband, her mother, her kids, her new boyfriend.
"He's only been here once and he called it a dog-and-pony show," she said. "He's old-fashioned."
But Burriss said she believes Bayside is where her boyfriend needs to be.
"There's no more powerful thing than what's here at this church," she said.
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @sabrinarocco.