Church in the Now will hold ser­vices in Cov­ing­ton

The Covington News - - Front page - DANIELLE EVER­SON deverson@cov­news.com

Church in the Now will have its first wor­ship ser­vice in Cov­ing­ton this month.

The church plans to have ser­vice on Sept. 30 at a for­mer in­dus­trial build­ing at 13183 Har­land Drive. Cov­ing­ton city coun­cil mem­bers voted unan­i­mously to ap­prove a spe­cial use per­mit for the church to op­er­ate in the heavy in­dus­trial zon­ing dis­trict.

How­ever, coun­cil ap­proved the spe­cial use per­mit un­der two con­di­tions — that park­ing be lim­ited to on-site only and if the church de­cided to es­tab­lish ser­vices in ad­di­tion to wor­ship ser­vices, those ser­vices would re­quire ad­di­tional sep­a­rate spe­cial use per­mits.

Lead Pas­tor Bishop Jim Swil­ley spoke to coun­cil, as dozens of church mem­bers packed coun­cil cham­bers to show their sup­port. Swil­ley told coun­cil that his fam­ily has been in the Cov­ing­ton community since 1985. He said his church has a mem­ber­ship of about 300 peo­ple. He said the church’s mem­ber­ship was too big to

op­er­ate in a store­front or the build­ing they were in be­fore.

“Af­ter we went through a fore­clo­sure at our Iris Drive prop­erty in Cony­ers, we searched ev­ery place that was avail­able in Rock­dale and New­ton coun­ties,” Swil­ley said. “There re­ally is no other place.”

Swil­ley said the church would have two Sun­day morn­ing ser­vices at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. and one Wed­nes­day night ser­vice. He told the coun­cil he was sure ev­ery­one was fa­mil­iar with the story of Church in the Now.

The for­mer mega church’s 43-acre prop­erty at Iris Drive in Cony­ers went into fore­clo­sure in March 2011. The church’s mem­ber­ship ex­ploded in the late 1990s and, ac­cord­ing to a story in the At­lanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion, the church took out a loan of $18 mil­lion in 2003 as it sought to ex­pand fur­ther. How­ever, the re­ces­sion hit, fol­lowed by lead pas­tor Bishop Jim Swil­ley an­nounc­ing he was gay in late 2010, and mem­ber­ship slowly de­clined to around 1,000 mem­bers be­fore the church went into fore­clo­sure.

Ear­lier this year, Spring­field Bap­tist Church en­tered into an agree­ment with the mort­gage holder Evangelical Chris­tian Credit Union to pur­chase the Iris Drive prop­erty.

“We’ve gone through a lot. We might have to re­think what Church in the Now is,” he said.

Af­ter the vote, coun­cil mem­ber Chris Smith com­mented about the park­ing con­di­tions at the lo­ca­tion.

“If you would make sure your con­gre­ga­tion fully un­der­stands that they can­not park on Har­land Drive,” Smith said. “Be­lieve me, your neigh­bors would be call­ing po­lice and they will cite you. Please don’t al­low that to hap­pen.”

Mayor Ron­nie John­ston and coun­cil mem­ber Janet Good­man both wel­comed the church to the city as mem­bers cheered and ap­plauded af­ter the de­ci­sion.

The 33,688 square-foot va­cant build­ing at Har­land Drive was pre­vi­ously used as an in­dus­trial ware­house and of­fice space. The church signed a three-year lease agree­ment with the prop­erty’s owner Lan­ners De­vel­op­ment to hold its wor­ship ser­vices at the lo­ca­tion.

De­bye Swil­ley, Church in the Now’s pas­tor, CFO and ad­min­is­tra­tor said in Au­gust that the church had been con­duct­ing wor­ship ser­vices at the Stonecrest Mall movie theater on Sun­days and at a school au­di­to­rium in Rock­dale County on Wed­nes­days. She said the church is ex­cited about com­ing to Cov­ing­ton and help­ing out the community in any way that they can.

“We’re ex­cited about part­ner­ing with some of the lo­cal char­i­ties and mak­ing a dif­fer­ence here in New­ton County as we did in Rock­dale County.”

File photo /The Cov­ing­ton News

The for­mer mega church’s 43-acre prop­erty at Iris Drive in Cony­ers went into fore­clo­sure in March 2011. Af­ter the re­ces­sion hit, fol­lowed by lead pas­tor Bishop Jim Swil­ley an­nounc­ing he was gay in late 2010, mem­ber­ship slowly de­clined to around 1,000 mem­bers be­fore the church went into fore­clo­sure.

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