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No bidders take Church in the Now at foreclosure auction

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. 
Foreclosure proceedings were advertised last week for the Church In The Now property, located on Iris Drive and west of Salem Road, and then withdrawn Monday by creditors. The legal notice on Jan. 7 noted foreclosure was filed due to default toward payment on $18.5 million attached to the church's security deed. The church's creditor, Evangelical Christian Credit Union, gave no reason for withdrawing the foreclosure.

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Foreclosure proceedings were advertised last week for the Church In The Now property, located on Iris Drive and west of Salem Road, and then withdrawn Monday by creditors. The legal notice on Jan. 7 noted foreclosure was filed due to default toward payment on $18.5 million attached to the church's security deed. The church's creditor, Evangelical Christian Credit Union, gave no reason for withdrawing the foreclosure.

CONYERS -- No one placed a bid on the Church In The Now property Tuesday during a foreclosure sale on the steps of the Rockdale County Courthouse, so the property will revert to the church's mortgage holder.

The starting bid on the property was $18.8 million and includes the building and 43 acres of the property, located at 1877 Iris Drive. With no takers, the church's mortgage holder, Evangelical Christian Credit Union, becomes the primary deed holder.

For now, church services will continue on the property. Debye Swilley said Tuesday that the church will remain on the property through May 31 to accommodate high school graduations scheduled there.

"We were sure, pretty much, almost 100 percent, that the lender was going to take the property back. They weren't going to let it go for a ridiculous amount, even if somebody would show up to bid," she said. "We had a lease already prepared with the lender assuming they would be the owner for us to be there through the end of May at a minimum."

Swilley, who serves as the CITN chief financial officer and co-pastor, said she hopes the church can work out a longer term agreement to keep services on the property through the end of the year.

Jac La Tour, a spokesman for Evangelical Christian Credit Union in Brea, Calif., said his company was working with the church on a short-term lease agreement.

The church combined and moved services from the main sanctuary to the Kids In The Now building as a cost-saving measure. Swilley said they have about 1,000 members total and about 700 attended CITN services Sunday, the first in the smaller building.

Also, the park and ride lot for the Xpress bus service will remain. William Mecke, spokesman for the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, said the credit union has agreed to uphold the agreement with the regional commuter bus service.

La Tour said his company will be in talks with GRTA and will work on a new contract to keep "operations as seamless as possible" on the bus service.

La Tour said negotiations on a lease agreement with the church and GRTA will be on hold until the property deed is filed in the county's courthouse, which could take about two weeks to complete.

A legal notice appeared in the March 10 edition of the Rockdale Citizen to announce foreclosure proceedings on Church In The Now, located on Iris Drive, west of the Salem Road exit on Interstate 20.

The notice stated plans to sell the church following default on $18.5 million in principal from a security deed on the property filed in June 2007.

It was the second time foreclosure was announced on the large, non-denominational church. A foreclosure notice on Church In The Now was placed in the Citizen on Jan. 7. However, Hunter Maclean, the Savannah law firm that represents Evangelical Christian Credit Union, withdrew the advertisement three days later, saying it was "inadvertent and is being withdrawn."

In the blog entry last week, CITN Pastor Jim Swilley said it will be hard to lose the building, but he is optimistic about the future of his ministry.

"Church In The Now has been my life's work for the last 26 years ... my heart and soul (and blood, sweat and tears) are in those 43 acres," Swilley wrote. "But Church In The Now will continue, regardless of its physical location, and I've already done all my crying ... now, I'm just ready for the future ... ready to get on with it."