Conyers native and Heritage High School graduate Andrew Covington will pastor the new Methodist church, Connexion Church, which will hold a Christmas event on Dec. 22.
The only new church started this year in the United Methodists' North Georgia Conference has been planted right between Rockdale and Newton counties. Connexion Church plans to open its doors as a full-fledged church by its official launch date in February, but it has a special Christmas event and services lined up before that time.
As it gears up for its opening, Connexion Church will offer Rediscover Christmas, an event open to the community, on Saturday, Dec. 22. at Peachtree Academy, 1801 Ellington Road in Conyers, where the new church will meet.
The event offers free pictures with Santa Claus and s'mores, crafts and carols. It begins with Santa and s'mores from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., followed by candlelight and carols from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m., with more caroling and a hot chocolate fellowship from 6:15 to 7 p.m.
"The whole thing is free," said Rev. Andrew Covington, a Conyers native and 1996 graduate of Heritage High School. "Everybody is invited to come with their families and rediscover the true meaning of Christmas."
The pastor also invites the community to come to weekly services, starting Jan. 6, with Sunday services at 11 a.m.
"We encourage everybody to come out and see and experience our church, or at least go to our website, podcast and video," Covington said.
Covington holds a degree in criminal justice with a minor in sociology from Jacksonville State University, and a master of divinity degree from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Covington and his wife Mollie are the parents of Drew, 8 and Emilie, 3.Covington is already familiar to many as a minister in the community. Connexion Church will be Covington's first senior pastorate. He has served as associate minister for two churches prior to being appointed in July to pastor the new church.
Covington served on the staff of Jones Memorial United Methodist Church in Lake City and as an associate pastor at East Cobb UMC in Marietta prior to serving as an associate pastor at Conyers First UMC, a position he held for five years before being appointed to the new church plant.
"The bishop had asked all the district superintendents where they might revitalize or do something new and set up a district strategic growth team," Covington said. "I was on that team and we looked at our district, which is the Atlanta-Decatur-Oxford District. We started in Decatur and went through Covington and Oxford. We looked to revitalize or do something new."
Covington said a great deal of potential exists in the area between Rockdale and Newton counties.
"There's been a lot of new growth in that area in recent years and a lot of new families. We felt led to go to the bishop and the conference and present a plant to present a new and different kind of church to target the people in this area," said Covington. The bishop approved the plan.
Assisting Covington with this new church start is Andrew Baker, the children's minister, along with about 20 others who have joined in to serve as the launch team, including Covington's mother, Dotti Covington. Both his parents, Fred and Dotti, still live near the church, Rockdale Baptist, where Covington grew up and where he said he was influenced by his church youth minister, Brian Foster.
Covington said a number of young people in Foster's youth group have entered the ministry.
"It was his hands-on approach, loving us and making himself accessible to us (that influenced the students)," Covington said. "That's really at the heart of what we're doing at Connexion Church. It's being authentic. Being who we are. We want it to be a place of community. We want to live life together and support each other in good times and bad.
"It's not about being the newest or flashiest thing on the block, but being a really authentic place where you can come and find community."
The name, Connexion Church, is a form of old English, Covington said, which "harkens back to the roots of Methodism in England"
"It's about the way groups come together and make decisions," he said. "It's being of one mind and harmonious. It's more the idea of people coming together and being like-minded with Christ being the center of the church. We want to be a loving and open community with everything we do centered around Christ."
The official launch date for the church is Feb. 10.
"It's a little different than what you think of from a contemporary church. We do a lot of reworking of old hymns. We call it modern worship. It's a blend of very contemporary songs to old hymns. It's a really neat kind of worship service. We want to provide a peaceful time -- not put you to sleep, but bring you to a place of peace," Covington said.
Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Loganville. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.