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Church in the Now finds new home in Covington

COVINGTON -- Church in the Now, once a megachurch with roots in Rockdale County, has found a new home at 13183 Harland Drive in Covington.

Dozens of church members were on hand at the Covington City Council meeting Monday night when the council voted unanimously to approve a special use permit to allow the church to operate in a Heavy Industrial zoning district. Following the vote, Bishop Jim Swilley exclaimed, "Thank you guys! Covington rocks!"

The special-use permit includes two conditions: limiting parking to the property site and requiring additional special-use permits should the church decide to offer services, such as day care, other than church services on Sundays and Wednesday evenings.

Swilley told the council that the church was pleased to have found its new location, which is owned by Lanners Development Inc. in Covington.

"We have been in this community since 1985, and I think probably everybody is familiar with our story," Swilley said.

With 300 members, Swilley said Church in the Now no longer qualifies as a megachurch. However, finding a new location for the congregation wasn't without problems.

"We searched every place that was available in Rockdale and Newton counties," Swilley said, adding, "There really is no other place. We are too big for a storefront and not big enough for the size building we had before."

The Harland Drive facility is a 33,688-square-foot building that was previously used as an industrial warehouse and office space.

Swilley said he hoped to have the first services at the new location on Sunday, Sept. 30.

Church in the Now was previously located on a 43-acre campus on Iris Drive in Rockdale County. The church, once the largest in Rockdale County, went into foreclosure in 2011. The church property and buildings were put up for sale on the courthouse steps at a starting bid of $18.8 million. There were no takers, so the property reverted back to the mortgage holder, Evangelical Christian Credit Union.

The foreclosure followed a difficult year for the church. Many members were affected by the subprime mortgage crisis and church support dropped. In October 2010, Swilley announced to his church that he was gay. Swilley said at the time it was hard to lose the building, but he remained optimistic about the future of his ministry.

Springfield Baptist Church has since acquired the property and is using the site for worship services as well as a private school.

Staff reporter Crystal Tatum contributed to this report.