The Covington Square, shown here during the 2012 Easter on the Square service, will once again be filled with 1,500 seats on Easter Day as the First Baptist Church of Covington offers a worship service to the community.
Chairs to seat as many as 1,500 people will be set up soon for the fifth annual Easter on the Square, which is anticipated to be the largest outdoor worship service in Newton County on Easter Sunday morning. Situated among the trees on the historic square in Covington, the March 31 worship service is sponsored by the First Baptist Church.
Easter Sunday worship begins at 10 a.m. with special music by FBC's praise team and its 50-plus-member choir, under the leadership of Tim Barnes, minister of music. The message will be brought by the Rev. Al Gilbert of the Southern Baptist North American Home Mission Board (NAMB).
As vice president for evangelism and the executive director of LoveLoud ministry, the evangelism arm for NAMB, Gilbert serves in the board's Alpharetta office. He and his wife, K.K., are the parents of four grown children and the grandparents of 11.
The former senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., Gilbert left North Carolina for Georgia in 2011, to help improve the ministries of Southern Baptist churches. In his evangelism position with NAMB, Gilbert works to encourage churches to reach out into their communities with ministries and programs as they share the message of Christ.
Easter on the Square is a "gift to our community," FBC Covington's pastor of discipleship and ministries Ralph Meaker said. "We'll be celebrating that He has risen. He has risen indeed. We serve a risen savior... He is our king, our master and our lord."
Meaker said FBC Covington, which has about 1,100 members, decided five years ago to host a worship service for the community and, because its facilities were not large enough, the church held the service on the square. Now Easter on the Square has become a tradition for many area residents.
Meaker said there is always a "great crowd" and he expects a large turnout on Easter morning this year. For the past three years there have been 1,500-plus in attendance.
"Everyone is welcomed to attend," he said.
The service should last about 90 minutes and Meaker said if there is inclement weather on Easter Sunday morning, the service will move into the FBC sanctuary. If that happens, services will be held according to the regular FBC Sunday schedule with worship at 8:15, 10:30 and 10:45 a.m. All three services will take place on Palm Sunday, as well.
The former pastor of FBC Covington recently accepted a call to preach in Birmingham, Ala., and the Newton County church is presently moving through the process of having an interim pastor.
"We will have the pulpit filled every week," Meaker said. "We are not skipping a beat."
FBC Covington is located at the corner of Floyd and Elm streets in historic downtown Covington.