Flood forces Gateway Community Church to renovate

Flood forces Gateway Community Church to renovate

Pastor John Pearrell is looking forward to performing a baptism on Sunday in the newly renovated sanctuary of Gateway Community Church in Newton County. (Special Photo)

Pastor John Pearrell is looking forward to performing a baptism on Sunday in the newly renovated sanctuary of Gateway Community Church in Newton County. (Special Photo)

Maybe the mural on the wall in the preschool classroom was a sign of things to come. That colorful rendering of Noah’s Ark stayed high and dry while the pastor and members of Gateway Community Church sloshed around in ankle-deep water following a flood of their own.

On one of the coldest days in January, part of the sprinkler system in the Covington church froze and broke and water flooded the sanctuary.

“It froze in a back room of the church and we were told we had about 100 gallons a minute flowing for 30 or 45 minutes before we got it turned off,” Pastor John Pearrell said. “When I got here, the water was over my shoes. We said we had the Gateway Lake in the sanctuary.”

The water saturated the entire area, including the sanctuary, surrounding floors and foyer.

It was a shock to the church, which in December had just celebrated paying off its mortgage and now a month later was having to almost rebuild.

“We had been talking about making some changes and this forced us to go ahead and do it,” Pearrell said. “…God said, ‘I’m going to help you guys out. You have to make them now.’”

The church had insurance to cover the damage and by members volunteering to do the work, Gateway Community Church has been able to get a lot more done, the pastor said.

The sanctuary, which seats around 225 people had been a beige color, but has now been painted a light green with a white ceiling. The soggy old blue carpet was removed and this past week, new carpet in a brown design was installed.

In addition, a decorative rock-covered wall was built behind the platform in the front of the church and the platform itself was made higher and wider.

Gateway also took this opportunity to improve its sound booth and lighting set up, rewiring so that the lights can be adjusted on a single control panel.

The church foyer got a face-lift with new paint, new carpet, new window treatments and new furniture.

Since the Gateway flood, the church has been meeting in its fellowship hall for worship services. The pastor said the space has been a “little tight,” but that the congregation is expected to again be able to worship in the sanctuary this Sunday morning.

“We’re excited to be back in there,” he said. “…We hope to be back in this Sunday. I’ve got a baptism this Sunday, so we need to be back in. We’ll be at least to the point where we can go in and worship and touch up later.”

Built on Brown Bridge Road in Covington in 1996, Gateway Community Church began as a Bible study in 1991. The Bible study grew into a church in 1992, holding its first services in a bolt factory in Conyers.

Pearrell has led the church since that first Bible study and when the 70 folks who were involved in the Bible study began talking about forming a church, the steering committee asked Pearrell if he would serve as pastor.

Pearrell will continue preaching his “Dream Again” sermon series this Sunday morning when the church meets for worship at 10:30. The first week of the series, the pastor talked about the life of Moses.

“We saw where one act sidelined him 40 years, but God restored him and when we think of him, we never think of those 40 years,” Pearrell said. “Then we looked at the life of Peter, Jesus’ No. 1 guy. Then Peter swears he doesn’t even know Jesus, but Jesus restores him completely and puts him back in the top spot. He can do that in our lives.”

Everyone in the area is invited to worship with Gateway Community Church in its newly renovated sanctuary and also invited to Sunday School at 9:30 a.m. The church is located at 11677 Brown Bridge Road in Covington.

Beth Slaughter Sexton is a freelance writer based in Gwinnett County. Contact her at bethslaughtersexton@gmail.com.