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Posted: May 22, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Steeped in history

Local church set to hold homecoming services in June

Photo by Brittany Thomas/

"My heart is with the small church": The Rev. Michael Bell has been a pastor at the North Covington United Methodist Church since 2008. Bell's goal is to bring more young people into the church family.

The late Eva A. Mask, remembered by many as a historian and teacher, took on a project in 1945 of researching the history of the North Covington United Methodist Church. Dating back to 1876, the history was read as part of their first homecoming day. The documents were last updated by Mask in 1981.

On June 7, the community is invited to attend homecoming as church members pay honor to the church and its rich heritage, remember the past, renew relationships and establish goals for the future. After the service, dinner will be served in the fellowship hall - a contrast to the first homecoming dinner where the tables were made of loose planks borrowed from Campbell Lumber Company. The boards were laid on crude sawhorses and placed up and down the driveway at the side of the church.

Former pastor Dan Dixon and wife Brenda, who grew up three doors down from North Covington UMC, will bring the homecoming message to attendees. Special music is planned by Music Director Terri Barksdale and pianist, Jeanette Blasingame, including a flute selection by Becky Mask and Cheryl Calloway.

Under Dixon's leadership, the church began a tradition of sending out prayer letters to the sick, and it continues that ministry today. Each member signs the letter and commits to pray for the needs and healing of those requesting their thoughts Often, they receive thank you cards and praise reports.

The Rev. Michael Bell accepted his first pastorate as a part-time licensed local pastor of North Covington UMC on June 29, 2008. A native of Chicago, Bell accepted the call to ministry 10 years ago. He served in the military and completed his third year as a chemistry major before dropping out due to illness. Experienced in copier repair since 1970, Bell is employed full-time as a service representative for Milner Document Products Inc.

The pastor's hope is to bring balance to the church by seeing more 20 and 30-somethings with children join the church and fill the 128 seating capacity. This past year, the church has started midweek services and added daily Bible study.

"We are in a society where bigger is better and a lot of times the small church gets neglected or ignored and that shouldn't be," Bell said. "My heart is with the small church. The people here are wonderful, with good hearts. They care and are very accepting of people."

Bell's wife Diana teaches Bible study every Tuesday. The pastor describes his wife as an "encourager" who helps critique his sermons. They have one daughter, Elizabeth.
North Covington United Methodist Church was first known as Midway Church, a joint charge with Oxford as Emory College theological students received training in the church.

The present building was erected in 1889 on land donated by Mrs. A.D. Echols. The bricks were made by Jack Carroll. The first benches were planks laid across logs, later replaced in 1981 with upholstered sanctuary seats.
The church's name changed in the 1920s from Midway to North Covington Methodist Church. The coal furnace was replaced by potbellied stoves. In 1905, the first Sunday school was built adding two rooms back of the sanctuary.

In 1948, the church purchased land to build the parsonage. Since then, many improvements have been made such as the construction of a parking lot, addition of facilities and programs, installation of carpet, a heating and cooling system, speaker system and a storage house. The church dedicated a new education and Sunday school building in 1956 with restrooms and a kitchen. In 1979, storage was added at the parsonage and the barbecue pit and shelter were built. A new fellowship hall was built and dedicated in 1995.

Seasoned members Becky Ballard Mask, Kathryn House and Susan Hess described their church were eager to tell about their historic home church with stained glass windows and was once attended by neighboring families. Their eyes sparkled describing a sense of sacredness, a genuine good feeling and great sentimental value as they shared memories of what the church has meant to them.

"When you walk in, you feel a sense of family and belonging," said House. "When somebody hurts, everybody hurts because you are like family."

For more information, call the church office, 770-787-3386 or the pastor's cell, 404-819-6372, or email northcovingtonumc@bellsouth.net.

 


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