On a given evening at The Church At Covington, at least two little league team can be seen practicing in the field or a choir is practicing in the second floor of the church. While a number of these groups may not have direct ties with the church, its facilities are open for organizations to utilize.
"Our goal has been that if we were to shut our doors, the community would miss us," said Pastor David Payne. "We're driven to be a very community-minded church."
According to Payne, the church first opened in Porterdale during the 1930s. The church, then known as Gospel Tabernacle, remained in Porterdale until moving to its current location in 1990, where it was renamed The Church at Covington.
Payne, who grew up with the church when it was still Gospel Tabernacle, has been its pastor for over 24 years. During his time as pastor, he saw the congregation grow from 150 to about 1,200 members.
Residing on 32 acres, the church boasts a number of gorgeous facilities, including the main building at 45,000 square feet, the facility next door at 12, 600 square feet, a 6,000 square foot gymnasium and a 1,600 square foot outdoor stage. The church recently built a 4,000 square-foot children's space on the second floor that will be open to elementary students.
The church is on track to acquire an additional 65 acres in 2013, Payne said. The large tract of land, donated by a long-time member, will offer the church several opportunities to expand its mission. Payne hopes to build an amphitheater comparable to Chastain Amphitheater.
"I love gathering crowds," said Payne. "It gives me the chance to spread God's message."
Along with its partnerships with the city and the county to host a number of events, several organizations have utilized the church's facilities over the years, including Relay for Life and child and domestic abuse, senior and foster care groups. Mack McKibben of McKibben Music and the Arts Association have also held events in its facilities.
"We feel that God has given us a great place and we try to be accommodating to various groups in the community," said Payne. "The reason we do it is that God has blessed us, and, therefore, we want to be a blessing to others."
The church will host a free two-day Labor Day Music Festival on Sept. 4 and 5. The event will feature 10 bands, ranging from gospel and contemporary Christian to R&B, bluegrass and indie rock bands. The festival will be from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the first day and noon to 8 p.m. on the second day.
"My main message is to let people know that God is not mad at them," said Payne. "He doesn't want to kill them. He loves them, cares about them and wants to have a relationship with them."