The Kids are Coming Home to Connexion at North Covington
By Ansley Brackin
Connexion at North Covington invites you to celebrate its grand opening on Sunday, December 14th at 11AM, after months of renovations and years of transitioning. The renewed place of worship is a result of Connexion Church merging with North Covington United Methodist Church. Connexion integrated with the traditional church, bringing in new ideas while respecting the history inside the 125 year old building. The result has been expanded diversity and the return of families who once worshiped together in North Covington’s sanctuary.
The idea behind Connexion came from current pastor Rev. Andrew Covington, who was once on the ADOX district’s Strategic Growth Team. While touring the area he grew up in with Sharma Lewis and other team members, Rev. Covington saw there was opportunity to create a worship space to accommodate a more diverse audience.
Connexion first gathered in the rented space of Peachtree Academy, a school that has housed three other church plants within the Covington area during their beginning stages.
As the congregation began to grow, Rev. Covington noticed areas of their ministry that needed more space and more time together. Connexion moved to the chapel of Covington First UMC after reaching out to Congregational Development to determine a solution. There, the plant continued to grow into their new space and developed a little sister relationship with the congregation of Covington First. The churches worshipped in separate buildings in the morning but often came together for events and studies.
When they outgrew their space once more, they looked to their community to welcome North Covington under the name of Connexion, adding “at North Covington” to their title.
Change is Good
A month before moving into the North Covington UMC space, Connexion invited the members of North Covington to worship with them in the Covington First UMC chapel. to begin forming community and to show the members hospitality. Rev. Covington saw the brief emptiness of the North Covington building as a symbol of renewal and opportunity.
“We wanted to come back to this space together as a new church,” Rev. Covington explains.
This rejuvenated congregation brought with it a simple modernized service with a “come as you are” setting. They invite new worshippers in, not with special mood lighting or overwhelming welcome wagons, but with good coffee, handcrafted details, and all-inclusive music.
Attendees first walk in to a simple cafe stocked with hot beverages and snacks that can be enjoyed over fellowship in the small dining area, announcements tacked to the walls. Covington plans to create “office hours” for the café space to provide church groups and the local college students of Oxford University with a place to meet, study, and fellowship.
Walking into the sanctuary, a beautiful offering table can be seen, created out of a wooden door, and the large wooden cross built out of wood scraps hangs over the worship band, between two large, legible screens.
Often times, the service begins with a secular song. Worship leader Austin Studebaker takes special care in making everyone feel comfortable with singing in service by incorporating songsthat those without a church background may know, for example: Imagine Dragons, and Philip Phillips. Both Studebaker and Rev. Covington do an impressive job of tying these songs into a Christian message, allowing for worshipers to hear the songs in a new way even while listening to them on the radio once they leave.
“Not everyone will know the Chris Tomlin or the Matt Redman songs,” says Rev. Covington, “but they might know a Mumford and Sons song.”
The Old is Made New
Another unique aspect of Connexion at North Covington is a concept revived from a North Covington tradition, the Stew Shack. In a separate building, next to a giant bonfire pit, sits about six giant stew pots that were used to feed the congregation during gatherings.
With an increase in attendance and volunteers, there are even greater plans for the Stew Shack. Not only will it feed the worshippers, it will feed the hungry. Rev. Covington also hopes to use a giant smoker they have on site to provide turkeys during holiday seasons to those in need.
Connexion Church also brought a new method for Sunday School to the table. New church plants have been setting aside the traditional organization of Sunday School class and replacing it with a more casual agenda.
Connect Groups usually meet each Sunday before worship or after Wednesday Night Reset, a gathering that invites the congregation to dinner and fellowship before breaking into bible study groups. The goal of these groups is to keep them to about eight people and to provide trust, comfort, and more flexibility than Sunday mornings.
The Kids are Coming Home
A traditional service has been offered after their 11AM message for members who do not prefer modern worship, until the end of the year. However, Rev. Covington and his worship team find themselves preaching to an empty sanctuary.
To their surprise, older adults who were members of North Covington no longer wish to attend a traditional service. The new atmosphere Connexion brought to the historic building called the members’ children and grandchildren back to the North Covington space, allowing them to all worship together once more.
“Worship styles go out the window when you see lives are being changed,” says Rev. Covington.
The church’s rebirth has also attracted the nearby neighborhoods. Planted on property surrounded by houses, families can be seen walking to church. Some children ride their bikes to service and to Wednesday night activities, something that North Covington’s oldest members recall doing as children themselves.
“I love the idea of neighborhood kids riding their bikes to worship,” says Covington, who recently promised young attendees a bike rack.
There is a feeling of reassurance in the idea of kids “transporting themselves to church,” eager to go inside for prayer and community.
Members of Connexion at North Covington are currently putting together the finishing touches for their official grand opening on Sunday December 14th
Every contractor that contributed to the renovations of the building is specially invited to attend the service and participate in the ribbon cutting ceremony.
All are welcome to attend the festivities planned for the big weekend. Saturday night attendees can have S’mores with Santa by their bonfire pit. Families can get their picture with Santa and enjoy crafts and music, all for free from 5:00pm-7:00pm.
Sunday’s celebration will begin at 11AM with the ribbon cutting followed by a special worship service. Afterwards, all are invited for fellowship and coffee.
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