About 18 month ago Steve Carpenter, a pastor at Gateway Baptist in Atoka, met with Thomas Bester, who pastors at Forerunner Baptist Church, which is based in  Ripley but has a campus in Covington.

The goal of the meeting was for the two churches, the first of which is primarily white and the other African-American, to figure out a way to form a partnership and better serve the people of Covington.

Two days after the men talked and prayed together, Carpenter got a call from a man in his congregation about using a building located on the northwest corner as a Gateway campus.

The man, who Carpenter said does not want to be named, had recently purchased the building that at one time was used by the Covington-Tipton County Chamber of Commerce for special events.

After a lot of work by many people, the campus, which is called Gateway on the Square, will hold its first church service on Easter Sunday at 6 p.m.

“We wanted to reach folks we can’t reach in our current location,” Carpenter said Tuesday in the new Gateway campus.

Over the past few weeks, Carpenter has walked through the neighborhoods near the Square to spread the word about the new church.

Carpenter said he talked to a black man in his 70s who was sitting on his porch.

“This man touched his arm and said, ‘Will we be allowed to come?’” Carpenter said. “It was like something from a different time.”

The fact that most churches are racially segregated is a fact Carpenter hopes this new campus will work toward changing.

He also wants the campus to reach people who are not affiliated with a church. Carpenter said a study he read revealed that about 35,000 Tipton County residents, which is close to half the population, don’t claim a religious affiliation.

There are 35 metal signs with the number 1,000 on them hanging the front window of the church.

Several months before the new campus became a reality, some women of Gateway started a kids club at the Covington Housing Authority.

“This was a natural place because we already had relationships here,” Carpenter said.

Gateway on the Square will also have tutoring, addiction recovery services and marriage and parenting classes in the coming months.

The church is located at 101 Court Square West in Covington.

For more information, see gatewaytipton.com/welcome/gatewayonthesquare.

Jeff Ireland is The Leader's sports editor. To contact him, call 901-476-7116 or email jireland@covingtonleader.com.​