Becky Covington, 34, is a minister working on her master’s degree, taking on another job and dealing with the end of a 10-year relationship.
She recently found herself praying to her car’s dashboard for life to be gentler with her. She is the composed leader of a congregation that itself is in transition, and most of the time she keeps her personal emotions locked tightly behind her kind, brown eyes, speaking reflectively but with restraint.
In the last couple months, she said goodbye to her partner, her home and her pets: five poodles, two cats, two African gray parrots, a scarlet macaw and a turtle. She has temporarily moved from the Gainesville area to North Carolina to be near the mountains she loves and to start a new job that she is excited about.
The new job has caused her physical separation from the Seraphim Center, the church she leads, for a few months, even as its members search for a new building that isn’t so cramped. Their current house-turned-worship-center barely has room for everyone on Sunday mornings.
The Seraphim Center currently meets at 1234 NW 14th Ave. in Gainesville, on a narrow street surrounded by tall oak trees. A large, triumphant angel floats on a painting in the living room where services are held: Seraphim is the plural of seraph, an angel of the highest order.
As Covington deals with the onslaught of change, she draws strength from her spirituality and her sense of purpose. She also draws from a different source: she has been taught to use psychic abilities and has been trained in energy healing.
Covington said she first saw an angel when she was 9.
It was “incredibly beautiful,” sitting on the edge of her bed as she hovered in the haze between sleep and wakefulness. She said it put its hand on her leg, and a sense of peace filled her.
It came just before her brother was shot and killed at age 17.
That was the first of many extraordinary experiences Covington would have. In college, where she attended a Presbyterian school in Tennessee called Tusculum College, she met others who had experienced abnormal things, too.
Some of them knew things they shouldn’t. Some of them heard things most people don’t. Some of them saw things others don’t. One of them, upon meeting her, asked her who Tim was, explaining that Tim was “around her a lot.”
Tim is her deceased brother.
Covington dropped out of college to return home and take care of her family in Daytona Beach, but she started studying different philosophies on her own. She read about subjects like astrology, past lives and psychic abilities.
She started a cleaning business and met Jai Mai, a hypnotherapist who eventually put her in contact with the Rev. Bob Estling, the founder of the Seraphim Center.
Covington uses terms like “lightworker-awakener,” “crystal balancing” and “inner knowing” when talking about the skills she has developed since deciding she believes in paranormal things. Things most people in the United States would dismiss as imaginary. Deep inside, her intuition tells her that it is real, she said.
“We are trained in school to trust logic,” Covington said. “But we have to listen to our inner wisdom.”
Covington’s mother still refers to her as a preacher. Her father is more understanding. Her Southern Baptist sister tried to save her the last time they talked about religion.
She assured her sister that she believes Jesus lived to show people the way to God. To her sister’s dismay, she couldn’t resist adding that she believes the same is true of Buddha, Muhammad and other spiritual prophets and leaders.
Covington grew up in the Church of Christ, but she was ordained through an organization that has no institutional religious backing, and now she leads a church that describes itself as “interfaith, multidenominational and transreligious.”
At the Seraphim Center, a menorah stands watch over Jesus, pharaohs, angels, Buddhas, dream-catchers and other spiritual and religious symbols crowded upon a table. The members conceive of God as a sort of energy, and the purpose of the services are to help each other better connect to that energy.
Having learned about so many religious philosophies, Covington chose to write her master’s thesis, which she is still writing, on the turmoil and shift occurring in major religions in recent years.
She said she sees beauty in each of the major religions but doesn’t think there is a set path to God or heaven.
One of the things that Covington says makes her feel most connected to God is performing a healing. There are many forms of energy healing, including individually developed techniques and widely practiced techniques such as reiki. Covington’s specialty is called crystal balancing.
The goal of crystal balancing is to remove “negative energy” that has built up within a person. She uses soothing music, relaxing scents and deep breathing to create a peaceful, meditative atmosphere for her clients. She invites her clients to talk to her about their stressors, and then has them lie flat on a table, eyes closed. She then uses hand movements and crystals, which some believe to absorb energy, to try to clear negativity.
At the end, she leaves the crystals around the client’s body to absorb the negative energy, and she sits quietly, waiting for words of advice or encouragement to come to her. She calls these “downloads” and said it is part of her inner knowing.
It was a different type of healing that Covington credits for the recent changes in her life.
Sherry Gustafson, whom Covington calls her “soul mother,” performed a healing intended to help her let go of negative words, moments or actions from her childhood that, to this day, affect her.
Gustafson calls it “rewriting the script” of experiences that have shaped one’s way of thinking.
Covington said the experience helped her realize she was stuck in a pattern of basing her life around things others asked of her or expected her to do – starting with her brother’s death.
She was only 9, but as the next-oldest child, she tried to fill his role in taking care of her family. Later, she gave up college to help her family. And when Estling, founder of the Seraphim Center, started grooming her to lead the congregation after him, she stepped into his shoes, too.
“I have not been living for myself since I was 9 years old,” she said.
The onslaught of change in her life started right after the healing, which happened in October. The decision to take on another job was one she made for herself.