19 Churches Welcomed into Covenant Membership

IRVINE, CA (June 22, 2012) – Delegates to the 127th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church welcomed 19 churches into membership reflecting a cumulative membership of 1,685 and a cumulative average attendance of 3,246 individuals.

Following are the new churches, grouped by conference, including a brief history on each.

Central Conference

New Zion Christian Fellowship Covenant Church in Dolton, Illinois. Pastor Lance L. Davis – approximate attendance 325.

Dolton is a diverse community in the south suburbs of Chicago. It is more than 85 percent African-American with White and Hispanic populations as well. Unemployment and crime have increased as economic conditions have eroded over the past four years. New Zion seeks to meet the growing needs by developing ministries such as the Joseph Storehouse, which served food to more than 14,000 individuals last year, and Building Our Own Community, which works with at-risk youth to facilitate healthy after-school activities and programs.

New Zion was established August 3, 2003. The congregation meets in the 86,000-square-foot building it owns that houses the church, its programs, and 12 retail outlets. Membership has grown from the original 61 congregants. Pastor Lance Davis says the congregation seeks to unite with the Covenant because both share the same mission and vision concerning the work of the church.

River City Community Church in Chicago, Illinois. Pastor Daniel Hill – approximate attendance 250.

River City Community Church was founded in 2003 around three pillars: worship, reconciliation, and neighborhood development. It is located in the Humboldt Park neighborhood and is a mixed community, with Puerto Ricans generally populating the east, African-Americans populating the west, and a growing Hispanic immigrant community scattered throughout. Gentrification has led to a growing influx of young professionals.

Ministry to the neighborhood includes a thriving English as Second Language ministry that is free to those in the neighborhood and averages more than 100 students per semester, as well as multiple outreaches to children and youth. River City also is working to build bridges with other churches, nonprofits, and organizations.

East Coast Conference

New Vision Community Church in Flushing, New York. Pastor Yoon Chang – approximate attendance 125.

New Vision began as “Vision Christian Fellowship” in June 2004 as a fully chartered United Methodist Church. The church emerged from what was originally an “English ministry” at a first-generation Korean-American church.

Attendance is predominantly English-speaking Asian-Americans, most of whom are second-generation Korean-Americans with a few Chinese-Americans. The oldest attendee is mid-40s. One of the church’s priorities is to reach second-generation Korean-Americans who have grown up attending church, but have since left.

The congregation left the Methodist denomination due to significant disagreements over theology and denominational leadership. “We stayed independent, but started to investigate and pray towards joining a healthy network of churches focused on Christ and his mission,” says Chang. “We have found this home in the Evangelical Covenant Church.”

Evangelical Covenant Church of Alaska

The River Covenant Church in Kenai, Alaska. Pastor Frank Alioto – approximate attendance 85.

The church was started in the summer of 2009 by a group of Covenanters serving on the Kenai Peninsula in a variety of ministries and who desired to be part of a local Covenant church.

A launch team met under the direction of Field Director Rodney Sawyer. In July 2009, Pastor Frank Alioto and family moved from northern California with support from Hope Center Covenant Church in Pleasant Hill, California. Community Covenant Church of Eagle River, Alaska, also has provided support.

The church meets at the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai. Examples of ministries are a mom’s and children’s play group, Moose Roadkill Meat Recovery Team, and High School Breakfast Club. River Covenant also participates in various events with the Food Bank and Love, Inc.

The people the church ministers to include tourists who flock to the area to fish or hunt, and to the homesteaders who live off the land.

Great Lakes Conference

Redeemer Church in Hamilton, Ohio. Pastor Kim Katterheinrich – approximate attendance 350.

Redeemer Church was founded with a cornerstone ceremony in 1892 as St. John’s Evangelical Church in East Hamilton, Ohio, north of Cincinnati, and became part of the United Church of Christ (UCC). In the mid-2000s, the church disaffiliated with the UCC and began its search for a new denominational home. The church was attracted to the Covenant because of the denomination’s theology and ministries.

The church has two services that are held in its new facility. Redeemer operates a child-care center.

Midsouth Conference

Summit Covenant Church in Newcastle, Oklahoma. Pastor Todd Theissen – approximate attendance 630.

Summit Covenant Church launched in the summer of 2009 with a group of about 30 people in this community near Oklahoma City. The church grew quickly. In February 2011, Summit Covenant Church moved to its permanent facility, a 12,000-square-foot building that originally housed the First Baptist Church. The building is “just steps” from Newcastle High School, and the location has been vital to the church’s outreach to the community and surrounding area.

The church conducts three worship services. The congregation is composed of people from “every demographic,” but more than half are college students attending the University of Oklahoma.

Summit Covenant also is committed to serving far beyond its community. By the end of this summer, it will support ministries in more than 20 countries and throughout the United States.

Grace Covenant Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Pastor: Brent Campbell – approximate attendance 75.

Grace Covenant Church serves a community that is multi-ethnic, multi-generational and economically diverse. Grace was planted more than 10 years ago, but already has moved five times – the congregation has now settled in a northwest section of the city.

“Grace was planted in association with the ECC and it has been our desire to become a full-fledged member,” says Pastor Brent Campbell.

Sonoma Springs Church in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Pastor Timothy Smith – approximate attendance 135.

Sonoma Springs Covenant Church is a re-launch located in a growing neighborhood of Las Cruces, the second largest city in New Mexico, about 25 miles north of the international border in a high desert region at the base of the Organ Mountains.

Sonoma Springs was first launched as a Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation in 1982. In June 2011, Sonoma Springs voted to unilaterally leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) due to theological differences. The church has desired to join Covenant because of the denomination’s six core affirmations as well as its commitment to planting churches, serving globally, multi-ethnic ministry, and its support of women in ministry and leadership.

“Sonoma Springs has a vibrant worship ministry, and a strong student ministry among middle school and high school students,” says Smith. “We are building a foundation for a children’s ministry.” The church has an expanding small group ministry in which about 70 percent of the congregation participates and a local benevolence ministry that impacts hundreds of families in the Las Cruces area each year.

Canal Street Church in New Orleans, Louisiana. Pastor Page Brooks – approximate attendance 35.

Canal Street Church is situated on an acre of land in the heart of New Orleans and is surrounded by a diverse, urban community with an even mix of Anglo, African-American, and Hispanic families. Formerly a Presbyterian church, Canal Street celebrated its 165th anniversary in 2012. The church sought to join the Covenant because of the denomination’s Reformed heritage and multi-ethnic emphasis. Planned outreach events include a basketball ministry to inner-city youth and a children’s camp. The congregation also wants to provide space to other nonprofit ministries.

Life Covenant Church Fort Bend in Fort Bent, Texas. Pastor Mike Baker – approximate attendance 50.

Life Covenant Church Fort Bend began in October 2006 when 44 families separated from the Episcopal congregation over theological differences. The congregation wanted to be affiliated with a denomination and found its mission and theology aligning with the Covenant’s.

The church holds worship and Sunday school in a local junior high school in the Sugar Land area. The congregation sends a mission team to Guatemala each summer and works with local ministries providing food, school supplies and shoes for under-resourced people.

Midwest Conference

Freedom Covenant Church in Kansas City, Missouri. Pastor Bruce McGreggor – approximate attendance 153.

Freedom Covenant Church is a unique urban-core start in the Midwest Conference. Growing out of an inner-city youth ministry called Freedom Fire Urban Ministries under the leadership of Executive Director Bruce McGregor, the church got its start three years ago led by the bi-racial co-pastoral team of McGregor and Melvin Cole.

Freedom Fire had determined that a church was the next important development to continue to address the transformation needed in its community, which USA Today rated among the top 25 most-dangerous neighborhoods in the United States. The church meets at a homeless day shelter, and a major portion of their attendance is by homeless persons.

North Pacific Conference

Lettered Streets Covenant Church in Bellingham, Washington. Pastor Chris Eltrich – approximate attendance 100.

Lettered Streets Covenant Church is a plant sponsored by Bellingham Covenant Church, the North Pacific Conference, and the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism. The launch team included members of Bellingham Covenant, which also has provided financial support and help with childcare and community outreach. The “Lettered Streets” is known for its partnership with local schools and community groups.

Faith Covenant Church in Sumner, Washington. Pastor Mary Hendrickson – approximate attendance 400.

Faith Covenant Church was founded on April 29, 1877, with six members. It was originally called the First Presbyterian Church of Puyallup and later changed its name to First Presbyterian Church of Sumner. It was the birthplace of Whitworth University, now located in Spokane. The Sumner church left the Presbyterian denomination in 2011 over theological differences and decided to join the Covenant.

Northwest Conference

Catalyst Covenant Church in Alexandria, Minnesota. Pastor Steve Eng – approximate attendance 140.

The congregation meets at Woodland School. The church has made the strategic decision not to own a building, but use the money to provide other ministry. The church’s first full year of weekly worship and ministry was 2011.

Pacific Southwest Conference

Grace Hills Bible Church in Angels Camp, California. Pastor Dusty Bach – approximate attendance 80.

The church grew from a Bible study in Angels Camp that first met June 13, 2010. The group asked the study leader, Dusty Bach, to serve as their pastor. Because he is a North Park Theological Seminary graduate, the church began discussions with the Covenant. On December 26, 2010, the growing church re-located to Bret Harte High School, where it continues to meet.

Convergence Covenant Church in Oakland, California. Pastor Bobby Lee – approximate attendance 90.

Convergence Covenant Church began when Bobby Lee sensed a call to move to Oakland and plant a church. New Life Covenant Church, the conference and denomination have funded the plant and provided mentoring. The congregation began with a handful of people who met in downtown Oakland. As the church grew, they felt called to move to west Oakland.

The church meets in DeFremery Park Community Center in the heart of West Oakland, a historic spot for community activism. Church members and the center’s staff now partner to provide a family ministry once a month. The congregation also partners with a school to mentor and tutor students.

Great Exchange Covenant Church-Freemont in Union City, California. Pastor Brian Hui – approximate attendance 70.

The church was planted in 2006 as a “daughter” of Great Exchange Covenant in Sunnyvale. The church began meeting at a local hotel conference room and in 2008 moved to Cabello Elementary School “in order to explore what it meant to be more embedded into the local community,” says Pastor Brian Hui. Great Exchange is partnered with Compassion Network, a local faith-based nonprofit that works to connect willing volunteers from local churches with the various needs in the Tri-City communities. The congregation is also involved in mission in Cambodia and has sent multiple teams to help serve churches there.

The Bridge Community Church in San Jose, California. Pastor Andy Fitzgerald – approximate attendance 83.

The Bridge Community Church began in Andy and Jenny Fitzgerald’s living room in 2008 with a group of 17 people who met for prayer, Bible study, and to seek God together for the purpose of reaching the 93 percent of people in the San Francisco Bay Area who do not attend church. More than 170 people attended the church’s first preview service on August 3rd, 2008. The church was officially launched in 2009. New Life Covenant and Great Exchange Covenant Church have supported the congregation.

The multiracial and intergenerational community meets for Sunday worship at the historic Hayes Mansion in San Jose. More than 70 children attend an after-school Bible program the church leads in a public school building.

Bridge Covenant Church in Gilbert, Arizona. Pastor Kent Bertrand – approximate attendance 70.

The church began as a plant of Hope Covenant Church of Chandler, Arizona, and met in the living room of Pastor Kent Bertand’s home. The grand opening was held in January 2008. The church initially met a local elementary school, but now is situated in a storefront location.

Bridge Covenant’s ministries include supporting victims of abuse and the “fill a stocking” campaign in which they send stockings filled with toys and supplies distributed to street children in Kampala, Uganda.

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