PHOENIX, AZ (June 24, 2016) — Harvey Drake, pastor of Emerald City Bible Fellowship, a Covenant congregation in Seattle, Washington, today was presented with the Irving C. Lambert Award at the 131st Annual meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church for his nearly 40 years of urban ministry.
His passion for urban ministry stemmed in part from his own experience growing up. “I have enjoyed the redemption and grace God has given to me and I want others to experience that,” Drake says.
His mother was a prostitute and heroin addict who died when she was 39 and he was 21. His two sisters were heroin addicts, his father was an alcoholic, and Drake himself availed himself of a variety of drugs that included heroin, opium, and acid.
Drake’s drug-addled life changed in 1974, when he gave his life to Christ, and he has served in some form of ministry ever since.
Drake first became involved with the Coalition for Youth Leadership in California where he met Henry Greenidge, who was to become a lifetime friend and significantly influence Drake’s path.
The two joke that Drake followed Greenidge “like a puppy dog” in the ensuing years. Greenidge took a job directing YoungLife in Seattle. When he left to plant Irvington Covenant Church in Portland, Oregon, he recommended Drake to fill in the job he was vacating.
After serving at YoungLife in Seattle, Drake formed Emerald City Outreach Ministries in Rainier Valley, a nonprofit organization designed to nurture social educational and economic empowerment. Like Greenidge, he joined the Covenant and went on to plant a church, Emerald City Bible Fellowship, a multicultural multiethnic congregation.
Greenidge, who retired from full-time ministry in 2008, says, “Harvey is a real visionary. I have the highest regard for his personal integrity. He is a risk-taker and a lover of people with a passion for the underserved.”
That risk-taking included spearheading a plan to develop Emerald City Commons, a mixed-use development with 61 units of affordable housing, which also houses Rainier Health and Fitness, a community gym. Drake’s reputation as an advocate for the poor and marginalized has grown throughout Seattle thanks to his involvement and leadership in numerous community and public school programs.
Emerald City Outreach Ministries and the Emerald City church have served a number of Seattle public schools with education support programs, out-of-school enrichment and summer education programs, and have given away $160,000 in college scholarships to more than 90 young people.
Harold Spooner, former president of Covenant Initiatives for Care with Covenant Ministries of Benevolence and now vice president of community impact for Covenant Retirement Communities, worked at YoungLife with Drake in the 1980s. He has continued to be inspired by the man he met some 30 years ago.
“He was always engaged with the total reality of the youth and neighborhoods he served,” Spooner says. “He was always a voice for justice in the community and challenged our national organization to be racially and economically just, along with his loving, caring pastoral heart.”
Spooner adds, “I appreciated his honesty and straightforwardness. Harvey has certainly brought those traits to the Covenant and, as a denomination, we are better because of him.”
The citation presented him today states that, “Your life stands as a witness to us all, exemplifying Christ’s exhortation, ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
Drake is uncomfortable with the attention he has received from community and religious leaders in Seattle and nationally. “If I had my choice, I’d be in the back of the room celebrating what others had done.”