Sixteen Churches Welcomed into Membership

Pastor Doris Granberry prays for new churches welcomed into membership in the Covenant.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (June 22, 2018) – Sixteen new churches from five conferences were welcomed into membership this morning at the 133rd Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church.

EAST COAST CONFERENCE

Church of the Resurrection
East Harlem, New York
Pastor: Kimberly Wright
Average attendance: 100

Kimberly Wright, the East Coast Conference’s first woman church planter, has led a plant with a current congregation of around 100, reaching ethnically and economically diverse Harlem and Manhattan. She was formerly on staff at the decades‐old Church of the Resurrection before succeeding the former pastor after his death. She led a core team to fully relaunch the church. They began worshiping in a newly built church and community center on the first two floors of a multi-story building in Harlem. Covenant Church Planting partnered with this congregation through the pathway of assessment, residency, training, and team development. The congregation partnered with the East Coast Conference through the process and became an official church plant in 2012. The church’s Holy Vessels Dance Ministry promotes creative expression through the art of liturgical and expressive dance. The church also offers effective educational programs to reach more than 350 children and adults throughout the year.

Highrock Covenant Church Acton
Acton, Massachusetts
Co-pastors: Will and Becky Barnett
Average attendance: 200

In late 2014, a launch team from Highrock Covenant Church in Arlington, Massachusetts, launched the church in Acton, a bedroom community northwest of Boston. It started with multiple staff and strong support from the Highrock Network, the East Coast Conference, and the Evangelical Covenant Church. Within their third year, the church was asked to merge with a nearby congregation in Stow, Massachusetts, welcoming 40 new members and a part‐time pastor. The church has hosted a church planting residency, supporting a launch of Nashua Covenant Church in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Highrock Covenant Church Quincy
Quincy, Massachusetts
Pastor: Stephen Sharkey
Average attendance: 110

The Highrock Network planted the Quincy congregation in 2012 after pastor Stephen Sharkey completed a church planting residency established and funded by the East Coast Conference, the denomination, and Highrock. The church aspired to begin in a multiethnic context and launched with a multi‐staff model. A diverse congregation of younger adults and families worship at the church. Acton supports mission in South Africa and church planting in Tokyo, Japan, as well as the East Coast Conference, the ECC, and the Highrock Network.

Newton Covenant Church
Newton, Massachusetts
Pastor: Garrett Smith
Average attendance: 150

The church previously was associated with another denomination. The church had to leave its former worship space when it left the denomination and now meets in a local school. It has been reinvigorated after going through the Covenant’s Vitality pathway. The church is a community deeply rooted in experiencing God through a thoughtful, intellectual approach to worship and faith. The congregation has been a first experience for many who are exploring following Jesus.

Promised Land Covenant Church
Bronx, New York
Pastor: Michael Carrion
Average attendance: 600

Promised Land Covenant Church was formed with a small group of individuals —many of whom were on staff with Urban Youth Alliance, a grassroots parachurch organization in the South Bronx. They wanted to more intentionally address the spiritual formation needs of broken community members they were serving through social outreach programs. The church began meeting in 2006. In 2010, the church partnered with the East Coast Conference and launched a second campus to accommodate significant growth. Since then, the church has continued to grow exponentially in membership and various outreach and ministry programs. In January 2016, the church made the biggest move yet, to the heart of Parkchester in the Bronx and a space ten times larger than the original location. The Parkchester church meets in a former gymnasium that was renovated to seat 500. For a season, the church also maintained a neighborhood ministry center in their former meeting location in the South Bronx. Promised Land Covenant Church also partners with South Bronx Kids, a free dance school that serves hundreds of youth per week within impoverished areas of the Bronx. They support the work of youth Christian rehabilitation programs, serve the needs of the homeless, and launched a charter school.

Sanctuary Church
Providence, Rhode Island
Pastor: Andrew Mook
Average attendance: 400

Sanctuary Church began hosting home groups and holding services in Providence in the spring of 2012 after residing in East Greenwich as an evening service, then church‐within‐a‐church at Christ Church. Their decision to plant in the city was a response to a clear call by God to serve their community, which was predominantly made up of people who lived in or were already serving in Providence. Sanctuary is now an emerging church network of three congregations they call parishes: the original “Down City” congregation, started in 2012; Sanctuary North launched in 2016; and Sanctuary Eastside, which it is planting this year. Sanctuary Down City meets in a beautiful stone Swedish Lutheran Church in the heart of Providence. Sanctuary North is fully embedded in their neighborhood at a local elementary school, while the newly launching Sanctuary Eastside is meeting in a historic church building in their neighborhood. Through the Evangelical Covenant Church’s assessment process, training intensive, and ongoing coaching and training, Sanctuary has become a fruitful handful of pioneers in network church planting models. Sanctuary has a robust system of home groups to allow people to connect for weekly meals, study, and mission.

MIDWEST CONFERENCE

Faith Connection Covenant Church
Washington, Kansas
Pastor: Rustin McClure
Average attendance: 50

Faith Connection Covenant began in 2010 when pastor Grant Clay and a team from the Clay Center Covenant Church began a Bible study in Washington, Kansas, a town of 1,100 residents thirty miles north of Clay Center. Rustin McClure was a firefighter in Wichita, Kansas, and compelled by Faith Connection’s vision to plant a congregation in the small town of Washington. He and his wife, Joy, were recommended for church planting in 2013. McClure says, “I’m a simple guy and have pretty straightforward ideas for ministry. If Christ fed the hungry, then maybe we should do that. If Christ spent time in prayer, maybe we should do that also.” Faith Covenant is living into that vision. Each year 300 people participate in Tigerfest, an event that provides school supplies to 70 percent of the town’s elementary school children. Recently the congregation purchased a building that will enable them to expand ministry to serve children and youth, offer addiction aid, and provide adult learning opportunities.

Shalom Covenant Church
Urbandale, Iowa
Pastor: Eugene Kiruhura
Average attendance: 140

Eugene Kiruhura came to Des Moines, Iowa, as a refugee from DR Congo in 2007. During his first English class he was invited to worship at Urban Heights Covenant Church, where retired Covenant missionaries translated the worship service each week for him. A year later he began a ministry in his language to other refugees settling in Des Moines, and a partnership with Urban Heights Covenant began. In 2014, seven families felt God’s call to form Shalom, which began with worship on Sunday mornings within the walls of Urban Heights Covenant. Shalom grew and has become a place of refuge and healing for many fleeing the violence of their homeland. Their passion is to be a place full of spiritual growth for all refugees, especially youth growing up in a very different culture and facing different challenges than within their home countries. The tragic past of Shalom’s members continues to teach both congregations to stop and consider forgiveness in more profound ways. The two congregations continue to share many ministries in the church and community.

NORTHWEST CONFERENCE

Catalyst Covenant Church
St. Paul, Minnesota
Pastor: Jeff Olson
Average attendance: 150

Catalyst Covenant Church began in a living room near Roseville, Minnesota, four years ago and is now a steadily growing community of believers. Catalyst meets in the Saint Anthony Park neighborhood near Luther Seminary and several universities. It borders both Minneapolis and St. Paul. The area is home to a diverse population that includes students, young families, and older adults.

City of Lakes Covenant Church
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Pastor: David Berge
Average attendance: 115

City of Lakes Covenant Church began over breakfast at the Original Pancake House in Edina in 2011, when Covenant pastor Brad Jackson encouraged David Berge to plant a Covenant church in Minneapolis. In October 2013, Berge signed a Covenant agreement. The congregation has gone from worshiping in a school to worshiping in Aldrich Church where Berge grew up. Aldrich Church has been an invaluable partner as the two congregations have worked together to bring a vital Christian presence to the neighborhood. Through hardships within their pastor’s own life, the congregation has been brought together to see the tender mercies of God, and they have identified a call not to be spectacular but to be simply faithful. The past year has been a season of growth for the church in both attendance and generosity. The congregation has started a ministry called Blue Cooler to bring food, clothes, and fellowship to the homeless. They have co‐sponsored a refugee family from Burma and are now partnering alongside another new church plant to help them start strong.

Genesis Covenant Church
St. Louis Park, Minnesota
Pastor: Steve Wiens
Average attendance: 260

Genesis Covenant Church was planted on June 1, 2014. Since its inception, Genesis has met in the Jewish Community Center in St. Louis Park. The church has financially supported the launch of four church plants, and this spring planted their first church, Genesis East, in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. The congregation is made up of a wide diversity of ages and socioeconomic statuses. Their emphasis on seasons in the church calendar and the Revised Common Lectionary keeps them grounded in ancient traditions, and their focus on loving and serving those outside of the church keeps them connected with the community.

Grace Outreach Covenant Church
Coon Rapids, Minnesota
Pastor: Paul Robinson
Average attendance: 60

Paul Robinson had been the senior pastor for Community Covenant Church in Minneapolis for five years before he left to serve as spiritual care director for Catholic Charities in 2001. But after hosting a number of Bible studies among friends and family, he felt called to return to the pastorate. The first service of Grace Outreach Fellowship was held in 2011 in Robinson’s living room. After searching for a location to hold worship, a dance studio offered use of their space at no cost, requesting only that the congregation clean the mirrors. Robinson reached out to the Northwest Conference to inquire about the planting process, and in 2013 Grace Outreach Church relaunched with the support of a Covenant Agreement.

New Evangelical Covenant Church
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Pastor: Mauricio Dell’Arciprete
Average attendance: 119

In 2014, a launch team of 30 adults started a congregation focused on reaching, loving, and serving the young second generation of Hispanic immigrants, a population with particular needs. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Hispanic youth are more likely to report attempting suicide than their black or white non‐Hispanic peers. Many of these young people were born in the United States to immigrant parents and do not fit completely with American culture or fully identify with their Latino heritage. They find themselves in the middle, searching for identity. Last year the church served its third annual Thanksgiving meal to those without family or resources and provided a meal for more than 250 people. The congregation is now a strong and thriving community of believers reaching hundreds of people seeking identity, opportunities, and significance.

Renew Covenant Church
Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Pastor: Jamie Staples
Average attendance: 215

Renew Church has had an incredible journey since starting in 2015. They encountered many obstacles in the first year as their original location did not work out. After a summer of transition, they landed in their downtown storefront location, and then doubled in size. They were able to buy a Baptist church, and again doubled in size. The congregation reaches many through their Sunday service and has a thriving children’s ministry, a college meal outreach, a small group ministry, and partnerships with local nonprofits to bring about racial reconciliation.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST CONFERENCE

Disciple Community Covenant Church
Bellevue, Washington
Pastor: Sung (Derek) Hwang
Average attendance: 70

Disciple Community Covenant Church began with 12 people in the pastor’s basement in October of 2010, and the church was formally planted in June of 2011. Highland Covenant Church offered great support to the congregation by introducing them to the denomination and helping them to connect to Covenant church planting. Recently, the congregation began sharing space with Newport Covenant Church in Bellevue. Disciple Community sponsors many ministries such as Bright Scholars International, which gives hope to children affected by HIV/AIDS or extreme poverty by providing educational subsidies, relational connection, and guidance.

SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE

Bridge to Grace Covenant Church
Roswell, Georgia
Pastor: David Bonselaar
Average attendance: 70

Bridge to Grace Church has celebrated 35 years of ministry in Roswell, the diverse congregation ministering to a diverse community. Bridge to Grace has vibrant ministries for all age groups from children to adults. The congregation also is active within the community, supporting Project Lift, a nonprofit interacting with at‐risk youth, as well as supporting the local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

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About the Author

Zachary Lee is a student at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where he is studying English literature, creative writing, and Spanish. This summer he is thrilled to be working as an editorial intern for Covenant Communications. Born in Los Angeles, he grew up in Chicago, where you can find him performing poetry at open mics, analyzing summer blockbusters, reading Dostoevsky, and listening to the latest Christian hip-hop. His poetry can be found in the Great Lakes Review and 95th & King, and he is a journalist for the Cornell Daily Sun.

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