17 Churches Welcomed into Membership

Post a Comment » Written on June 25th, 2008     
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GREEN LAKE, WI (June 25, 2008) – Welcoming new churches into membership of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) always is a highlight at the annual meetings, and this year was no exception during the denomination’s 123rd Annual Meeting.

Delegates welcomed 17 churches with a cumulative membership of 2,768 and cumulative average attendance of 3,995.

Following are the new churches, grouped by conference, including a brief history on each. To see additional photos, visit New Churches.

East Coast Conference

Paradise Holtzschwamm Evangelical Covenant Church, Thomasville, Pennsylvania. Pastor Thomas Bellis – approximate attendance 102. (The accompanying photo shows the Paradise delegation being introduced.)

MemberParadise Holtzschwamm Church was founded in 1762 just west of York, Pennsylvania. It was originally a German Reformed church and shared the same building with the German Lutherans. In about 1960, they built their own church building. In 2006, they severed ties with the United Church of Christ and are seeking affiliation with the Covenant. “We feel that belonging to a denomination is important to bring a focus and direction of mission to the church. Over the past two years, we researched many denominations. We found that ECC theology, a shared history of the Protestant Reformation, biblical teachings that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, our Savior and the sole head of the church, and celebration of the Sacraments – Baptism and Holy Communion – most closely align with the congregation’s beliefs and traditions.” The church offers a Sunday school, youth fellowship, Vacation Bible School, Helping Hands community service, and supports many outreach and service organizations.

Great Lakes Conference

Austintown Community Evangelical Covenant Church
, Austintown, Ohio. Pastor David B. Roberts – approximate attendance 180.

Austintown, population 32,000, is immediately adjacent to the city of Youngstown. The church’s roots extend back to the 18th century, when a log structure was erected in the center of Austintown by Presbyterian Covenanters and was used jointly by several different congregations. In 1923, Rev. Albert Glessner reorganized the congregation as Austintown Community Reformed Church and the log building was replaced by the current sanctuary building. In January 2004, the church committed itself to the vision of “transforming lives . . . with the fullness of Christ’s love,” emphasizing evangelism, service and small groups. “Joining the Covenant is a matter of desiring to find an affiliation with which we could more readily and happily identify; a mission focus we could more enthusiastically endorse, and a structure which would still allow us the basic freedom of conscience and self-determination.”

Federated Covenant Church, Dowagiac, Michigan. Interim pastor Beth Ernest – approximate attendance 50.

Dowagiac is a small town of 5,931 people surrounded by rural farmland in Southwestern Michigan. The Federated Church of Dowagiac was a merger of the Congregational Church and the Baptist Church in 1918. The church became the largest Protestant church in town, enjoying a “first church” status in the community. When the building burned in 1947, many organizations in the community banded together to rebuild the building. The church meets in the brick building completed in 1953, graced with a lovely series of stained-glass windows. The congregation flourished in the early to mid 1900’s, with a high membership in excess of 500. Like other mainline churches, it began to decline due to the demise of Christendom and the lack of evangelistic fervor and training. The church joined the United Church of Christ in 1968 and seceded in 2006 for theological reasons. Federated voted in June 2007 to seek affiliation with a denomination, rather than remain independent, and desired to connect with a like-minded group. They desire the resources a denomination can provide, including revitalization assistance, evangelism, finding clergy, and youth programming, and have voted to join the Covenant.

New Harvest Christian Church, Oregon, Ohio. Pastor Michael S. Przybylski – approximate attendance 225.

New Harvest Christian Church desires to be a light to the community of Oregon and the greater Toledo area by living out God’s love in tangible, practical ways that bless the people. “We are seeking to live out the Greatest biblical commandment – the Shema – which was pointed out by Jesus: to love God with everything we are and have. We are experiencing what it means to embrace our part in the redemptive process of God’s creation. This is messy, risky and beautiful all at once.” New Harvest Christian Church was founded in 1944. In September 1978, the church congregation voted to become an independent evangelical church. In 2003, the church began a two-year journey to re-evaluate its purpose and direction. They give God the praise and glory for all that he has done and for the thousands of lives that have been touched by their ministries in the 64 years of its existence. The congregation affirmed joining the Evangelical Covenant Church in January. One particular ministry, Food 4 Thought, has tremendous impact, operating a food bank serving more than 200 people each month, a clothing pantry, as well as assisting people with furniture. Presently, a group of people meet every Friday evening, many from other churches, to make 300 sack lunches for the homeless of Toledo.

Midsouth Conference

Crossroads Covenant Church, DeSoto, Texas. Pastor Josef Rasheed – approximate attendance 200.

DeSoto is a rapidly growing area in the south section of the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. It is an area that was familiar to Rasheed, who started Crossroads with a strong core group and good networks in this southern section of Dallas. After beginning in a small rented space, they moved to a church called “The Shepherd’s House.” For a year they shared this facility, until Crossroads Covenant Church was able to purchase the entire facility, including almost all the furnishings and the 6.5 surrounding acres. Rasheed and his wife, Rochelle, had a fresh vision for a new church. Through Dr. Willie Peterson and Dr. Terry Woodson, Rasheed was introduced to the Evangelical Covenant Church. The pastor and church leaders have made an intentional commitment to bless the city of DeSoto in practical ways, providing Crossroads favor and visibility. Since moving into their present building Crossroads has been on a steady and healthy growth trend.

Mosaic Community Covenant, Missouri City, Texas. Pastor Ed Lee – approximate attendance 100.
Missouri City is a fast-growing suburb in the southwest quadrant of Houston – one of the most multi-ethnic communities in the area. One of the primary purposes of Mosaic is to be an intentional multi-ethnic congregation. The Midsouth Conference and the Evangelical Covenant Church partnered to help plant Mosaic through financial assistance, coaching, fellowship and peer-group assistance and support. Mosaic also received assistance and support from Fort Bend Community Church in Missouri City. Mosaic was started with Lee as the church planting pastor. He immediately gathered a strong core group to help him launch this church to reach the growing population of southwest Houston. Mosaic Community Covenant Church has already had an impact in its community and in the Midsouth Conference through its mature pastoral and church leadership, as well as its commitment to and leadership in multi-ethnic ministry.
Midwest Conference

Abyssinian Christian
, Fort Collins, Colorado. Pastor David Williams – approximate attendance 200.

Fort Collins is a fast-growing, middle-class community in northern Colorado, the home of Colorado State University. Approximately 10 percent of its 150,000 residents are ethnic minorities. Williams was the church-planting founder in 1989. The congregation purchased the current facility in 1999. Abyssinian and the leaders had been looking at affiliation with a like-spirited group and found it in the Covenant. “The Covenant’s value of freedom, not requiring a cookie-cutter mentality, and its practice of allowing churches self-autonomy, were common ideals that attracted the church. Additionally, access to good consultation in the areas of development, stewardship and evangelism were important.” Williams also felt he needed a trusted place that could assist the church in pastoral transitions in its future. In addition to regular ministries, Abyssinian has found a calling in cross-cultural connections within the Fort Collins community – another reason it found itself attracted to the Covenant. The city itself often seeks the counsel of the church in diversity issues and inter-racial dialogue. The church also finds effective ministry with addiction support programs, partnering with Denver Rescue Mission’s Harvest Farm.

Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Pastor Cesar Arroya – approximate attendance 60.

As is typical in fast-growing American cities, many persons of Latino extraction have moved to the Colorado Springs area. Arroyo is originally from the Ecuadorian Covenant Church and moved to the Colorado Springs area in the early 1990s. Long a part of a Covenant church in Colorado Springs, Cesar and his wife, Lyn, were called to plant a Hispanic church in 2003. They began developing a core group in Arroyo’s tailor shop on the east side, moving to another rented facility upon outgrowing this venue. In 2005 they approached the Covenant regarding the possibility of affiliation and have remained in close relationship. “It is not our desire to be independent,” the pastor says. “We believe it is important to stay under authority, and we also desire to be supported spiritually. Connections are important to us.” Their most effective ministries are in discipleship and evangelism.

New Day Covenant, Boulder, Colorado. Pastor Doug White – approximate attendance 40.

New Day Covenant was a pioneered church plant, begun when Doug and Lesa White gathered a core group in early 2005. Several Colorado Covenant churches partnered with New Day, with special prayer and financial assistance from the Front Range Church Growth and Development Committee, and from Heritage Community (Covenant) Bible Church of Arvada, Colorado. New Day rents a church facility on the north side of Boulder. Besides the more typical offerings of engaging public worship, teaching and small groups, one of New Day’s most effective ministries has been is its New Day Kitchen, a weekly, year-round hot food ministry offered in partnership with other local food ministries. The Kitchen has provided meals, fellowship, recreation, counseling and spiritual care to upwards of 70 persons per week, on Wednesday evenings.

North Pacific Conference

Mosaic Covenant Church, Hillsboro, Oregon. Pastor Moises Garcia – approximate attendance 150.

Pacific Southwest Conference

Abundant Life Covenant Bible Church
, Pasadena, California. Pastor Camille Russell Wooden – approximate attendance 45.

Abundant Life Covenant Bible Church was developed out of a heartfelt vision given to the pastor in 1996. A core group was formed to pray for the birth of this church in 2000 and the church was planted in 2003 as a collaborative effort between the pastor, the ECC, and Faithful Central Bible Church. They began meeting at Jackson Elementary School in the summer of 2003 and worshipped there for two years beginning with about 28 members. In the summer of 2005 they moved to the present location at St. James United Methodist Church, where they currently have 50 members. Their vision is to see men and women “learn Jesus, love Jesus and live Jesus.” Many Covenant churches came alongside this new church as “partner churches.” The effective ministries they currently have are outreach and youth ministries, Pasadena Community Youth Orchestra, and Wednesday night and hospitality ministries.

Bayside Covenant Church
, Lincoln, California. Pastor Ed Kemp – approximate attendance 223.

Bayside Covenant Church of Lincoln began as a church plant of Bayside of Granite Bay in 2006 with 35 people in the core group. Lincoln is a rapidly growing suburb on the northeast side of Sacramento. The new church followed the process of the four-step church planting launch. The first year and a half they met in a restaurant that had closed. They were parented by Bayside Church of Granite Bay and received coaching and financial support from the Pacific Southwest Conference and the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism. “Our desire is to reach the city of Lincoln with the good news of Jesus Christ and provide at environment where believers can be discipled and built up in their faith.” The most effective ministries have been Women’s Ministries, small groups, worship, Trunk and Treat/Easter egg hunt and preaching.

Bayside Covenant Church, West Roseville, California. Pastor Charles D. Wysong – approximate attendance 680.

In the spring of 2005, Chuck and Gail Wysong were called to plant a Bayside Covenant Church in West Roseville, California, just five to seven miles from the parent church. On August 28, 2005, they had their first core group gathering with more than 50 in attendance. They met at Woodcreek Oaks Golf Club for three months as the group prepared for the first preview service. Four preview services and five grand opening Sundays later, the church officially launched on April 22, 2006. Children and youth ministries are one of the greatest reasons for the continued growth. The motto: “The church that impacts the youth and children of a community will be the church that impacts the entire community.” The Covenant has provided excellent coaching and Bayside has been a tremendous help with the blending of the name and assistance in planting this new church. As well as children’s and youth ministries, they have added adult ministries and small groups, as well as a care ministry. The Alpha course is offered twice a year.

Maranatha Covenant Church
, Richmond, California. Pastor Walter Gomez – approximate attendance 80.

The church is located in the Bay area city of Richmond, with a high percentage of Hispanic population. The church started to minister in the city of Richmond in September 2004, meeting in homes of members who lived in the city. After a year they arranged to share facilities at First Presbyterian Church of Richmond – the church has since grown in number and also spiritually. The main reason they desire to join the Covenant is because of its biblical foundation. Also, many of the membership have previously attended Covenant churches. The church has a focus on building lives that are dependent on God. They have evangelism ministries and also disciple the whole congregation. They also have Sunday school and cell groups that meet in the homes of the members in strategic geographical locations.

NewSong Los Angeles Covenant Church, Los Angeles, California. Pastor Adam Edgerly – approximate attendance 450.

NewSong was started as a multi-site location of NewSong Community Church in Irvine, with the first official service on March 23, 2003. While they will remain connected to the NewSong churches, they are now being organized as a separate Covenant church. They currently meet at Crenshaw High School in the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles. They have many vital ministries: creative arts (overseeing all the creative elements in the Sunday service from production and film to worship and dance); Cause, which takes care of all local and overseas outreach, including the justice, advocacy and compassion group; The SHAW (sports, health, arts, and well-being), a community transformation group that includes an open mic club for Christian artists; and Community, where individuals, couples, and families can delve deeper into the word and each other in smaller settings.

NewSong Church North Orange County, Fullerton, California. Pastor Brian Kim – approximate attendance 400.

NewSong is a mosaic of ethnicities and economic backgrounds that live, work, and play together in the north Orange County area. NewSong also has an opportunity to become an irresistible influence to the nearly 30,000 students at Cal State – Fullerton. The average age of NewSong members is 27 with 70 percent of the members being single. A significant population of the congregation was commuting from the north Orange County area, and NewSong leadership saw the need to start another site in north Orange County. Hence, NewSong Church – North Orange County was birthed in April 2005. Since then, they have grown to become financially and operationally self-sufficient. NewSong’s leadership decided to have all sites become separate legal entities. The leadership at all sites regularly meet to share best practices, align with how God is moving in NewSong, and collaborate. They see the Covenant as a family of believers investing in and pursuing diversity, reconciliation, and being the church instead of just doing church. They embrace the priesthood of all believers and believe that women are gifted by God to lead and teach in the church. They feel that the Covenant and NewSong have so much potential in partnering to further the kingdom of God.

Southeast Conference

All Nations Church, Norcross, Georgia. Pastor Frank Appiah – approximate attendance 850.

All Nations is a growing multicultural community in the greater Atlanta area. The church is located in a middle class neighborhood, surrounded by new housing and commercial developments. The ministry was started September 24, 2000, by Appiah as a church plant with five members. It has grown to 800 in attendance on a typical Sunday morning. They believe the ECC is a family of rational, affirming and empowering believers. The pastor and congregation feel these are values and qualities they have been looking for in a denomination. Further, it is a family that allows gifts and leadership skills to be nurtured and deployed for the greater good of God’s Kingdom. AlI Nations Church has a 16-acre campus with four buildings – the worship center seats 600. The church was purchased from a Presbyterian group. All Nations Church is involved with church planting both in Europe and Africa – the congregation is composed of 35 different nationalities. The church has a strong teaching and preaching ministry. Currently, AlI Nation is working on a leadership Institute in Ghana, West Africa~ with the vision to raise up new, young leadership.

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