Creating A Vision for A New Spiritual Direction (1996-Present)
The Rev. Jimmie R. Hawkins was called to be Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in March 1996. Rev. Hawkins brought renewed spirit to the church. Rev. Hawkins continued the strong legacy of community involvement by Covenant’s pastors and laity. Several new ministries were introduced with an emphasis on outreach ministries and evangelism as catalysts to church growth and development. Several significant changes and enhancements to existing ministries were introduced. Along with the weekly Wednesday Prayer Meeting, a regular Bible Study was instituted immediately afterward. A comprehensive plan for church giving was developed with the Stewardship Committee empowered to implement the plan. It went from meeting only in the fall of the year to plan the Pledge Campaign to meeting on a monthly basis. It promoted stewardship information dissimilation by recruiting members to give a brief talk on the meaning of stewardship to during the Sunday morning service during a Minute for Stewardship. With the establishment of a long range planning committee, Visions 2000, the church’s mission and vision statements were developed and became a core part of church ministries. It soon began to develop goals and strategies for spiritual activities.
A gospel choir was stated and sang monthly for a period of two years. The youth choir, the Intergenerational Choir, was strengthened and continued to sing each third Sunday. A Children’s Choir was started with Sandra Meachem, later Barbara Blue, serving as the director.
From that first summer in 1996 on, a summer day camp, Camp Covenant, was started. This ministry was to congregants and community children. Not long after, the Session approved an after-school tutorial ministry, Covenant Cares for Children. It was open to children enrolled in the Durham Public School system.
The congregation had approved the creation of a Building Committee for the daunting task of buying land and leading in the construction of a new facility in 1992. The land was purchased and paid for in the next couple of years on Weaver Street, located 1 mile south of the campus of NCCU. This was just the beginning of a building campaign that increased the capacity of the congregation to donate more of their time, talent, and treasures to forge ahead in building a new edifice. Under the leadership of Rev. Hawkins, membership grew and ground was broken for a new church building in November 2001.
The groundbreaking crew included Rev. Hawkins, Frank Meachem, McLean Reynolds, Lora Henderson, John O. Smith, Connia Watson, Lorraine Stith and Alice Hayswood (daughter of Charles Hayswood, one of the founding fathers.) Lora represented the youth of the Church and John O. and Alice represented the oldest members. After a decade of hard yet gratifying service, the constructed for the new church building was for the 2620 Weaver Street property was begun November of 2001. The architect of record was Doug Griffin of Durham and the contractor was Alfred Dixon (Multistate Construction) of Rockhill, NC. Construction was delayed due to weather, city legislation for the installation of a fire system, and other delays too numerous to mention. For the period of three months from August to October, worship was conducted at Fayetteville Street Elementary School just four blocks from the Weaver Street construction.
The first service was held in the new sanctuary on November 8, 2003. The building was dedicated in November with the Executive Presbyter leading the service. New Hope Presbytery has hosted several significant events in the new building within the first year. The Moderator of General Assembly, the Reverend Susan Andrews, preached during a service celebrating the ordination of women in the PCUSA. A Multicultural Conference was held in October of 2004. PCUSA Moderator spoke there in 2007.
Covenant’s membership has continued to increase since 2004 at a slow, yet steady rate. The membership includes a rich diversity of predominantly African Americans from a wide variety of backgrounds. While the membership primarily includes individuals living in the Durham area, it also has members who live in neighboring towns such as Chapel Hill and Cary. Members include both professional and working class congregants. The richness of this membership creates opportunities for Covenant to provide outreach to its neighbors, the Durham local community, colleges and universities, businesses, and public housing communities. This outreach is steeped in Covenant’s long history of having members that have served in a leadership capacity in local and state government, as elected leaders in Durham county, as education and health administrators, and as business owners. Having a membership with this experience allows the congregation to become more compassionate and are able to serve those who are in need, be it physically or spiritually.