Church Beginnings (1887)
In 1887, there was no African American Presbyterian Church in the Durham community. It was during this time that a young Presbyterian, Charles C. Hayswood came to Durham from Louisburg, North Carolina. Seeing a need to form a church for worship, Charles and a group of young people formed a little Sunday School which met in an old hall at the corner of Ray Alley and Fayetteville Street. This group of young people included Betty Dixon Thompson, Lizzie Dixon Catlett, Thom Thompson, Mattie Bishop Taylor, Charles Hayswood, and others. They approached Yadkin Presbytery to request a preacher. Yadkin Presbytery granted the group their request and the Rev. Lewis D. Twine came to Durham in 1889.
History of Covenant Presbyterian Church
The New Church (1889 - 1893)
The newly organized church, with Rev. Lewis Twine as its spiritual leader, was called Second Presbyterian Church. Shortly afterwards, it became known as Durham Presbyterian Church for the next four years. In its first report to the General Assembly, the new church reported a membership of sixteen. Included in this group were four Elders and two Deacons. A year later, although the numbers had increased to twenty-two, there were 129 individuals attending Sunday School. This growing congregation met in a room over the Boone Drug Store on the corner of Mangum and Parrish Streets. They remained at this location until the frame church building on the northeast corner of Pine and Poplar Streets (now South Roxboro and Dillard Streets) was erected. Charles Hayswood and the other men who worked for the Morton Construction Company each gave a day’s work to complete the new edifice. Thus the first permanent home for the congregation was completed in 1893.
The First Church Building (1893-1903)
After the move into the new building in 1893, the church became Pine Street Presbyterian Church. By this time, the membership was up to fifty congregants. The Sunday School had an enrollment of 152. Charles Hayswood was Superintendent of the Sunday School, which met after the morning service. The Rev. Mr. Twine remained at Pine Street Presbyterian Church until 1903, when he returned to Thomasville where he retired in 1919 and died there on September 22, 1928 at the age of 82.
Continuing the Legacy (1903-1913)
The Rev. Isaac H. Russell became Stated Supply of Pine Street Presbyterian Church in 1903. He became Pastor Elect in 1906 and Pastor in 1909. Under his leadership, the parsonage was erected next to the church. He remained until 1913. He died in Durham on November 18, 1938 at the age of 62. His daughter, Mrs. Cleo Russell, was brought to the church in 1903 and remained a member for many years until her death.
Growth and Change (1914 – 1923)
The Rev, John Lee White, who like Rev. Twine, had been pastor of churches in Lexington and Thomasville, became Stated Supply of Pine Street Presbyterian Church in 1914. During his leadership, new seats were purchased in the church. After Rev. John Lee White left in 1921, the church had no pastor for about one year.
In 1923, the Rev. W. George Avant came as Stated Supply. He became Pastor-Elect in 1924 and was installed as Pastor in 1925. A number of rallies were held under his leadership. The church membership climbed steadily and during his pastorate the first Board of Ushers was organized by Deanna Hayswood. Her daughter Alice and Gladys Patterson were among the first to serve. When Rev. Avant retired in 1937, the membership was eighty-five. There were eighty-four attending Sunday School. Dr. Avant’s health had failed by this time. He died in Durham on September 11, 1942 at the age of 72.
Forging Ahead With A Revived Spirit and Church Growth (1938-1943)
In the next two years, the Rev. J. Neal Hughley filled the pulpit. In 1943 the Rev. C.A. Kearns was called as Pastor, but before he could be installed, he accepted a pastorate in Raleigh. In the few months at Pine Street, he raised $800 to secure a new heating system. That same year, the name was changed to Twine Memorial Presbyterian Church in honor of the first Pastor, the Rev. Lewis D. Twine.
After Dr. Avant retired, the church was once again vacant for approximately a year until 1938 when the Rev. William T. Nelson, Dr. Avant’s son-in-law, became Stated Supply. Again there was rapid growth, with membership reaching a high of 111 congregants in 1940. The Rev. Mr. Nelson left in 1941 and became a professor at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.
A Time to Relocate, A Time for Renewal, and a Time for a New Name
In September 1944, the Rev. James A. Cannon was called and he was installed as Pastor in May 1945. Under his leadership many projects were undertaken, including the purchase of a new organ. In 1946 the Church wanted to renovate the Pine Street Building and provide an off-street parking area, but the city ordinance would not permit it because there was insufficient space and the congregation decided to relocate. An old army barracks in Butner NC was purchased and moved to Durham to be renovated and used as the Church’s new home. Groundbreaking services were held with the oldest member, Charles Hayswood, and the youngest member, Lyle Booker, turning the first spade of dirt. The first ton of bricks was given by Jeanette Patterson. When the Sunday School building was within a few weeks of completion, the first Easter Sunday service was held. On the second Sunday in May 1948, the first morning worship service was held in the new building. At that time, the Church’s name was changed from Twine Memorial to Covenant Presbyterian Church.
Expansion, Dedication, and a Spiritual New Birth (1953-1971)
In June, 1953, the Rev. J.W. Smith, Jr. became Pastor. Under his leadership, ground was broken in February 1967 for the start of a new Sanctuary and the remodeling of the educational building. The expanded facilities were dedicated on October 20, 1968.
Community Outreach and Future Directions (1973-1988)
The Rev. John F. Dietz, a graduate student at Duke Divinity School, was Interim Pastor until 1972 when Rev. George F. Neal became Pastor. He developed a number of community outreach ministries during his pastorate. One of the most noted outreach projects was the formation of the First Alcoholics Anonymous chapter in the southeastern section of Durham. This group continues to meet at Covenant. Also during his Pastorate, the church began fund raising and long range planning for a new church edifice. The Rev. Mr. Neal continued as Pastor until the end of 1988.
Sustaining the Church Momentum (1989-1996)
The Rev. Dr. Orval S. Wintermute served as Moderator until June 1989 when the Rev. Boyd Daniels became Interim Pastor on October 27, 1991. In 1992 the church called the Rev. Dr. William C. Harris, Jr. to be its Pastor. He served in that capacity from 1992-1994. Following the Rev. Dr. Harris were the Rev. Dr. Boyd Daniels and the Rev. Mary H. Milbourne who served together as Interim Pastors from 1994-1996.