A Celtic cross on the north side of Loop 410 in San Antonio announces Covenant Presbyterian Church, an active congregation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) since 1956. A mission church created on what was then the edge of town, it was born out of church development efforts of First Presbyterian Church San Antonio, and the name Covenant was chosen to express the intimate relationship of commitment between God and his followers. Led initially by the Rev. John Elder, the congregation grew as rapidly as the surrounding area. By 1961 the members outgrew the first church building and moved into a second sanctuary.
The years from 1963 to 1979 were characterized by alternating periods of growth and decline, dissension and healing, under the leadership of the Reverends Quentin Payne and Ed Walthall. During a time when the nature of church membership was changing, participation dwindled to barely 100 worshippers on a Sunday. Even the local Presbytery believed that the church was on its way toward closure — but God had other ideas.
In 1979, through God’s providence, Covenant was led to the Reverend Dr. Duncan Stewart, a former chaplain who brought with him a passion for mission, a genuine fondness for people, and a history of solid Biblically based preaching and teaching – as well as all things Scottish. Through Dr. Stewart’s leadership Covenant began its second life as a mission focused church and began to grow again. The church sanctuary was remodeled twice, and in 1985 Covenant called its first associate pastor, the Reverend Dr. John Judson. The next several years showed ever-increasing growth, with the Rev. Dr. Brad Munroe following Dr. Judson in the position of associate pastor. The late 1980’s and 1990’s marked periods of growing outreach, with mission trips to the border for adults and teens as well as mission conferences at Covenant.
Dr. Stewart retired, and after an intensive search, Dr. Judson returned in 1992 as the church’s fifth senior pastor. Dr. Judson brought his gifts of lifting a passage of scripture through history and into the lives of the congregation, and of making people feel instantly welcome, to Covenant. The church’s growth continued, fueling construction of a multi-purpose gym/classroom/meeting facility which was named Friendship Hall and the addition of staff. In 1998 the church celebrated the completion of a new sanctuary and added a Christian Educator. During this period the music and choir programs grew, adding a praise team and handbell choirs to the worship experience and expanding children’s music programs.
The Rev. Brad Munroe remained as associate pastor until 1995, followed by the Rev. Lynne Vandercook, who served the church until 1997. After a church-wide capital campaign to raise money to retire the debt for the new sanctuary, as well as to provide seed money for new churches and fund the salary of a new Associate Pastor, Dr. Mark Hinds became Covenant’s Associate Pastor in 2002, and served until the fall of 2006.
After seventeen years of serving as Covenant’s senior pastor, Dr. Judson received a call to the First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, Michigan in May of 2009. In September 2009, Rev. Don M. Owens began serving as Covenant’s Interim Pastor, and brought with him a passion for preaching and an enthusiasm for evangelism. Rev. Owens guided Covenant through the necessary steps to transition from one senior pastor to another, and served through April 2011.
In 2011, in its fifty-fifth year, Covenant commenced a new chapter under the leadership of the Reverend Dr. Dan Milford. Since that time, Covenant has completed major renovations to the church facilities, utilizing over $2.5 million in donations from the congregation to rebuild much of the campus. Under $140,000 in debt remains as we enter the summer of 2020. Additionally, in early 2016, the session engaged in a visioning process to discover how Christ might be calling Covenant to engage in a ministry that would otherwise go underserved in our community. The result included the formation of the Beautiful Minds Coalition (link) and the launching of the national Presbyterian Mental Health Ministry. Covenant joined twenty other churches in Mission Presbytery in the new Vital Congregations Initiative (link) in 2019. The launch of this effort to evaluate our mission and ministry has been timely with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenge to reimagine ministry in the age of coronavirus is being focused by the call to focus on the “Seven Marks of Vital Congregations.” Covenant remains hopeful, joyful, committed, and focused as we engage with a transformed world.