History of Our Church
Covenant Presbyterian Church had its beginnings as Second United Presbyterian Church, incorporated in 1911. That name is still inscribed in stone over the front entrance to the current sanctuary. Throughout the region, it was known as Second Church until the name was changed to Covenant in 1981.
In 1902, the Labelle View Land Company began a new development on the northwest hilltop overlooking the city of Steubenville. As more families from downtown moved there, a desire grew to have churches in this new community. Among them were members of First United Presbyterian Church (downtown). Under the direction of their Pastor, Dr. Walter Liggitt, efforts were made to establish a daughter church.
The denomination of which First and Second Church were members, the United Presbyterian Church of North America, was organized in 1858. This was a union of several predominantly Scottish American Presbyterian bodies that had come about in the years of evangelistic outreach following America's "Second Great Awakening."
Second United Presbyterian Church held its first worship service on July 1, 1912 and was organized with 69 Charter Members. The original building had been completed at a cost of $15,000. It was constructed in the "Akron" style and included a central sanctuary, surrounding Sunday School rooms, and a lower level fellowship hall. Dr. Mertz A. Eakin served as the church's first pastor and during the first ten years led the church through its most significant membership increase, growing from 69 to more than 400.
In April of 1923, Dr. Chauncey K. McGeorge accepted a call to the Pastorate at this church. The continuous growth of the church and hilltop community necessitated enlarging the facilities. In a major undertaking, the church raised funds and constructed a new 300 seat sanctuary with a lower level gymnasium.
The ministry of Reverend James K. Leitch (1933-1942) provided leadership to guide the congregation through the difficult war years. Dr. Alexander S. Fleming (1943-1952) built a strong foreign missions concern and budget within the church. He was followed by Dr. Gordon Boak (1953-1959) whose ministry saw increased attention to a youth program. It was during Dr. Boak's tenure that the United Presbyterian denomination merged with the Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA).
In 1960, Reverend Edwin Fontaine began a twenty-eight year Pastorate. With his leadership, the church built a new educational building and then rebuilt it after a fire in 1974. It was during these years that major changes in the steel industry made such an impact on the population and economy of the community. Second Church, like most congregations, saw beginnings of a decline in membership as jobs dried up. The congregation which once numbered nearly 800 declined to less than half that number. Despite that fact, the youth ministry remained a high priority, including a church summer camp and a succession of Christian Education Directors on the church staff.
A significant challenge during Reverend Fontaine's ministry was the decision of the congregation to leave the PCUSA. Second Church had always been an evangelical congregation. Members became increasingly distressed over major doctrinal departure from key Biblical truths. In 1981, the congregation voted, (almost unanimously) to withdraw from that denomination and to begin to search for a more conservative fellowship. It was at that time that the name of the church was changed to Covenant.
During the Pastorate of Reverend J. Arthur Wood (1988-1990), Covenant's members voted to affiliate with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), a relatively young, but rapidly growing and solidly evangelical and reformed denomination. Dr. Lawrence C. Roff served as Covenant's eighth Pastor (1992-2000). In the PCA, he is known as an organist and seminary professor (worship). At Covenant, he continued the priority of Biblical preaching, as well as introducing a wider variety of music to services. In the community, he took a leading role in rejuvenating the Steubenville Council of Christian Churches and ministering to striking steel workers. Under his leadership, Covenant embarked on a major capital improvement program ($250,000) which included the construction of a new parking lot and installation of an elevator.
In mid 2001, Reverend Walter A. Coppersmith was called as Covenant's ninth Pastor. His leadership focused on "change and revitalization." The addition of a new Celebration (Praise) Service was introduced in 2003 as an early service, scheduled prior to Covenant's long-standing traditional worship service. Later, a combined "blended" service was attempted which did not bode well, as it basically divided the congregation. Decisions had to be reached on this and other related issues, including a major decision to withdraw from the P.C.A./Pittsburgh Presbytery. A Congregational Meeting was held and a majority of those in attendance voted in favor of the withdrawal. Shortly thereafter, Reverend Coppersmith resigned - his last sermon was July 31, 2005. Covenant was now an independent congregation.
Covenant was very fortunate in the fact that it already had someone to take over the pulpit - Reverend David Massimi, who had been serving the church as Director of Senior Care for the past couple years under Reverend Coppersmith. It was a period of transition...a chance for everyone to reassess their personal commitment to God and this church. Reverend Massimi worked very hard and was very committed in holding us together. In addition to performing all his pastoral duties, Reverend Massimi was very instrumental in helping Covenant develop a new Constitution/By-Laws. He served three years - (August 2005 to August 2008.)
Covenant, again, did not have to look very far to find their next (and present) pastor. Reverend Paul Danielson and his wife Heather had been members of the church since 2006. And, on several occasions, Reverend Danielson would fill the pulpit as guest speaker. At the time when Reverend Massimi was informing the Session that he would be retiring, it became apparent to Session that Reverend Danielson be considered as our new Pastor.
Upon examination, and by full acceptance of the pulpit committee, Reverend Paul Danielson, on August 1, 2008, became Covenant's 11th Pastor in it's nearly 100 years serving the community.
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