The Mission Covenant Church has been around for 75 years and has been changing ever since. According to Rev.Jeffery Black and Ken Johnson, Trustee and lifelong member of the church, the building was originally built in 1940 after Mission Covenant bible studies were conducted in private homes in town for a few years. Around 1965, the church was already running out of space and raised what was the first floor and built a new first floor below it.
A few years ago the church went through a few more modern updates. They removed the traditional church pews and opted for comfortable movable chairs. This allowed the main worship space to be used for multiple purposes. Also, this renovation gave the church more space for attendants. Rev. Black said that average attendance has climbed from about 25 people to about 55 people each week.
They also carpeted the room to help hold heat better. At this time, a chair lift was installed on the stairs to the second floor to make the church more handicap accessible. The old large organ was also replaced with a smaller, more space efficient one.
All of this work earned the church and Rev. Black an award from the East Coast Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church as well, according to Johnson.
Currently the church is also renovating the first floor to include handicap restrooms, a new kitchen, new windows, and two new entryways to make the building more code compliant.
Technology is another recent addition to church services at the Mission Covenant Church. Rather than using hymn and prayer books, passages and songs are displayed on a projection screen. Rev. Black said, “I like it, it is much easier than books.” He said everyone comes to know the books and reading from the books becomes very individualized, with everyone’s face in a book. Also, he said newcomers cannot always find the passages as quickly.
“I would say most of the folks have adapted pretty well,” said Rev. Black.
Rev. Black also said that not using the hymn books allows them more flexibility to use newer songs as well as the older ones.
Many things set the old church apart from its fellow Christian based churches in the area according to Rev. Black and Johnson. They pointed out that they have one of the few remaining Sunday School programs left in town. Rev. Black also noted that their services are less formal than what is found at some other churches. The services are still spirit based according to Johnson.
The church also makes use of the Eastern Conference’s Camp Cedar Pines in Charlottesville, V.A., for retreats, family camping, and summer camp for their teenage members.
However, despite the things that make them different, Rev. Black said they enjoy having a good relationship with the other churches in the area. This allows them to help each other and learn from one another.
Rev. Black said that in his tours of other Mission Covenant Churches across the country, he has seen many different and modern things in services. He has even seen churches with rock bands. Also, he said he is noticing the age of the pastors and worshippers decrease.
According to Rev. Black, the denomination is growing in diversity nationwide. He said that people of more different ethnic backgrounds is also increasing.
On Saturday evening, an anniversary dinner will be held at the church at 5:30. All living former pastors of the church will be in attendance along with members of the church.
“We’re just going to have a big party and thank God for keeping the church for 75 years,” said Rev. Black.