Covenant Church has been a part of Grove City for more than eighty years. The desire of her members has always been to remain faithful to the historic Creeds and Confessions of the Reformed Faith.
Our congregation began in 1936 when a small group of people began meeting on Sunday afternoons throughout the summer in the Grove City Baptist building (where the BP gas station now stands at the corner of South Broad and Main). They were deeply concerned with the increasing liberalism of the Presbyterian USA denomination they had been attending. For the glory of Christ, her members wanted to reclaim and propagate the biblical faith and vision of the Reformation. The church was officially organized on October 20, 1936, as the Westminster Presbyterian Church with sixteen charter members.
For the first year or so, Rev. Robert L. Atwell pastored the little group, which included names still prominent in the Grove City area: Armour, Atwell, Clark, and Clelland among them.
In about a year, the church had a new pastor–none other than Francis Schaeffer, who later wrote over two dozen books and became a household name among Protestants. During his three years in Grove City, the new church began to thrive. Excited by the Summer Bible School program developed by the Rev. Abraham Lance Lathem, Schaeffer energetically pursued the development of a similar program in Grove City, a strenuous version of what we now call “Vacation Bible School” or “VBS.” He affirmed, “When we were called to the Covenant Bible Presbyterian Church of Grove City…we put the plan to the test and found it more powerful than we had even guessed. We arrived in Grove City in June and in July with little other means of contact than door bell pushing, we had our first Summer Bible School. That first year with only 4 children in our Sabbath School, we had 135 children enrolled. The following three years we had Schools all of which had over 170 in them. There is no doubt in my mind that one of the greatest factors which God used in the Building of the Grove City Church to a congregation of 105 members with its own beautiful little building was the All-Bible “Summer Bible School”.” The photo above is of Schaeffer with one of these Bible Schools in Grove City; a high-res version of the whole photo is available below in the VBS gallery.
In 1937 and after, the church realigned with the Bible Presbyterian denomination, changed its name to Covenant Presbyterian, and purchased its “own little building.” The town of Nebraska, PA, was about to be flooded to create the Tionesta Dam, and in the middle of the doomed site stood a charming little white frame church,
built in 1890. The session bought the building and dismantled it, piece by piece, for transportation to Grove City. It was moved to Grove City with the help of George J. Howe’s factory trucks. Schaeffer and the session helped to rebuild the church–until time came for the steeple-raising, when most of the crew suddenly scuttled away. One elder and Schaeffer were the only two with “heads that would take heights,” Mrs. Edith Schaeffer notes, so minister and elder painted their new steeple a gleaming white.
While Francis Schaeffer was painting outdoors, his wife, Edith, was also trying her hand at painting. The building committee had wanted to create a ceiling piece to match the building’s four stained glass windows. The colorful design, with narrow black outlines, creates a stained glass effect and did indeed match the windows. Our communion plates were also forged then, by charter member Arthur Armour. The ceiling piece and some of the windows have been incorporated into the present building, which was completed in 1998. Arthur Armour’s son Tom also added to the communion plate collection in the late 1990’s as our congregation grew, using his father’s tools.
In 1947, the church split, and a second congregation formed the Wayside Church. Its building can still be seen on Rte. 58 between Grove City and Mercer (across from the clock repair shop). Eventually, Wayside became a part of the OPC and Covenant changed denominations twice. Finally, on May 16, 1966, Eighteen years later, during Rev. Henry Tavares’ pastorate at Wayside, the two churches agreed to reunite, using the name “Covenant,” and aligning with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church as Wayside already had. “All glory belongs to God for bringing about this reconciliation,” Tavares wrote.
The congregation eventually had grown so much and the quaint building became so marked by age and moisture that the need arose for a new one. After some years of planning and anticipation, the congregation dedicated their new building in the fall of 1998, on the same site as the old building had been. Many of the old building’s distinctive architectural accents were saved and transferred to the new building, including several pews, many of the original stained-glass windows, the furniture up front, and Mrs. Schaeffer’s rose from the ceiling. The bell from this old steeple was saved and was eventually incorporated into the front sign for the new building.
- Robert Atwell, 1936-37
- Francis Schaeffer, 1937-41
- Allen Killen, 1941-44
- Lester Bachman, 1944-47
- Henry Phillips, 1950-54
- Wendell Rockey, 1954-59
- Thomas Tyson, 1960-64
- Henry Tavares, 1964-65
- Joe Misika, 1948-55
- Donald Moses, 1955-58
- Robert Wilderman, 1958-61
- Roger Hunt, 1962-65
- Henry Tavares, 1965-79
- Ivan Davis, 1980-87
- Daniel Osborne, 1988-96
- Gerald Dodds, 1997-2013
- Jeremy Jones, 2013-Present