History of Covenant OPC
Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church has been a part of Grove City for nearly sixty years. The desire of her members has always been to remain faithful to the historic Creeds and Confessions of the Reformed Faith. This wonderful Reformed Faith stresses certain biblical truths. These are popularized as follows: The Bible alone is God’s inspired and error-free book; it is the final authority for all matters of faith and life; God’s salvation is to be found in Christ alone; He is that unique Redeemer who came from heaven and took our nature so that He could suffer and die in the place of His people. Through His death on the cross His people receive forgiveness of all their sins and eternal life. This salvation in Christ is all God’s grace; human beings do not contribute anything to their salvation. One receives this salvation through faith alone. For a complete statement of faith, we highly recommend your reading the Westminster Confession of Faith. (available to read at www.opc.org).
Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church had its origin with public worship held on Sunday afternoons in Grove City’s First Baptist Church throughout the summer of 1936. She was established in an era when the truths of the Reformation were being denied. For the glory of Christ, her members wanted to reclaim and propagate that biblical faith and vision. 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. 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. The session bought the building and dismantled it, piece by piece, for transportation to Grove City.
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 Scheffer were the only two with “heads that would take heights,” Mrs. Schaeffer notes, so minister and elder painted their new steeple a gleaming white.
While Schaeffer was painting outdoors, his wife 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. The ceiling piece and some of the windows have been incorporated into the present building, which was completed in 1998.
Six years then passed until the “Split of ’47,” when a group broke from Covenant to form Wayside Orthodox Presbyterian Church, then located outside of Grove City on Mercer Road. In the next 18 years, the churches remained divided, and Covenant changed denominations twice.
Finally, on May 16, 1966, 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.
Many more years have passed in harmony and growth of membership. In fact, the congregation had grown so much and used the building so well that the need arose for a new one. After some years of planning and anticipation, the congregation recently dedicated their new building in the fall of 1998, on the same site as the old building had been.