About our Church
Covenant Church is an ecumenical, liberal Baptist congregation born in 1965 out of the ferment of two movements of the time: church renewal and civil rights. A group of about 60 people, acquainted through working together in various aspects of a traditional, yet enlightened, Southern Baptist church, grew disillusioned by the inability of that congregation to respond to the social turmoil of the 1960s and its retreat from progressive theology exemplified by the hiring of a conservative minister. First forming a Bible study group, these individuals began to discuss the idea of forming a church based on the valuable principles of the Baptist tradition with a strong dose of renewal.
What were those principles?
• Individual freedom and responsibility to read and interpret scripture
(priesthood of the believer)
• Congregational autonomy
• Integrity of church membership (a spiritual
commitment, not a social obligation)
• Intentionality in the modes of worship, education
• An appreciation of the rituals and liturgy of many
• An understanding that the Word can come from
our sacred stories as well as literature and art and
• A reunion of the sacred and the secular
• A separation of church and state
• A respect for all people, without regard for labels
and categories used to divide
Covenant grew into these principles, making difficult decisions, gradually enlarging our vision, becoming more authentic in the way our practice and our preaching meshed. At the formation, even though not all of the original members were Baptist, Covenant affiliated first with the Southern Baptist Convention and then with the American Baptist Churches. We hoped to bridge the gap caused by the dispute over slavery more than 100 years ago and perpetuated in different reactions to modernism.
Our worship was formal -- liturgical -- and increasingly became the work of the people, with lay participation in every aspect of planning and leading in the worship service as well as every other aspect of church life. As Southern Baptist positions on both theological and social issues became more difficult to ignore, Covenant eventually dropped the relationship with the SBC. We retain the name Baptist because of the power of its historic principles and their congruence with what we hold to be true.
For thirty-five years Covenant shared worship and meeting facilities with other congregations out of a desire to use resources responsibly. St. John the Divine, Bethany Christian, St. Stephen Episcopal and Bellaire Christian churches were our generous hosts. In 2000, after considerable debate, the congregation decided that the mission of the church would better be served with an address and a worship and meeting space that was designed to our specifications and could be shared by us with the community. One of our goals was to make Covenant's home in the Midtown/Museum District a home for the arts, contemplation, education and other needs of the community.
Proclamation, music, mission and education are important aspects of the Covenant experience. Members of the congregation assume much of the responsibility for the logistics of the programs of the church in order to give the minister ample time to study, prepare proclamations, and participate in the larger community. Covenant supports more than a dozen social service activities in Houston, including the Christian Community Service Center, Omega House, Hospitality Apartments and Project Row Houses. We offer a full range of educational experiences from pre-kindergarten to adult.
Covenant's worship services incorporate contemporary poetry, dance, drama, our spiritual tradition and exemplary choral and instrumental music in addition to thoughtful, provocative proclamations. A labyrinth is part of the grounds of the church; it offers members and passers-by the opportunity for a contemplative walk and serves as the basis for collaborative services with the larger community.
While we call those people who consider becoming members of Covenant Inquirers, that is really what we all are -- a people on a journey, asking questions, testing the tradition against our personal experiences, trying to make sense out of our lives. We welcome company.
Covenant is affiliated with The Alliance of Baptists and The American Baptist Churches, USA.
We are a partner congregation with The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, The Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, and The Center for Progressive Christianity.