Easter Sunday (April 7, 1996) marked the inception of Covenant United Church of Christ in the location of another faith community known as Thornridge United Church of Christ, which closed its doors the previous year on Easter of 1995. The new church start was called Covenant United Church of Christ. Under the leadership of founding pastor, the Rev. Dr. Ozzie E. Smith, Jr. the church began with him, first lady Barbara W. Smith and their three children, Ozzie III, Lauran, and Brian. The church soon grew rapidly as new members were eager to organize lay ministries to nurture membership in a variety of areas such as Married Couples, Singles, and the Share Hunger Ministry. In the first year, two $500 scholarships were awarded and Thanksgiving baskets were provided for 100 families.
Covenant received full standing in the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ in October of 1997. In December of 1997, the Management Support Team of the Illinois Conference which also served as the original search committee for the new church start dissolved and handed over the reins to Pastor Smith and the newly formed Covenant Board of Directors and Trustees.
In that same year, the church saw rapid numerical growth fostering the need to expand the parking lot and add an additional worship service at 7:30am. At one time, Covenant was the fastest growing church in the denomination. Realizing that two services and additional parking would not be adequate for the long term, a Strategy Partners Committee was formed to plan for a capital campaign kickoff. This faith raising campaign was based on Nehemiah 2:18, and the church committed to the charge of raising funds for a building project. It was determined that a sanctuary able to seat 700 plus could be built on the existing grounds.
In June of 2000 the Cornerstone Fund of the United Church of Christ expressed an interest in providing funding for the project. After several visits to Covenant for worship, reviewing financial records and evaluating construction plans, they agreed to fund 1.1 million dollars of the 2.8 million needed. Weeks after the Cornerstone Fund announcement, the Church Revolving Loan Group agreed to loan the additional 2.2 million dollars. Occupation of the new worship facility took place on Easter Sunday, 2002. At that time the membership stood at over 1200. The first church loan was paid in full in only five years.
The Youth Church Building (Ozzie E. Smith Jr. Youth Center) was purchased in 2008 and in 2014 construction on the Barbara W. Smith Family Life Center was completed as well as a mezzanine in the sanctuary. In 2017 an adjacent property which was formerly the site of Valley Kingdom Ministries was purchased, adding additional parking and a 50,000 square foot building.
On the first Sunday of June 2018, Pastor Smith after 22 years of service announced plans to the congregation to retire in September of 2020. At the same time, he announced to the congregation that he had selected a successor to follow him. Pastor Smith introduced the Rev. Dr. Patrick L. Daymond, his wife Antonia, and their twins sons Bryce and Benjamin to the congregation. The congregation received the news enthusiastically and from there began a two and a half year transition process with Pastor Smith serving as Senior Pastor and Pastor Daymond serving as Pastor.
On the first Sunday in September of 2020, Pastor Smith officially retired and was bestowed with the honorific distinction of Pastor Emeritus. At the same time, Pastor Daymond began his tenure as Senior Pastor. In Pastor Daymond’s short time he has been fiercely dedicated to the mission and vision he introduced to the congregation, building on the strong foundation that Pastor Smith established.
Recognizing that the physical plant was beginning to age, Pastor Daymond has led a number of upgrade and restoration efforts, including parking lot resurfacing, roof replacement and repair, the completion of the sanctuary stain glass project, as well as technological upgrades for high quality worship streaming and video production.
In addition to the physical improvements of the building, Pastor Daymond has been working diligently to build an organized and effective support team to help communicate and implement God’s vision for COVUCC by redeploying staff in various areas. Pastor Daymond’s foresight and vision led to the establishment of the church’s community development corporation as Covenant’s mission and outreach agent in the community. Its mission is to provide individuals and families with valuable programs and resources to support human flourishing and well-being. Plans are in development to anchor the community development corporation with a STEAM Center (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) to expose young people to careers and entrepreneurial opportunities in this field so as to build bright futures. An ecosystem of services will be developed to serve the community including our existing food pantry which feeds the community weekly.
In response to the Covid 19 pandemic, Pastor Daymond and First Lady Antonia created Covenant Cares which provides assistance through the distribution of monetary gifts to non-profit organizations doing essential work in the community and partnering with various organizations in order to provide outreach services and creative programming to not only assist people in achieving the abundant life but also aims to disrupt the systemic injustices infiltrating the black community.
Today, COVUCC is dedicated to uphold its mission and to seek after the realization of its vision:
Covenant United Church of Christ is called by Christ to connect the disconnected to Christ and equip the connected to be like Christ. Matthew 28:16-20
Covenant United Church of Christ will be the realization of a multi-generational beloved community - connecting cultural affirmation, love of God and neighbor, justice for the poor, healing for the hurting, and liberation for the oppressed - for the betterment of the world and the promotion of God’s kingdom. Luke 4:18