As we're called to "remember your leaders" and to "consider the outcome" of their lives (Hebrews 13:7), it seems appropriate to share some of our own history here.
Scroll through the timeline to learn the history of our building and our church. Below the timeline, you'll find a snippet on our formative years—written by our esteemed Pastor-emeritus, Rev. Timothy Gregson.
Let us follow the beginnings of Covenant Presbyterian Church—looking back all the way to the circumstances that led to the formation of this church. Following this timeline, we will be reminded of many lessons God was teaching as he faithfully guided the saints of Covenant toward Him, who is our dwelling place.
Nine Defenders of the Truth: "Who Has Believed Our Report?"
Looking back to that period of the mid-70’s, we may remember how the old United Presbyterian Church was sinking deeper and deeper into a humanistic agenda. Faithful pastors found themselves battling against their presbyteries and faithful church members found themselves in opposition to new trends of liberalism and moral breakdown.
During this time, a lesson was being learned in the lives of nine people at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church. They were Al and Bess Silvestri, Darlene Gilligan, Marilyn and Floyd Lepper, Jean and Jerry Wilson, and Marc and Mae Andreae. It was a hard lesson in how spiritual blindness can overtake those who forsake the faithful preaching and teaching of God's Word.
Having been well trained by former pastors at Emmanuel, these nine people could readily recognize the signs. We are not talking about a couple of scruples. It was a time when the Angela Davis fund was created by the UP General Assembly, when Sunday School programs included a humanistic view without reference to the Bible, and teachers were taught not to tell the children what to believe, but to let them decide. Added to that was the misuse of missionary money, Christmas celebrations that superimposed the message of Santa Claus over the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. This was a time as John 12 describes out of Isaiah:
Lord who has believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts… (John 12:38-40).
It was Marilyn Lepper that recalled, “Their ears were closed; their eyes were closed. Nobody was listening. It was like sitting with people who were mutes.” The Albany Presbytery of the UP Church offered no help or sympathy to their concern; so that there was no alternative but to come out from among them and depart that fellowship. Once again, “Lord who has believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts…”
"Commit Your Ways to the Lord..."
Trusting in the faithfulness of God, these nine souls met each Sunday to search out another place of worship, traveling as far as Duanesburg. And as they did, God was teaching them another lesson—the value and power of prayer and waiting on the Lord. “Commit your way unto the LORD, trust also in Him and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday” (Psalm 37:5-6).
At first they met at the home of Jean and Gerald Wilson for 8 months praying and waiting and trusting the LORD while visiting in various churches to worship and search. I believe it was Marc Andreae who first noticed in the Schenectady Gassett an ad for a choir director. Pursuing that ad they found themselves in the middle of a Sunday evening service at Calvary OPC where Rev. Ray Meiners was preaching.
The music was grand, and the message fed their souls the truth out of God’s Word! So every week the nine would travel to Schenectady and fill an entire pew. Calvary OPC would become our mother church. At last in early 1978 they asked Rev. Ray Minors if Calvary would give oversight to their little group in Amsterdam. As Jean remembers, “we all wanted to be fed the truth. But the last thing in our mind was that we would be starting a church” (Jean). But was there ever a choice? Any alternative was intolerable to them, as they had learned in their pilgrimage.
Forming a New Church
So it was that on April 7 of 1978 a petition to Presbytery was drawn up, requesting Church Status. It read,
We the undersigned, trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior from sin, hereby apply to the Presbytery to be received as a particular church of the Presbytery of New York and New England of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. We have inquired into the government and doctrine of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and believe it to be consonant with the Word of God. We have also familiarized ourselves with the history of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church sufficiently to have the assurance that we wish to be a part of the witness and testimony of this body of Christians.
Gerald M. Wilson
Jean A. Wilson
Mae C. Andreae
When the subject came up among them what name they should call the new work, it was Gerald Wilson who first proposed that the future Orthodox Presbyterian church be called Covenant. His suggestion was received by all; and so it has always been called Covenant.
Then on October 1 of that year, 1978, at the welcome of the pastor and congregation of the Polish National Church of the Good Shepherd the little Covenant group began to meet in their little facility. The Rev. Raymond Meiners led that first service with a message titled, “A Day of Joy and Gladness,” from Psalm 118. On November 5th the Sunday School Department was established by Darlene Gilligan for children ages 4 to 11. By December an adult class was opened with Marc Andreae as leader.
Consider God’s providence along every step of their pilgrimage: from the early training at Emmanuel they gained discernment and fortitude; from a common conviction of the Word of the God they were brought together; from an ad in the newspaper they were brought to Calvary OPC; by a generous heart they were invited to Good Shepherd Church. It was as God had promised, “The LORD shall continually guide you and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail” (Isaiah 58:11). By Rev. Timothy Gregson, 2022
A Note About our Building, and Trinity Reformed Church
Thirteen years after we became a church, we purchased the beautiful building at 7-9 Trinity Place from Trinity Reformed Church—another church that, for 100 years, shared our vision to preach the Word of Christ in Amsterdam. When Trinity Reformed dissolved in 1997, we purchased the building to continue preaching Christ from all of Scriptures in the rich legacy of the Reformation. That is our desire, to this day.
COVENANT'S EARLY HISTORY
by Rev. Timothy Gregson (Pastor-Emeritus)