Refinance Helps New Covenant Church Fulfill its Mission
In June 2008, the historically white congregation of Epworth UMC in Savannah received a new identity. It became New Covenant Church. In addition to a new name, New Covenant also received its first African American pastor, Dr. Andrew J. Young II.
Pastor Drew, as he is affectionately known, is a native of Savannah. He has breathed new life into a congregation that once struggled with declining membership due to urban flight. Today, New Covenant is multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-sensory congregation with a mission of loving God, loving people and loving the community. Membership, which is approaching 175, has more than tripled. The average age of attendees is around 37.
This historical church is uniquely situated in the heart of a downtown community that is bustling with new life. The New Covenant Preschool, led by Pastor Drew’s wife, Tracey Young, is a shining star. In 2012 and 2013, it was voted best daycare by readers of the Savannah Morning News.
Pastor Drew shares some of New Covenant’s unique attributes. “We’ve removed the trappings of man and focus on the callings of God. There’s no dress code. People can have piercings and can wear jeans,” he said. “The worship experience is fluid and unpredictable. We do music, videos and liturgical dance. I preach love, inclusion, invitation and welcome with accountability and present it in a way that’s funny and engaging so people aren’t enduring worship, but experiencing it.”
The less formal, invigorating environment lends itself to laughter and spontaneous responses from the pulpit and music team. “We stay focused and centered on Christ,” Pastor Drew said. “But it’s a place open to all modalities of learning, which allows the word of God to be planted deeper in the hearts of people.”
Members and visitors alike of this racially and economically diverse community also appreciate being greeted by a multi-age and multi-racial staff and volunteers. The hospitality station, which serves up fruits, pastries and coffee before and after the service, has also been a big hit.
During its revitalization, New Covenant has faced its share of financial challenges. Initially, it obtained a loan to convert unused space into the preschool and tackle much-needed interior and exterior renovations. It wasn’t long, however, before the 30-year-old heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems started breaking down with increasing frequency.
“We decided to refinance the existing loan and borrow additional monies for new mechanicals from the Georgia United Methodist Foundation because their interest rate was much better. I also think a Methodist institution is more sensitive to church and congregational needs whereas bankers are most concerned about profits,” Pastor Drew said. “The refinancing allows us to do ministry, invigorate our new attendees and members and have a comfortable place for people to gather year-round. How do you take a church that is 80 percent new Christians and ask them to come in early to help us keep the building functional versus asking them to come and feed the hungry in the community? This loan frees us up and allows us to focus on building disciples.”