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Covenant: a church of ‘care partners’

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With so many churches in the Indianapolis area, it might be difficult for one to determine what distinguishes one from another.

From the beginning, Covenant Community Church has taken on a simple, yet powerful mission: serving as followers of Jesus Christ who believe in helping one another.

In other words, you will not feel alone in the Covenant family.

The congregation is a church that emphasizes to parishioners the importance of relationship – between themselves and Christ, and between each other.

“At Covenant we’re not members, we’re care partners,” said pastor and founder Rev. Landrum E. Shields. “We emphasize people helping one another. Many people are greatly in need of help. They are hurting and have problems, which they might not be able to solve on their own. This is where the need for care partners comes in.”

Next month Covenant, located on the city’s Northwestside, will celebrate its 16th anniversary with special activities.

“We set aside an event every year to recognize one another as care partners, especially persons who attend church regularly, young people, and others who help us do our share in helping to build God’s kingdom,” Shields said.

The minister founded Covenant in 1994 following meetings at his home with 17 individuals. In 1998, the congregation moved into a new facility and now has an average Sunday attendance of several hundred.

Shields is no stranger to the Indianapolis ministerial and civic scene. Originally ordained as a Presbyterian minister, he led two congregations before forming Covenant. In 1967, he became the first African-American president of the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners, moving up to that position when Richard Lugar resigned from it to become mayor.

By 1979, Shields’ reputation for hard work and integrity had become so well known that he was asked by then U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh to run for the Indianapolis City-County Council to “add more creditability” to the Democratic ticket that year.

After that, however, Shields remained independent of partisan politics and focused instead on serving in capacities such as president of the influential Interdenominational Ministers’ Alliance, active member of the Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis, and as a chaplain with the Indianapolis police department and airport.

Shields has also been a member of the board of the Church World Service, Board of Governors Emeritus of the United Way of Central Indiana, the Mayor’s Equal Opportunity Advisory Committee and the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee.

Today, his efforts have been poured into guiding Covenant into community service, with such initiatives as a literacy program and a food donation drive for the Fay Biccard Glick Neighborhood Center at Crooked Creek.

“We believe in the theology of helping each other and those in need,” Shields said. “That’s what Jesus did and as followers of Christ we try to do exactly what he would expect us to do and how he would want us to treat each other.”

Covenant places a high priority on helping those who attend services to get to know each other. That, Shields stated, is important in an era when people in many churches are distant and aloof.

“Dogs communicate and bark at each other across the street, but some human beings can walk right past each other and not say a word,” said Shields. “We encourage relationship building, because it is the building block of God’s kingdom.”

Covenant also is known for sophisticated touches such as a harpist playing elegant music during each service, and tithe boxes placed discreetly in the church.

Still, what distinguishes the multiracial congregation for many visitors is its hospitality and warmth. After each service, those in attendance gather for an old fashioned fellowship, complete with conversation, hugs, laughter and, of course, good food.

“You’d be surprised how uplifting and how fortifying that can be,” Shields said. “Some people say, ‘I attend church services on Sunday and my week goes better. It’s providing that kind of atmosphere and acceptance of each other I think that best spells out what kind of church we are.”

Don’t miss it

What: Covenant Community Church’s 16th Anniversary Recognition Dinner

When: Nov. 12, from 6 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. (includes 30-minute reception, dinner/buffet, recognition and awards event and post dinner reception.)

Where: Renaissance Indianapolis North Hotel, 11925 N. Meridian St., Carmel

Special guests: Music by Cynthia Layne and the Rob Dixon Trio

Cost: $50 per person; $1,000 sponsorship tables for eight are available. Funds support youth programs.

For more information and tickets: Call (317) 298-7868, or visit www.covenantcommunitychurchindy.org.

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