In the fall of 1961, Dr. E. S. Campbell, Chairman of Church Extension for Westminster Presbytery, met with a group of forty individuals who had discerned through the Holy Spirit that a new church was needed in Fort Myers that would be a part of the Reformed tradition in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.
From that historic meeting in the old Edison Cafeteria, Covenant Presbyterian Church was born! Chartered in February of 1962 with fifty-two founding members, the Presbytery purchased the five-acre tract on which the church now stands.
On November 4, 1962, just 82 days after we held ground-breaking ceremonies, we occupied the first sanctuary, now serving as Fellowship Hall, and Covenant began on the path of bringing faithful, Christ-centered ministry to the Fort Myers community.
Covenant’s first pastor, the Rev. Raymond A. Horn, was called in April of 1962 and immediately provided the church with great vision for the community. Through the 1960’s, under the leadership of our Presbytery and Dr. Horn, Covenant was involved with founding and organizing many churches, including Grace Presbyterian, First Presbyterian in Lehigh Acres, First Presbyterian in Bonita Springs, Cypress Lake Presbyterian, Holy Trinity Presbyterian, Buckingham Presbyterian, and Burnt Store Presbyterian.
The Rev. Claude Allen became Covenant’s second pastor in September of 1969 and remained until 1973. Covenant continued to grow during those years, primarily through the marvelous music program that was started under the direction of David G. Robinson.
In 1973, the Covenant Day Care Center opened with 25 children enrolled. It was the first of its kind in Lee County, and provided care for infants and pre-school children from low income families.
The Rev. Dolph Allen, Jr. became pastor in 1974, and through his leadership, growth groups were started that provided spiritual instruction and nurture. Many in the Fort Myers area began to experience the vital ministry at Covenant and membership swelled to over 1000 for the first time. As a result, a new sanctuary was built in 1976 with services being held for the first time there on December 19th. During this time, Covenant also received the blessing of new staff positions, including both an Associate Pastor and a Christian Educator.
The 1980’s brought on many challenges for Covenant as growth and pastoral changes created new opportunities. The Presbyterian Church was also in a period of transition as the reunion of 1983 created many changes in national leadership, presbyteries, geographical boundaries, and denominational allegiances. In October of 1987, the Rev. Allen left Covenant to form a new non-denominational church in the area and membership dropped from 1,300 to 500. During that time, however, Covenant showed the strength of spirit that has always marked her people.
Dr. David G. Berry was called in March of 1989, and under his leadership, Covenant again grew to over 1,400 members. Dr. Berry emphasized the importance of ministry in the community and Covenant became known far and wide as an active, mission-minded congregation. During Dr. Berry’s tenure, two major building campaigns brought increased parking, new Christian Education and office facilities, as well as the Covenant House. Adult, youth, and children’s ministries all began to take root and grow as young and old alike received the ministry of Jesus Christ through Covenant. In 1991-92, a Forward by Faith building campaign permitted us to add new educational facilities, new offices, a choir suite, and a beautiful courtyard. The Music Ministry also continued to thrive during the 1980’s as the Covenant Concert Series was started. Growth and change continued to mark Covenant’s path through the 1990s as ministry and program were expanding, along with budget and benevolences. The budget crested one million dollars for the first time, and a long-range plan, Covenant 2000, was adopted in 1995. Dr. Berry resigned in December of 1997.
Following a time of interim leadership, Dr. David D. Swanson was called as Covenant’s fifth pastor in April of 1999. During his tenure, the congregation grew to 1,665 members—the highest in church history, and Christian Education opportunities were attended by substantially more people than ever before. There was an increased emphasis on small-group discipleship (particularly men’s), as well as the expansion of the tape, video, CD, and radio ministry. Under Dr. Swanson's leadership, the church became a “Confessing Church,” joining the movement of Presbyterians in the PC(USA) who hold to the historic tenants of the faith. Dr. Swanson concluded his ministry at Covenant on August 29, 2004 to serve as senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Florida.
Dr. Samuel W. Henderson began serving as Interim Pastor on December 5, 2004 and exemplified the love of Christ to our congregation. Dr. Henderson spearheaded Covenant's participation in the Natural Church Development survey.
On July 24, 2005, the congregation of Covenant Presbyterian Church called Dr. Bill Stephens to serve as Senior Pastor/Head of Staff. Dr. Stephens officially began his ministry at Covenant on October 1, 2005. On March 21, 2008, Dr. Stephens led the formation of New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers.
On August 17, 2008, the members and friends of Covenant Presbyterian Church welcomed the Rev. Daniel Hagmaier as their Designated Pastor/Head of Staff. Rev. Hagmaier concluded his ministry at Covenant on November 30, 2010.
Today, Covenant continues to be a warm, faithful worshipping community committed to fulfilling God’s unique call in this place. Through the gifted people that God has brought to this family, Covenant is poised to tackle new challenges as she seeks to build God’s Kingdom in this community and beyond. For more information on the history of Covenant Presbyterian Church, please consult the church library.