In the Beginning...
In 1981, a handful of Christians and a very young pastor, Larry Edison, came together for Bible study and worship in Sarasota, and Covenant Life Presbyterian Church was born. Numbering less than 20, these committed believers studied, worshiped and prayed together in private homes until the group grew too large to squeeze into anyone's living room. We sought to build a church with a passion to reach families, a faithful commitment to God's Word, and an excitement about outreach and missions.
Our First and Second "Permanent" Homes
Our first meeting place was Wilkinson Elementary School. Nineteen people endured the half-pint chairs to sing, pray, learn, and give ourselves to Christ and each other. After a time, the Lord opened doors for us to spend nine months in what was then called the Sarasota Christian Teen Center, where our first pulpit was a pool table.
In May of 1982, we were approached about purchasing a recreation center hidden in a local neighborhood. We took that as encouragement from the Lord and moved into our first purchased facility with almost 100 people. Six months later, we were established as a “real” congregation, and Larry Edison was installed as the Sr. Pastor, along with several elders. We remained there about five years and continued to grow. We added an Assistant Pastor, Andy Phillips, who also served as youth pastor. In 1988, we pulled up stakes again, sold the recreation building, and settled comfortably into a shady oak hammock on Proctor Road.
We thought we were home. Our beautiful facility was vast. How would we ever fill all those pews? But God continued to bless, and dramatic growth followed. Expansion needs were evident within just eighteen months! We enlarged the fellowship hall and added eight additional classrooms. For a time, these structures functioned beautifully.
Planting a "Daughter" Church
We continued to grow in members and in new staff. After Andy Phillips left in 1990, Associate Pastor Daryl Davis came aboard to focus on building and growing home fellowship groups. That same year, we hired a young man fresh from seminary to plant a “daughter” church. Dave Sturkey started as an Assistant Pastor at Covenant Life so that everyone could get to know him and he could build a team to launch the new church. In 1991, with our support, the new church was off and running with about 60 people. Today, Cornerstone Church of Lakewood Ranch is the result of their efforts. Our two congregations plan to establish another church in the next few years.
Our Third "Permanent" Home
Meanwhile, by 1992, the Covenant Life congregation was again spilling out of the doors. Despite offering three Sunday services, frustrated visitors sometimes left when they found no place to park. In His perfect time, God presented us with a solution and a new mission through the Palmer Ranch property. So we did it again. We sold our property, pulled up stakes, and moved to our present location on McIntosh Road in the Palmer Ranch community of Sarasota.
Here, we continue to nurture a faithful body of believers in a rapidly growing area with no other church buildings. Our new facility has room for all our members with space for growth. Beautiful grounds and a tranquil lake enhance the wooded setting, and there is ample space for church picnics and other outdoor activities. We’ve got a great nursery, playground, basketball court, picnic area, and room for a wide variety of events.
We’ve continued to add staff to serve the growing needs of our church, including youth, music, women’s ministries, families, and missions. Through the last twenty-plus years, we have seen God’s hand at work among us. People’s lives have been changed by the good news of Christ, and we know He will carry us into the future as He adds people to our family. Each family God adds to us brings unique gifts, passions, and skills that He believes we need for further ministry. There is a place for you in Covenant Life’s future. We welcome you here.