Royal Palm Covenant Church has a history of growth and identity in our community. Under the pastoral leadership of several distinguished ministers since 1962, we have grown spiritually and numerically. We recognize that if it had not been for these men of vision and fortitude the church would have remained stagnant.
Arvid Jones (1961-1964), Eugene Lundberg (1964-1989), Paul Barnes (1989-1996), Rev. David Hillberg (1996-2003) and Rev. Michael S.W. Rose (2003-Present) we would not be here today. Though three of the five pastors have gone to glory, we still felt the need to pause, remember and to thank those who served so faithfully.
On January 2, 1962, a charter meeting was held at the Village Inn and 32 members were taken in the original founding members of the Community Church of Royal Palm Beach. Pastor Arvid Jones was the pastor at the time. He had been called a year prior, to shepherd a community of believers who were regularly attending Sunday school in an empty house on Oleander Drive. Sunday morning services in a bus shelter in warm weather and in an empty house in the cold weather. After a year, they finally felt ready to graduate from a homeless group of people to a church with recognized members and concrete walls; hence, the subsequent meeting of January 1962.
Within that same year, Pastor Jones was able to obtain the donation of land, the services of an architect, and the erection of a place of worship. Mrs. Anna Anderson of Miami donated an acre of land located on the corner of Royal Palm Beach Blvd and Camellia Drive and a groundbreaking ceremony was scheduled for March of that year. From a charter church with a handful of attendees to groundbreaking and 32 members in just over one year! There is no stopping the people of God who have a vision.
A Swedish contractor was located. Pastor Jones donned his work clothes, and many members of the Village came out to help, with the result being the Sunday school portion of the new church was soon began. And as each need arose, God supplied. For although there was a contractor, there was as yet no architect. Although construction was underway, there was no rhyme or reason or design. God Sent Hunter Virnelson, a retired architect from Washington, D.D to Royal Palm Beach, FL. He and his wife became members of the Community Covenant Church and shortly thereafter accepted the task of giving design direction to our team of busy worker bees. The excitement was such that, once the Sunday school area was constructed and weatherproofed “without proper furniture or instruments“ the people moved in and started having church. In short order the Fellowship Hall (named Royal Hall, after the family who underwrote the construction) and the sanctuary were also completed. Pastor Jones shepherded this congregation for three years before retiring in 1964 at which time Pastor Eugene Lundberg accepted the call as shepherd.
Rev. Eugene Lundberg agreed to leave a healthy congregation in Bronx, New York and come to the Village of Royal Palm Beach. He brought with him, his wife and two daughters.Â Under his leadership, the congregation grew from 29 members to about 150. During his tenure, in 1970 the sanctuary and Royal Hall burned down. The congregation was undeterred. Using insurance funds, gifts from friends and community, especially the Jewish community, Pastor Lundberg oversaw the rebuilding and improvement of the church and Fellowship Hall. He also supervised the addition of a new Sunday school wing and the addition of a paved drive way and beautiful landscaping. Pastor Lindberg also initiated the church’s name change from Community Evangelical Covenant Church to Royal Palm Covenant Church. He personally directed the growing choir, accompanied by his daughter, Bonnie.
Pastor Lundberg opened the church doors to many local churches to utilize the sanctuary while building or upgrading their own. These included the Jewish community, Our Lady Queen of the Apostles Catholic Church in Royal Palm Beach and her parent church, St. Rita Catholic Church of Wellington, which has a current attendance of 2,500 people. Our church has also provided temporary housing for Royal Palm Baptist Church and for Temple Beth Zion. Boy Scouts, summer day camps and other community and youth organizations have also used the church for meetings and events. Pastor Lundberg served as a pastor of Royal Palm Covenant Church for 25 years and then continued to serve in the community as a speaker and an interium pastor at several local congregations. The Lord saw fit to call Pastor Lundberg home in September, 1989 and Rev. Paul Barnes replaced Pastor Lundberg at Royal Palm Covenant Church.
The 1980s seem to have been the peak years for Royal Palm Covenant church. In the early 1980’s the Evangelical Covenant Church began to actively seek the membership of non-white, minority members. At about the same time the Village of Royal Palm Beach began to witness an influx of Jamaicans and others of Caribbean descent. Several families began attending services at Royal Palm Covenant Church and became steadfast and active members.
Rev. Paul Barnes came to Royal Palm Covenant Church in 1989 from Kennedy, Minnesota. He brought with him, his wife Becky and two children. At the time he took over there was actual attendance of 109 and membership of 170. When he retired seven years later in 1996, there were approximately 140 members. Pastor David Hillberg took over the leadership from Rev. Barns.
Rev. David Hillberg served as pastor for six years (1997- 2003). Noting a change in the community and its needs, Rev. Hillberg was instrumental in establishing the food pantry ministry, which is still strong and active to this day. The ministry grew from serving one or two families per week into a network that joined with other churches and food banks to reguarly feed families all over West Palm Beach. Pastor Hillberg provided counseling and tutoring services during the Food Pantry operating hours. However, by 2003, he sensed a need for greater ethnic presence to provide effective ministry to a part of the community which at that time was underserved. By the end of 2003 Rev. Hillberg resigned his pastorate to pursue the next phase of his ministerial service.
The demographics of the surrounding community had changed greatly during the six years of Pastor Hillberg’s tenure. It had gone from a majority Caucasian community to a heavily Caribbean influenced community. Also, the community ha slowly become lower-middle class rather than upper-middle or even middle-middle class of years past.Â The church was financially depleted- not bringing in enough weekly offering or tithes to support both a full time pastor and meet bottom-line financial obligations- water, electricity, and grounds maintenance. From a purely practical perspective, it just seem to be time to close the doors. But what echoed in the minds and hearts of God’s people was the wording of a letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders…..I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
In 2002, the remaining people of Royal Palm Covenant Church had to make a major decision. Should we close the doors? Upon consulting the Conference Superintendent, Kurt Miericke, a new ministry proposal was submitted. The gist was that the South East Conference would loan a designated amount of money to Royal Palm Covenant Church at a low interest rate. The funds would be used to hire a minister/co-pastor that had Spiritual gifts that would balance out the gifts of Pastor Hillberg. Also, the proposed pastor would be of a different ethnicity (preferably black) and of a different age group (preferably younger). It was determined that, due to the changing demographics of the community, this individual, with these specific qualifications, could positively balance the ministry of Royal Palm Covenant Church by both representing and inviting certain demographic groups to fellowship with us.
With the approval of the Conference Superintendent and the remaining Council and membership of Royal Palm Covenant Church, Pastor Michael Rose of Miami, Florida was invited to interview for, a subsequently to accept the position of Co-pastor. In May 2003 Pastor Rose began commuting several times a week from Miami to Royal Palm Beach. He was officially installed on 2003 and in June 2003, he relocated his family (Wife Carolyn, Sons (Michael Jr., Jonathan and Matthew) to Royal Palm Beach. However, within the year Pastor Hillberg went on a sabbatical from which he would not return to the pastorate of Royal Palm Covenant; he resigned as Pastor in March 2004, leaving Rev. Rose a sole pastor.
Since then, Pastors Michael and Carolyn Rose have seen the congregation grow to about 75-100 regular attendees. They witnessed the growth of the Sunday school, worship team and choir, other ministries, such as the Deacon Board, Women’s Ministry, Children’s Ministry and the Evangelism team.
Since 2004, Royal Palm Covenant Church has been in a battle to remain an active, viable and contributing part of the neighboring community of the Village of Royal Palm Beach.Â The first tangible efforts were made in reaching out to the your of Royal Palm.’ The mission statement of Royal Palm Covenant states: We seek to reach the youth and aged in our community by providing a safe place for positive interaction and development of mind and spirit.’ In concentrating on the youth in our community, it was found that there was a giant need for some form of safe entertaining recreation â€“ especially on Friday nights. So began the weekly Friday activities, sometimes garnering as many as 50-60 young people between the ages of 13-19.
In August 2004 the first annual Youth Explosion was successfully held. As many as 300 young people turned out that first year. It is a four-day event, with classes and seminars the first three days and an open-air concert on the fourth evening.Â There is a carnival atmosphere with vendors, slides, a bounce house and the youth dance ministries of local churches participating. Every year this event grows and is anticipated as a major summer event in the community. This annual event has been successful for the last seven (7) years.
In the early summer and late fall of 2004, the Village of Royal Palm was hit by two hurricanes, Frances and Ivan. Royal Palm Covenant Church did not escape unscathed. Damages, including the steeple tossed across to an adjoining park, resulted in services being held in the Fellowship Hall for over six-months and the Pastor’s family being relocated to a one-bedroom hotel room for four months. The inconvenience of reconstruction became intolerable for many and the Sunday morning attendance was drastically reduced.Â Nonetheless, the remaining congregants persevered. Through the generous gifting of other congregations, the AAMA and the volunteered services of various individuals, coupled with the insurance money, Royal Palm Covenant Church once more rose to the challenge.
By December 2004, Royal Palm Covenant Church was able to host our first Watch Night Service on New Year’s Eve. Attendance has slowly grown with each successive year, and has become a fresh start for many with the onset of each New Year. In 2005, and each successive year, Royal Palm Covenant Church has taken a pilgrimage to Jerusalem via Passover meals hosted by a born-again Rabbi of the Jews for Jesus Ministry. Each year the historical content symbolized by the meal serve to enhance our understanding of what we have inherited upon our adoption as sons and daughters of Christ.
In 2006, the Council and Pastor were able to take a deep breath and review the wonders that the Lord had wrought. In the words of a popular contemporary song, “We’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord; trusting in His Holy Word. He’s never failed us yet.” And they also began to remember that the success of every generation is in large part based on the seed planted by the previous generations. There was a consensus that Royal Palm Covenant needed to celebrate how far God has brought us by remembering where He had brought us from. Homecoming Celebration 2006 united those pastors who were still living, Pastor Barnes, Pastor Hillberg and Pastor Rose in a grand church celebration. (Two pastors had already gone on to glory: Pastor Jones and Pastor Lundberg, who died just weeks prior to the celebration; his wife and children attended in his stead.) Many members who had since relocated or were attending other churches returned- from as far away as Kansas (Pastor Barnes), Miami and Fort Lauderdale to the south and many points to the north.
In 2008 Royal Palm Covenant Church became bilingual, with the addition of many Creole speaking brethren to the congregation. Under the translating expertise of Bro. Gesnor Mezy, the congregants are ministered to each Sunday and Friday night. Originally services were conducted in two languages, all are considered members of one church, Royal Palm Beach Covenant Church. Communion, baptismal, family suppers and business meetings are conducted in English and Creole; tithes and offerings of both are counted as one, and representatives from each are invited to serve on Council. Since April 2011 the Haitian Ministry became a separate congregation, which is a sister church to Royal Palm and operate as Bible Tabernacle Covenant Church. Membership has grown to 50 and average attendance is 40 and growing. The church’s goal is to reach the Haitian people where ever they are within the Royal Palm and West Palm Beach. The church’s immediate goal is to identify a location to worship and enhance growth in the ministry.
Indeed, anything worth having is worth fighting for. When we look at how far God has brought us, and consider how far we have come, we’re not where we ought to be, but neither are we where we used to be.’ Thank you, Lord, for what YOU HAV done! Royal Palm Covenant Church is a living, breathing entity. Sometimes the growth is miniscule and sometimes it is hard-won. But through it all we’ve learned to trust in Jesus; we’ve learnt to trust in God
Pastor Michael Rose has committed to continue the Pantry Ministry and each year the number of persons served has extended outside of the Royal Palm Beach area and has also increased peaking at over 350 persons per week.
In 2011 Pastor Michael Rose’s vision for an After-School Tutoring Program and Summer Camp facility became a reality.’ On August 30, 2011 the church registered with Family Central and finalized renovation of its education wing as well as upgraded equipment to accommodate over 50 students.’ Members of the church and concerned associates participated in contributing furniture, equipment and computer hardware and software to provide a pleasant and enjoyable learning environment.
With the unwavering support of his wife and Co- Pastor, Minister Carolyn Rose, they have seen many parts of the overall vision manifest in the lives and hearts of their flock. Their goal is to draw the community in even as they guide the congregation out into the mission field.
Though we’ve had opportunity to sit back and reflect on how far we’ve come, we can’t afford to rest on our laurels. Though our spirit is strong, in many ways Royal Palm Covenant Church is still weak. Although attendance has been on a steady incline for the last three years we are still a small church. In light of this, and after careful consideration, a core group was formed to review the structure and foundation of Royal Palm Covenant Church. As a result our by-laws and constitution were reviewed with a fine-tooth comb, as were our records of giving, attendance and service. A ministry proposal was then set before the congregation for approval. The proposed changes were sweeping and represented a paradigm shift in the way many needs were perceived and the way many ministries, auxiliaries and outreach efforts were conducted.
Because the proposed plan encouraged everyone, members and attendee alike, to become active in some aspect of this Ministry plan, it was decided to spend a year studying and examining just what the individual had to offer. Three months will be spent on each of the following aspects of stewardship: time, abilities, spiritual gifts and money. Only God and time can know and eventually show how effective the vision, the ministry plan, and this local body of Christ will be in her efforts.Â But this fact is known for sure, “Unless God build the house, he who builds labors in vain” Psalm 127:1.History