By Stan Friedman
MERCER ISLAND, WA (October 23, 2013) — Mercer Island Covenant Church formally changed its name to Evergreen Covenant Church earlier this month.
“We needed to communicate a message that we were more than a local church,” says Peter Sung, who has served as pastor at the church since September 2012. “The word evergreen refers to our region and communicates the message of being a regional church rather than just a local, provincial one.”
Mercer Island is located between Seattle and Bellevue, Sung noted, and the church is expanding its ministry to reach residents throughout the region. Additionally, Washington is known as the Evergreen State.
The name change also is rooted in Jeremiah 17:8: “They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (NIV).
Sung explains that the Hebrew word translated “are always green” also means “perpetually green.” He adds, “The green leaf is the sign of life, hence our logo, the leaf as an ‘E.’ ”
The new name reflects the church’s history and resiliency, as well as the fact that it is multigenerational and fruitful, Sung says. In the past year, the congregation of roughly 300 people has become more multigenerational as well as increasingly multiethnic. Attendance has increased, and attendance in children’s Sunday school has doubled in the last six months.
The idea to change the name did not come from Sung. “They had been talking about this for several years before I got here as they went through the Veritas process,” he says.
Evergreen has changed more than its name. Its ministry structure and staff also are quite different than they were a year ago.
The church switched from an “elder” form of government to a “leadership team” model with Sung as the lead pastor. The new model gives clergy and lay leaders much more decision-making power while still being held accountable to the board, Sung says.
The newly constituted staff also more closely represents the multi ethnic region the church is seeking to serve, as well as the congregation’s ministry priorities. Sung says the Bellevue and Seattle areas are now roughly 15 percent Asian.
Sung emphasizes that the church is transitioning, not re-launching because it still is connecting with its history while reimagining the future.
“We need to move forward with self-definition and health,” he explains.
That self-definition has sometimes been difficult. This is the sixth name change for the church since it was birthed from Seattle’s First Covenant Church in 1954.
Although the latest transition has sometimes been challenging, the growth in ministry is an indication that the church is headed in the right direction. Sung says he is especially grateful to John Wenrich, director of congregational vitality for the denomination, and the support that has been given to the church through the several-year process.