Services at New Covenant Tabernacle of Faith in Harrisburg begin with a half-hour or more of fervent prayer as all members drop to their knees and pray, with their foreheads pressed to the ground, that God be glorified in the life of the small Fenwick Street church.
One prayer request in particular looms large for the church’s dozen or so faithful members, and it is right over their heads.
The roof of 100-year-old building is rapidly decaying, with extensive water damage covering more than a third of the ceiling, exposing rotting wood and, in some places, tin shingles. The property is so run-down that church members say people often assume it’s abandoned. New Covenant’s pastors are looking to change that with a series of fundraisers in the year ahead.
“There’s a lot of potential here,” said the Rev. William Posley, who works a day job in construction. “The whole roof needs to be replaced. I do repairs around here, but the roof is too much for me.”
The church offers twice-weekly prayer meetings, tent revivals, a small food pantry and other ministries it would like to expand to Harrisburg residents. It’s difficult, however, without fully functioning air conditioning and with faulty wiring; a leaking, rattling roof; and countless other problems. Repairs will cost about $10,000. Church members are working to raise the amount bit by bit through yard sales and a candy fundraiser.
“We want to get the building in a position where we can really help people,” said Joseph Campbell, a church trustee. “We want the building to be an asset, not a distraction.”
The church property took a hit about seven years ago when large storms came and
members weren’t able to keep up with repairs, said Deloris Posley, the pastor’s wife.
“We were staying ahead and staying ahead, and then one day we couldn’t keep up anymore,” she said. Now, “the wind comes and tears up all the tin and there’s not much we can do about it. We’re praying for a miracle.”
William and Deloris Posley, traveled as evangelists before they came to what is now New Covenant in 1992. They consider themselves part of the “Apostolic Church umbrella” of Pentecostal churches.
Over the years, the small, white building has been home to several churches, including the New Testament Revival Center, Pilgrim’s Bible Church, Abundant Life Fellowship and First Advent Christian Church. The Augusta Chronicle began reporting on revivals and guest evangelists at First Advent as early as 1923, but Deloris Posley suspects the church building is at least a few years older than that.
The church building’s origins likely have been lost to history. Historic Augusta, Inc., has no information on file about the property, and it was not included in a survey of historic properties when the Harrisburg-West End Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places more than 20 years ago.
It’d be nice to know more about the church’s history, said Deloris Posley, who is also organist at the church. Verifying the church’s historic value could make historic preservation funds available, but that isn’t the goal, she said.
“We feel responsible for this place,” she said. “We thought we’d be able to get some help from the city, but even if we don’t, we know this is ours to do.”
The condition of the building drew the attention of the Augusta Licensing and Inspection Department in December 2009. After issuing notice of three violations, including failure to maintain the building and paint the structure, the church asked for an extension in May 2010 to complete the necessary repairs. When inspectors returned, the church was deemed in compliance and the case was closed in July 2010, said Pam Costabile, the code enforcement manager for Augusta and Richmond County. Inspectors haven’t been back since, and won’t be unless there is a complaint, she said.
In recent years, church members have paid to partially upgrade electrical systems and a bathroom.
“With such a small congregation, you’re limited with what you can do,” Deloris Posley said. “We don’t want that to limit our ministry, though.”
Or as Campbell, the trustee, put it: “We don’t have a lot of people, but we do have faith. We know the scripture. The building is not the church. God isn’t finished with us yet.”