Ike recovery progress made
Cove Baptist Church celebrates anniversaries every five years, but No. 68 on April 20 won’t be without memories. Not only because of rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Ike, but because April also recalls longtime pastor W.W. Kennedy.

“A lot of folks even today, consider him pastor emeritus because he was here such a long time,” says Associate Pastor John Marshall.

Kennedy served for more than 30 years with the church – organized in April, 1941 – with 16 charter members. Almost two years later to the day, Kennedy became pastor. 

Charter member Archie Jones is still active at Cove Baptist. 

“[Kennedy] was as good a preacher as I ever met,” says Jones, 80, a retiree from DuPont. “He loved people. He was a jokester and had a good sense of humor. He probably married half the people in Orange and buried the other half.”

When Kennedy became pastor, the church was a one-room frame structure in the 500 block of DuPont Drive (then Lake Avenue).

“It was an old building just above the railroad tracks,” Jones says. “It had been started by First Baptist Church of Orange as a mission. The first pastor was Rev. Heard.”

Kennedy led the church in two major building programs and one remodeling project. The parsonage was completed in 1967, and the present facilities cover lots at 1000 DuPont.

“[Kennedy] was well thought of in the church and the community,” says Pastor Leo Anderson of Apostolic Pentecostal Church in the McLewis Community. “I was walking in front of his church one day when I was about 5 or 6, and he told me, ‘Son, one day you’ll preach.’”

Kennedy began ministering at Little Cypress Baptist Church when he was 17. He then served for a time with McDonald Memorial Baptist Church. Jones recalls that Kennedy passed away around 1984.

At one time there were more than 6,000 Cove Baptist members, with around 4,000 regularly attending. 

Marshall cites several reasons why membership has dropped to around 300.

“It’s a different community now than it was in the ‘60s, and there is in fact, a general decline among churches everywhere,” Marshall says. “The Cove is not the growing area it once was. There are a lot more rental properties rather than owned homes and many folks who were longtime residents have moved away.”

Gone after Ike were the pews, office furniture, a piano and $50,000 organ. Most of the church’s buildings suffered roof damage during Rita in 2005. The main foe during Ike was saltwater, which brought as much as five feet into Cove homes and structures.

“Most of our efforts recently have focused on restoring the parsonage,” Marshall says. “Right now we’re concentrating on our sanctuary, and we’ve rebuilt the choir loft and the stage.”

Some 64 pews were donated by First Baptist Church of Malakoff, Texas – a city in Henderson County in the northeast part of the state.

“Right now we have [the pews] in the sanctuary in no particular order,” Marshall says. “We’ll probably start putting a new roof on the sanctuary later this month, and then the building will have to be rewired. That will give us four or five rooms we can use for Vacation Bible School this summer. For now, we’re still having services in the Fellowship Center and using a portable building for the kids’ meetings.”