The Rev. William Young IV was born on February 6, 1978 in Louisville, Kentucky to the late Rev. William Thomas Young, III and the late Willie Mae Mitchell-Young. He grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he graduated from the prestigious School for Creative and Performing Arts in 1996. William heard and accepted the call to preach the Gospel at the age of 9 and was licensed to preach on December 27, 1987 at the New Friendship Baptist Church under the Rev. Dr. H.L. Harvey, Jr. Over his formative years, he was able to develop a passion in ministry through New Friendship’s children’s church and by being mentored by denominational and civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and Rev. James Wesley Jones.
William received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the American Baptist College in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2000. He continued his education at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, graduating with a Master of Divinity in 2003. While in Nashville, he was an associate minister at the Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church, where he was also ordained, and served under the pastorate of the Rev. Dr. James “Tex” Thomas. In 2003, William was invited to give the keynote address at the Nashville citywide Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorative service at Tennessee State University.
Upon moving to the United Kingdom in 2004, he studied at Birmingham University in England, receiving the M.A. degree in Global Political Economy, the Master of Theology from Edinburgh University in Scotland, and the Master of Philosophy from Glasgow University in Scotland. From 2006-2007, he was an assistant minister at St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh and served under the Chaplain to the Queen. William organized the first Martin Luther King Day service and the first jazz vespers service in the cathedral. In 2013, he was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacraments in the United Reformed Church (URC).
From 2013-2020 he served as senior Minister of 2 congregations: Morison Memorial URC in Clydebank, Scotland and Drumchapel Essenside URC in Glasgow. He served as a chaplain to the pupils, faculty, and staff of Clydebank High School and was a founding member of Thriving Places Drumchapel, a project aimed at revitalizing one of the most economically vulnerable communities in the city of Glasgow. He was also overseer of Friendship House Drumchapel, a church global cafe and support service for asylum seekers and refugees. In July 2018, he gave the closing address at the mass demonstration against President Donald J. Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom at historic George Square in Glasgow city centre, and organized the City of Glasgow’s Racial Justice Sunday service in February 2020. He is also a founding member of the Global Black Caucus of Democrats Abroad.
Ecumenically, Rev. Young has been active with the World Council of Churches and the Council for World Mission. In 2014, he joined the Scottish Churches Anti Human Trafficking Group, and from 2018-2020 he served as chair. He was also a member of the Strategic Oversight Committee on Human Trafficking policy in Scottish Parliament. As an activist he regularly spoke to churches and social justice organizations throughout Scotland on slavery and racism and was a member of the Church and Society Committee of the URC National Synod of Scotland.
Classically trained as a tenor, William was a member of the world-renowned Edinburgh Festival Chorus from 2006-2021, performing every year at the Edinburgh International Festival and throughout the year with the world’s great orchestras. He is also a jazz and blues singer with regular residencies at venues in Edinburgh and Glasgow for many years. He has performed at the Glasgow and Toronto Jazz festivals.
In November 2019, Rev. Young became the eighth pastor of Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, and began his ministry with them on April 1, 2020. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the District of Columbia Baptist Convention and Churches for Middle East Peace. He is also a proud member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
Covenant Baptist UCC– formerly Covenant Baptist Church– has a unique history of steadfast service and commitment to a constantly changing community. The history of the church, located in the far southwest section of Washington, DC can be divided into four parts: (1) an all-white beginning; (2) a racial transition; (3) a socio-economic transition; and, (4) “a new paradigm for a new day.”
An All White Begining
Founded in 1945, the church began as an all-white, Southern Baptist congregation located at 126 Yuma Street, SE. After transferring its worship services to the old Atlantic Theater in 1947, the church moved to its present location in 1950, with the completion and dedication of a new educational building. An adjoining second building, housing a commodious sanctuary and additional education space, was dedicated in 1958, completing the current physical facility. Between 1945 and 1968, under the leadership of four different pastors– Rev. Harry How (1945-47), Rev. Frank L. Squires (1947-60), Rev. Roy L. Snell (1960-63), and Rev. Moncrief Jordan (1963-68)– the membership of Covenant peaked in 1965, but rapidly declined thereafter due to the changing racial makeup of the surrounding community. Finally, in 1968, the fourth pastor resigned because the dwindling membership could no longer pay or otherwise support a pastor.
A Racial Transition
The racial transition of Covenant began in 1969 when the church called the Rev. H. Wesley Wiley to become the first African American pastor to lead this predominantly white congregation. Although the membership had been decimated and the treasury depleted, Rev. Wiley– who continued in his position as Director of Cooperative Ministries with the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention– accepted the church’s call at a tremendous sacrifice because he saw it as an opportunity to save the church for the community. Receiving no salary and only a small travel allowance from the church, Rev. Wiley oversaw the gradual transition of Covenant from a predominantly white to a predominantly black congregation. Under his visionary leadership, the church’s membership grew once again and several milestones were achieved, including the establishment of an early childhood school and the organization of a gospel choir. Upon his retirement in 1984, Rev. Wiley was honored with the title of Pastor Emeritus.
A Socio-Economic Transition
In 1985, Rev. Dr. Dennis W. Wiley became the sixth pastor of Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ. As his father had shepherded the church during a period of racial transition, it became the son’s lot to shepherd the church during a period of socio-economic transition. And, whereas the father led the church out of the turbulent sixties, his son would lead the church into a new millennium. With a Ph.D. in systematic theology and a passion for practical ministry, Dr. Wiley has sought to bridge the gap between the church and the academy while, at the same time, seeking an effective balance between the church’s priestly and prophetic responsibilities. He has also sought to reinforce and broaden the church’s reputation as a beacon of love, hope, compassion, inclusiveness, and liberation for all who are oppressed, downtrodden, and marginalized. His numerous accomplishments include retirement of the church mortgage, a comprehensive renovation of the physical facility, the addition of an early morning worship service, the inclusion of women at every level of church leadership, and the founding of the Covenant Full Potential Development Center– a 501(c)(3) community development corporation.
A New Paradigm for a New Day
“A New Paradigm for a New Day” began in 2004 when Rev. Drs. Dennis and Christine Wiley were called by the congregation to serve together as co-equal pastors of Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ. This bold and unprecedented step made Covenant the first black Baptist congregation in the Washington metropolitan area to call a husband and wife team to serve together as pastors, sharing equal authority and equal responsibility. Dr. Christine Wiley, the seventh pastor of Covenant, complements her husband with a wealth of gifts and talents in a number of areas, including pastoral care and counseling, Christian education, community outreach, ministerial mentoring, staff supervision, and creative worship. Together, the Wileys seek to model the effectiveness of partnership and power sharing between men and women in ministry.
The Call To Be Greater
On October 31, 2017, after over 30 years of services, Rev. Drs. Dennis and Christine Wiley officially retired as co-equal pastors. After the retirement of Pastors Wiley, Dr. Alice B. Greene was called to serve as Interim Minister of Covenant Baptist UCC. Her service officially began on November 1, 2017. Devoted to a ministry of nurturing, teaching, and inspiring Christian disciples, Dr. Greene led the congregation through that transition period– challenging the church to be 10 times greater– as the congregation prepared to select, call, and install a permanent, settled pastor.
On October 27, 2019, the congregation called Rev. William T. Young IV to be the eighth pastor of Covenant Baptist UCC. Rev. Young began his service to the congregation on April 1, 2020. Amidst a global pandemic and quarantined in Scotland, Rev. Young delivered his first sermon as Pastor-Elect via video conference on Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020, and was installed as pastor on October 10, 2021.
Throughout the various transitions reflected above, one thing has remained constant– Covenant’s commitment to serve the community and remain on the cutting edge of progressive urban ministry in an ever changing world. This radical commitment is reflected in the vision statement recited every Sunday morning: “Affirming our African heritage, our vision is to build an inclusive body of biblical believers who continue to grow in Christ as we love, serve, and fellowship with the community and each other.”