DETROIT — The Rev. Henry Covington, who set aside years of drug abuse and lawbreaking to serve God and the homeless at a decaying church in Detroit, has died. He was 53.
Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom said Rev. Covington died Tuesday in New York City, where he was visiting after appearing with Albom a day earlier on NBC’s “Today’’ show. A cause of death had not been determined.
“Henry Covington was living proof that people are worth second chances,’’ said Albom, who said that on Wednesday evening he visited with the Covington family in Detroit.
Rev. Covington, senior pastor of I Am My Brother’s Keeper Ministries, was one of the people Albom wrote about in his 2009 book “Have a Little Faith.’’
Kendrick “K.C.’’ Covington, the pastor’s son, told The Detroit News that his father had not been feeling well on the trip.
“He just wanted to push on,’’ he said.
Born and raised in New York, Rev. Covington recalled in writings on his church’s website that he was a heroin user and by age 16 had been involved in car thefts, burglaries, and armed robberies.
After spending time in prison, he said he dealt drugs before becoming an abuser of heroin, crack, and alcohol.
In 1987, he joined Pilgrim Church in Brooklyn to dedicate himself to a life of service. It happened, Albom said Wednesday, after a night when Rev. Covington asked God to keep him from being killed after robbing drug dealers.
Rev. Covington moved in 1992 to Detroit, where he helped provide food, clothing, and shelter to the city’s homeless. Rev. Covington, though, was not able to heat the old, 1,200-seat church or repair a hole in the roof that allowed wind, rain, and snow to enter the sanctuary. Albom wrote about Rev. Covington’s plight in the Free Press and donated time and money to get the heat turned back on.
“He used the publicity of the book to make his church better,’’ Albom said.
Rev. Covington leaves his wife, Annette, and their four children.