History of Women Ministries

Post a Comment » Written on January 31st, 2006     
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CHICAGO, IL (January 31, 2006) – The idea of a woman’s auxiliary was born in the fall of 1915 when the wife of the president of North Park College, Mrs. Louisa (David) Nyvall entertained a few ladies for coffee. When her husband suggested the possibility of a women’s organization to aid the school, the women were interested.

Mrs. Selma (Charles) Wik, assisted by Mrs. Sarah (Carl) Highfield, arranged for a meeting of the women from Chicago area churches. About 100 women met at Northside Mission Church in Chicago on January 21, 1916, with 93 women signing the charter to create the Swedish Mission Covenant Women’s Society, later to be called the Covenant Women’s Auxiliary. A second meeting was held February 18 at Englewood Mission Covenant Church on the south side of Chicago, where 32 women signed, bringing the total charter membership to 125.

Following is a recap of the organization’s history, including key accomplishments.

January 21, 1916

The Swedish Mission Covenant Women’s Society, later called Covenant Women’s Auxiliary, was organized. Ninety-three of those present signed as charter members. The charter membership was left open until the second meeting held at the Englewood Mission Covenant Church on the south side of Chicago, February 18, 1916. Thirty-two additional members signed the roll, making a total charter membership of 125. The purpose of the auxiliary: to work for and assist North Park College and the Home of Mercy. Mrs. Josephine Princell was elected temporary chairperson and served two years.


Covenant Woman’s Auxiliary was accepted as an organization of the Evangelical Covenant Church, with delegate status at Annual Meetings. CWA chorus was organized, directed by Mrs. Otto Highfield, with the group’s favorite song being, “Thanks Be to God.”


The Princeton Children’s Home and Alaska and China missions were included in CWA’s interests.


The Caroline Hall project raised $56,000. Emelia Johnson (Mrs. P.J.) led the women in achieving the goal.


Phoebe, booklets of Annual Meeting reports in five and ten-year intervals, was first published. They were published until 1956.


CWA planted a hedge around the campus of North Park College.


Covenant Women’s Auxiliary became a national organization and adopted a new constitution, effective 1934. Marie Eggan (Mrs. M.J.) led in the transition.


Dr. Mildred Nordlund became the first medical missionary to China. Her full support was assumed by CWA during her entire missionary career.


Swedish was replaced with English in CWA meetings.


Signe Carlson (Mrs. O.W.) led CWA through the war years. A wing of the North Park Seminary building received CWA funds.


National CWA Annual Meeting was canceled due to governmental request restricting wartime travel and representatives only were present. Balloting for officers was conducted by mail with 301 ballots.


Helen Burgh (Mrs. J. Fredrick) inspired many districts and local groups to join the national organization and extend the mission outreach.


June Anderson led CWA, greatly enlarging its ministry and increasing membership to 12,000. The first program packet was published.


A Survey Committee, under the leadership of Ruth Johnson (Mrs. Alfred J.), was appointed to make a study of the Covenant Woman’s Auxiliary to determine whether, in the light of the changes through the years, the organization was meeting the needs of the women in local churches. As a result of the survey, recommendations were presented to the Annual Meeting (1962) and the following were approved:

  • A Unified Plan was adopted whereby each church would have one organization for women uniting women of all ages and interests.
  • The name of the organization would be changed to Covenant Women.
  • Three national committees – education, membership, and stewardship – would prepare resources for local organizations.


Pearl Green (Mrs. Carl N.) led Covenant Women in the decision to call a full-time director of women’s work.


Approval was granted to call a full-time worker to be known as executive director.


The 50th anniversary was marked by the assumption of a $50,000 National Project to launch a new Christian education curriculum and establish a grant-in-aid endowment scholarship for daughters and sons of ministers and missionaries.


Hazel Anderson (Mrs. Harold E.) assumed the office of executive director on February 1, 1967, beginning a five-year term. Administration fees from a percentage of all funds received was approved by the Annual Meeting to supplement administration income.


Annual Meeting was extended from one day to two. A Special Interest Missionaries (SIM) program for all Covenant women missionaries was adopted and Thank Offering boxes replaced the Gleaner envelopes. A new finance plan also was adopted.


Erma Chinander was elected president of Covenant Women.


Biennial rather than annual meetings were introduced by the CW Board.


Biennial meetings were defeated in favor of an annual-triennial meeting plan. Jean B. Nelson (Mrs. Henning) from Seattle, Washington was elected as national president, the first president to come from outside the Chicago area.


Erma Chinander began a five-year term as executive director. Membership and stewardship kits were available for the first time. Actual/potential membership reporting began.


Sara Mendez, president of CW of Ecuador, visited the CW Annual Meeting.


CW’s largest project to date, a three-year project to raise $100,000 for Giving for Growing, was undertaken. Triennial I was held at Northwestern College in Roseville, Minnesota. Constitutional provision was waived and all women present voted. Honorary membership was changed to Recognition Award.


Executive Director Erma Chinander made an official visit to the 8th Annual Meeting of the Covenant Women of Ecuador. All three national committees combined their materials in one publication, Break Free II. Local presidents were honored and given a gavel insignia. Membership was 19,797 actual, 6,251 potential with a total of 26,048.


Annual Meeting commemorating CW’s 60th anniversary was held in Tacoma, Washington. Mrs. Ellen (Howard) Slwooko, CW president of Alaska, was invited as a special guest. A 60th anniversary pageant was given with a filmstrip made for distribution.


Triennial II was held at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa. omen of Zaire, a two-year national project, was adopted. Mrs. Betty (John) Carlson of South Bend, Indiana, was elected president. The first issue of Covenant Women Magazine was published.


Giving for Growing project to raise $100,000 was completed. Women of Zaire project was extended to Triennial III.


The Board of Women’s Work was established by vote of the Covenant Annual Meeting and recognized as an administrative board of the Covenant. Mrs. Betty (John) Carlson was elected as the board’s first chairperson. First election of officers under the new constitution was held. Decision was made that all persons attending Triennial III be voting delegates.


Mrs. Doris R. (Arnold) Johnson was the second Covenant Women executive secretary and first to be elected by the Covenant Annual Meeting. Triennial III was held at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Assisting Retired Missionaries (ARM) was adopted for a three-year national project. Continuation of Women of Zaire Project ($10,000/year for three years) was adopted.


First annual meeting was held using body delegation instead of credentialed delegation.


The name was officially changed to Department of Covenant Women and Board of Covenant Women by vote of the denomination’s annual meeting. “Friends of Covenant Women” was adopted as a source of supplemental income. Mrs. Margaret (Terence) Carlson was elected CW Board chairperson.


Triennial IV was held in Tacoma, Washington, with the theme “Rejoicing in Hope.” The Pilgrimage of Parenting course was published.


Ruth Cederberg was elected board chairperson. Covenant Women Magazine became a quarterly magazine. A Centennial gift to the Covenant for use by North Park Theological Seminary was the national project.


Women Outreaching to Women (WOW) was the national project, financing courses addressing societal problems and equipping women to reach out to those in need. InSpirit became the new name of the magazine. The largest Covenant Women gathering occurred in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where 2,300 women attended a brunch during the denomination’s centennial annual meeting.


Triennial V was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with the theme “Living our Commitment.” Lois M. Johnson became board chairperson.


A five-year commitment was made to Century Two Campaign (C2C) for $250,000 to be used in Covenant causes. ECC Women’s History Commission was established. Long-range Planning Commission was established.


Enabling the Disabled was launched as the national project. Special Human Needs Commission was established.


Deirdre M. Banks was elected as executive secretary of Covenant Women by the denomination’s annual meeting. Triennial VI was held in Fort Collins, Colorado, with the theme “Celebrate Our God.” Ruth West became board chairperson.


Covenant Women Ministries became the new name for Covenant Women. The Long-range Planning Commission finished its work. The Board of Covenant Enabling Residences was established under the auspices of CWM and charged with establishing residences for developmentally disabled adults.


Triennial VII was held in Fredonia, New York, with the theme “On the Growing Edge.” Linda Stromberg became board chairperson. Partners in Ministry program for seminary spouses was established. Ground-breaking for the first Covenant Enabling residence at Oak Park, Illinois, was held November 22.


Bjorklund House in Oak Park, Illinois, was opened. Betty L. Johnson became board chairperson.


Triennial VIII was held in San Diego, California, with the theme “Soaring Beyond.”


Donations for the national project, “A Place to Call Home,” broke all previous records.


Joann Larson became board chairperson. Covenant Enabling Residences expanded to include Duluth.


Covenant Women Ministries Endowment Fund was established with a donation of $5,000. Administration of Covenant Enabling Residences passed from CWM to Covenant Ministries of Benevolence. Triennial IX was held in Duluth, Minnesota, and had a record-setting 1,495 women in attendance. Norma Kennedy became board chairperson.


Ruth Y. Hill was elected executive director of Covenant Women Ministries by the denomination’s annual meeting. CWM created its own website.


Coordinators Summits – leadership training seminars for local leaders – were launched. CWM sponsored its first short-term mission trip (later called Cross-Cultural Opportunities), taking a group of women to Ecuador. Ministry Support replaced Responsible Shares.


Triennial X was held in Ridgecrest, North Carolina, with the theme “Keeping in Step with the Spirit.” The executive director’s title was changed to executive minister. Karen Hearl became board chairperson.


Betty Howard became board chairperson.


CWM Board launched an initiative to advocate for victims of abuse. Marilyn Spartz became board chairperson. Cross-Cultural Opportunities took groups of women to South Africa, Russia and southern Georgia.


“Meet Me at the River” was the theme of Triennial XI held in Portland, Oregon. A new constitution was approved by 1,300 attendees at Triennial XI. The name of the Department was changed to Women Ministries. Alese Moore-Orbih was selected as project manager for the Advocacy for Victims of Abuse (AVA) initiative. Sharon Anderson became board chairperson.

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