Northwest Conference Marks 125 Years of Ministry

Post a Comment » Written on April 27th, 2009     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

RED WING, MN (April 27, 2009) – More than 400 people attended a festive worship service on Friday night to kick off the 125th Anniversary of the Northwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC).

The service, which was part of the conference’s Annual Meeting, was held in the local high school to accommodate the crowd. The evening was filled with music, including an 80-voice choir of members from around the conference and the youth choir from Rochester Covenant Church. The gathering sang numerous songs, with the selection drawing heavily from the works of A.L. Skoog, Nils Frykman,  and Lina Sandell.

Several people presented the writings and excerpts of sermons from the conference’s history, including a young girl’s memory of a cottage prayer meeting, a reflection from a pioneer pastor, and a prophetic sermon delivered by the late Zenos Hawkinson to pastors on Passover 1978.

Click here for the text read by his brother, Jim Hawkinson. One passage in particular calls on Christians to live as pilgrim people set free from the bonds of Egypt and not as “Philistines:”

“The children of this earth do not understand their danger, for they believe in these things. They believe in their bombs. They believe in Fort Knox and the dollar. They believe in mortgages and segregated suburbs and high technology, and all the elegant gadgets with which we congratulate ourselves upon our immortality and our cleverness, the toys with which we while away our adult time and pretend that we control history.”

Throughout the service, images of church life in the conference – from youth outings to communion – appeared on a large screen at the back of the stage. Click here to see additional photos from this celebration event.

Reflecting the conference’s push toward becoming more multi-ethnic, some scripture selections were read in Spanish and Lao. Pastors of two Hispanic churches and pastors of supporting Anglo congregations made brief presentations.

Juan Ovando (top photo), pastor of Iglesia del Verbo in Accion (Church of the Word in Action), appeared with John Jacobi, pastor of Crosstown Covenant Church in Minneapolis. Juan Lopez, pastor of La Benedicion (The Blessing) was accompanied by Steve Larson, pastor of Redeemer Covenant in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

Jacobi recalled the day that a representative of Iglesia Del Verbo in Accion showed up at the church asking for assistance with the new work. “We are Joseph and Mary. Is there room in the inn?” the representative had asked.

“What do you say to that?” Jacobi asked the audience.

A special offering to fund the conference’s work in Unalakleet, Alaska, raised more than $3,000. Several teams of people will travel from the conference to remodel the parsonage this summer. Superintendent Jim Fretheim said the offering put the conference close to its goal of raising $30,000 for the project. Click here to read more of this work.

The business meeting was held Friday afternoon and Saturday morning at First Covenant Church.

Delegates approved a budget of nearly $1.4 million with a projected operating deficit of $146,930. Reserves will cover the difference. To increase giving, Fretheim intends to devote more of his time to intentional fundraising from individuals and groups.

CrowdDelegates gave a standing ovation to Minnehaha Academy President John Engstrom, who is leaving the school at the end of June after 15 years of service to direct a Christian school for international students in Seoul, South Korea.

The school has grown dramatically under his tenure, and 1,140 students were enrolled on the three campuses. This past year 16 students were recognized for academic excellence as National Merit finalists and Commended Scholars. It was the highest number of the school’s students to ever participate in the National Merit program

The ailing economy means cutback will be needed at the school, however. In his report, Engstrom said the school would not renew the contracts of four teachers and is reducing hours for 11 faculty and eight staff. Click here to read a previous story about Engstrom.

Delegates approved a budget of $16.21 million for the school, down from the 2008-2009 budget of $16.81 million.

The report of Associate Superintendent Mark Stromberg noted that the conference  provided more than $11,000 to four churches as part of its “2nd Miler” program in 2008:

•    Thomastown Covenant Church in Staples, Minnesota received $2,627 for handicapped accessible building addition.

•    First Covenant Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, received $3,020 for security improvements.

•    Fridley Covenant Church in Fridley, Minnesota, received $3,018 for street improvement.

•    Vista Covenant Church in New Richland, Minnesota received $2,765 for a new library.

The funds are donated through quarterly appeals to people who have said they are interested in contributing to the program.

As he has around the country, ECC President Gary Walter continued to emphasize the theme of “In it together.”

The Covenant at its best, Walter said, wants to see “more disciples among more populations in a more caring world.” He noted that the first name of the conference was the Northwest Mission Association.

“Evangelism is telling all people that God wants them to know three things:  I know you, I love you, and you were meant for this relationship.”

The conference will continue to celebrate its anniversary throughout the year.

(Editor’s note: Photos by Tim Bury, member of Crosstown Covenant Church in Minneapolis)

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