Two Congregations Receive Living Legacy Awards

Post a Comment » Written on June 26th, 2009     
Filed under: News
PORTLAND, OR (June 26, 2009) – Two Evangelical Covenant Churches with more than 230 years of combined ministry were honored today during the 124th Annual Meeting for their work that has impacted thousands of people around the world even as the individual congregations recently closed.

OneJohn Wenrich, director of congregational vitality, presented Living Legacy Awards to Bethesda Covenant Church of New York City, New York, and New Beginnings Covenant Church (formerly First Covenant) of Denver, Colorado. Wenrich presented them with batons that were described as “symbols of passing on the faith.”

Bethesda Covenant Church is one of the oldest churches in the East Coast Conference. Closing after 130 years of ministry, this historic church was known by many in the denomination as “the U.N. Church.” Located across the street from the United Nations building, it was home to a very diverse congregation and had many ties to the U.N. community.

“This is a church whose influence has been felt throughout the Covenant Church and even across the globe,” said Co-Pastor Amy Rohler in an interview. “While we are deeply saddened by this closing, we are also profoundly grateful for the rich history and ministry of Bethesda.” Top photo shows Amy with hert co-pastor husband, Adam.

Amy added, “It’s difficult to be a part of a church that closes. Even if they know it is the right decision, members experience a variety of emotions – guilt, sadness, anger, hopelessness, and confusion. I think that the Living Legacy Award helps confirm for people that it was the right decision.”

Co-Pastor Adam Rohler added, “It’s amazing to think of the work God has done through Bethesda and has continued to do even in its last days of ministry. Yes, churches do eventually die, but the vision and ministry that God inspires in its people does not die. I believe that Bethesda’s real legacy lives on in the faithfulness we carry to those beyond this church.”

New Beginnings Covenant Church (formerly First Covenant) of Denver, Colorado, is another historic church. Begun in 1898, it has been parent or grandparent to most of the Front Range Covenant Churches in Colorado.

Richard Height (lower photo), a former New Beginning member, choked up as he recalled the difficult decision to close. He said it helped that the decision had the backing of two members whose grandparents were among the church’s founders. The church first met in the home of one of the grandparents.

“The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us, ‘There is a time to be born, and a time to die,’ ” said Rick Mylander, associate superintendent of the Midwest Conference. “These are not idle words, but words of great wisdom. In this death, however, there are seeds of new life.”

Beyond spiritual legacies, churches may also leave financial legacies. When a church decides to close and become a living legacy, any assets owned by the church are sold and the proceeds donated to the planting of more new churches.

TwoThe church was able to sell its property “as is” to a Korean Presbyterian Church—the first congregation to consider purchasing the building. As a result, New Beginnings left $2.1 million for future Covenant church plants.

Wenrich emphasized, however, that churches do not have to leave money in order to be honored with the award. Bethesda Covenant was able to leave only a few thousand dollars.

Amy added, “What we mean by legacy is the impact a person had on their world—their relationships, what their children or friends learned from them, who they influenced, the stories we remember about them.  When someone we love has died, their ‘property’ takes its ‘proper place’—it has relatively little value compared to the value of what we have learned and gained from time spent with that person.

“The same is true of churches,” Amy continued. “What were their ministries? How did they change people’s lives? What other churches were planted because of them?  What children grew up to be pastors or missionaries or teachers? What stories do we tell of how different the Covenant would have been without those churches? That’s what matters. That’s what has value. That’s what gets remembered.”

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