WOODBURY, MN (April 28, 2010) – The 126th Annual Meeting of the Northwest Conference (NWC) of the Evangelical Covenant Church was a testimony to the way the region is addressing needs of the future by building on its rich tradition.
The meeting was held Friday and Saturday at Crossroads Church. It centered on the theme, “Mission Friends: The Journey Continues.”
During Friday’s business session, the conference debuted a series of video segments designed to highlight ministry priorities that include “Congregational Vitality,” “Church Planting and Children,” and “Youth and Family.” Each video features interview segments with NWC staff, lay leaders and pastors – intermixed with photos and video footage from the churches highlighted – telling stories of how the conference has influenced and aided ministry on the local level.
The videos are also designed for use throughout the year in church new member classes, services and other adult education opportunities to inspire opportunities for working with the NWC in advancing a broad spectrum of ministries. Jamie Staples, youth pastor at First Covenant Church in Red Wing, Minnesota, shares in the “Mission Development” segment how the conference has played “a crucial and key role” in helping the 130-year-old church renew its mission of service and outreach to the community.
Mike Brown, NWC director of church planting, says that starting new congregations is part of the denomination’s DNA. “This is our historic roots,” he explains in the “Church Planting” segment. “We have been a church planting movement from the beginning.”
Juan Ovando and John Jacobi, pastors of Verbo en Accion and Crosstown Covenant Church in Minneapolis, share how their congregations have worked together. “Our life together is summarized by a Spanish expression, ‘Somos companeros’ (we are partners),’ ” says Jacobi. “As I pondered that, it’s my own Spanish translation of ‘Mission friends.’ ”
Delegates left with a DVD copy of the videos – the series also is available on the conference website’s video page.
Conference leadership also introduced and affirmed seven new church plants in Minnesota and one adoption in Wisconsin:
- Abbey Way Covenant Church in Minneapolis (Pastor Jan Bros)
- The Compass Covenant Church in St. Paul (Pastor Terrance Rollerson)
- Emmanuel Covenant Church in Shoreview (Pastor Chris Studenski)
- Living Stones Covenant Church in Minneapolis (Pastor John Foley)
- New Day Covenant Church in Rochester (Pastor John DuBall)
- Nueva Vida Covenant Church in Monticello (Pastor Javier Carrillo)
- Verbo en Accion Covenant Church in Minneapolis (Pastor Juan Ovando)
- Cedarbrook Church in Menomonie, Wisconsin (Pastor Remy Diedrich)
Delegates approved budgets of $1.5 million for the conference and $16.2 million for Minnehaha Academy.
Prayers were offered for the eight new churches and 17 candidates for ordination during the Friday night worship. The Crossroads Church worship team led attendees in modern and traditional songs, and the service featured special music by the First Covenant Church of St. Paul Youth Worship Band. Comprised of 12 musicians from the church, the group’s spirited performance of “All the Nations” by Chris Davis was one of the evening’s highlights, attendees said.
The celebration highlighted the diversity of ministry taking place throughout the conference. The service opened with a Call to Worship written by Brad Kindall, pastor of church plant The Gallery Covenant Church, and read in Lao, English and Spanish.
Professor Sam Rima, director of the Doctor of Ministry program at Bethel Theological Seminary, led a Saturday morning leadership training segment, during which he encouraged personal transparency and urged churches to be more welcoming of people’s weaknesses.
“Sometimes I think the church is one of the only places where you can’t be who you really are,” Rima said. “We are so afraid that if we share, people are going to judge us and use those things against us.”
Rima, author of Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership, added that if such openness is to occur, leaders must be more transparent and work on their own development. “It is impossible to be spiritually mature and emotionally immature. I don’t care how many Bible verses you’ve memorized. I don’t care how long you’ve been in the church.”
After the conference, Superintendent Jim Fretheim said he was thrilled with the attendance as well as the celebration. He noted that 120 of the 140 churches were represented in some way. “We left the meeting with a renewed sense of excitement for the ministries we are involved in.”
Dan Collison, the new senior pastor at First Covenant Church in Minneapolis and a first-time delegate, added, “I was encouraged by the ministry training, inspired by the ministry reports and challenged by the proposed vision and strategy for the future of the Northwest Conference.”