EDMONTON, AB (May 25, 2012) – For the first time in the history of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada (ECCC), its annual meeting was conducted concurrently in two locations, joined together by technology.
Reviews have been somewhat mixed, but most people said it would be worth trying again, according to Superintendent Jeff Anderson.
Most of the delegates gathered at Sanctuary Covenant Church in Edmonton, while about a fourth of the participants met at a college in Rainy River, Ontario, that had the necessary equipment. Altogether, more than 100 delegates participated – a 20 percent increase over previous meetings.
The meetings, which were held May 3-5, were connected through WebEx conferencing with audio and video feeds in both directions. Glenn Peterson chaired the meeting from Edmonton, while delegates in Edmonton and Rainy River were able to make reports, speak into the meeting as necessary, and vote.
Lag times in the video as well as diminished picture quality pushed from the Edmonton site made the proceedings awkward at times. “The video quality wasn’t the greatest, but we heard everything said at the meeting and we could follow along,” said Kors Pater, pastor of the Rainy River church. “That was great.”
Equipment upgrades might solve some of the issues, Anderson said. Other logistical issues would need to be addressed as well.
Conference leaders said they tried the format because the vast distances among the churches and high costs of travel make gathering difficult. Anderson noted that one church previously had spent $3,000 to send delegates to an annual meeting.
“We are thankful for the technology that allowed us to meet together without having to travel across the country,” Pater said. “Several people were able to come and bring their families – that normally would not have been able to happen if you have to fly.”
A worship service in Edmonton opened the conference on Thursday night and was streamed live. Representatives from the Edmonton congregation shared about their four-year journey through the sale of their church building, new investments in ministry, and revitalization. Anderson preached.
The other worship services were held separately. In Edmonton, Dave Olson, executive minister of the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism for the Evangelical Covenant Church, spoke on Friday evening. Robert Owens, superintendent of the Southeast Conference, addressed the gathering on Saturday night.
In Rainy River, Covenant pastor Don Holmertz from Decorah, Iowa, taught a seminar entitled, “Healthy Me, Healthy We,” on Friday and spoke during evening worship. On Saturday, ECCC pastor Doug Stapleton presented a seminar called “Missional DNA in the Covenant” using material from his research on Covenant history in Canada. He also preached during the Saturday evening service.
Women Ministries also tried to conduct its meetings jointly at the two sites using Skype. “That didn’t work at all,” said Anderson.
The ECCC is the first conference to hold a multi-site annual meeting connected by technology. The conference’s constitution ratified in 2010 made allowances for these kinds of meetings to be held.
Most people reported on their evaluations they would favor trying the multi-site format again. The next annual meeting, however, will be held only in Melfort, Saskatchewan, which also will be celebrating its centennial.
In other business, ECCC delegates demonstrated their commitment to starting and strengthening congregations. They celebrated the start of Holy Community Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Avenue Community Church in Toronto, Ontario; committed to one new church plant and one adoption a year over the next 10 years; heard from six churches going through the vitality process, and voted to fund a part-time director of church planting.