By Stan Friedman
SAN DIEGO, CA (February 7, 2013) – President Gary Walter and Ray Johnston, pastor of one of the Evangelical Covenant Church’s largest congregations, called upon the denomination’s churches to cancel their worship services next year – at least for a day.
Speaking during the Midwinter Conference morning worship gathering today, the pair encouraged Covenanters to participate in a day of service on either May 17 or 18, 2014. Churches could engage in ministry projects rather than hold regular worship services, it was suggested.
“We already have churches in our denomination who do this,” Johnston noted. (Please send Covenant News Service information about a time your congregation has done this).
Johnston shared that the church he pastors, Bayside of Granite Bay, decided to suspend its worship service for a day last year so that congregants could minister to the needy in the community. They displayed a sign that read, “The church has left the building.”
Church leaders had met with leaders of schools and ministries to the poor. They came up with 121 needs to be addressed.
K-Love radio station broadcast a national interview with Johnston about the project. Church leaders, Compassion International, and other organizations began to discuss the possibility of setting aside a day akin to “See You at the Pole,” an annual gathering of Christian students who meet at a flagpole in front of their school to pray, read scripture and sing prior to the start of classes.
Organizers will ask at least one church in every community to participate. Churches that want to hold their regular services could do the outreach ministries on Saturday.
The outreach “fits the DNA of our denomination,” Johnston said, adding, “The Covenant Church is the first denomination to dive into this thing.”
Walter added, “From that weekend, let’s have 850 Covenant churches out serving our communities as a step in compassion, which is a step on the road to justice.”
Walter transitioned to a report on the large-scale pioneering program Covenant Kids Congo powered by World Vision. The denomination is partnering with World Vision U.S., World Vision Congo, and the Congo Covenant Church (CEUM) to focus millions of dollars in Gemena, Democratic Republic of Congo. The funding will enable a holistic ministry that will provide water, health and hygiene, food and agriculture, education and literacy, and economic development.
“It would have been arrogant to think we can do this on our own,” Walter said.
Reesheda Washington, the project’s director, said providing sanitation and clean water is the immediate top priority. Testing and plans to develop delivery systems are under way.
So far, 300 Covenant churches have signed up to participate in Hope Sundays and have sponsored 4,000 children. Several Covenant pastors shared how their churches had become involved with the project.
Covenant organizers hope to have 10,000 children sponsored by October this year.