CHICAGO, IL (July 30, 2015) — The Covenant will lose a valuable resource on Friday. After 39 years, Millie Lungren is retiring. Millie is probably best known in the Covenant as director of the Covenant Resource Center.
Over nearly four decades, Lungren estimates that she or her staff fielded more than 50,000 requests for information, in addition to fulfilling orders for resources and materials to Covenant churches. In recent years, she has overseen ministries of prayer, disabilities, spiritual direction, and later adults.
Lungren graduated with a master’s degree in library science from Emporia State University in Kansas and returned home to California, where she was determined to work as a children’s librarian. But drastic state and local budget cuts all but eliminated that possibility.
“That’s when I changed my prayer to ‘God, I’ll go where you want me to go.’”
A short time later, David Noreen, then executive secretary of Christian education, called. Alva Johanson, the denomination’s director of resourcing services, which included development of the C.E. Resource Center, was planning to retire in a year. Noreen wanted to know if Lungren would work for a year with Johanson and then take on the ministry of the C.E. Resource Center. She laughs and says, “And to think I came to Chicago for just a two-year commitment.”
In 1986, Evelyn Johnson became the executive director of Christian education and discipleship. Her first board-directed task was to close the C.E. Resource Center in light of lack of funding. But she said, “Just know this is not the end of the story,” Lungren recalls.
That closure birthed the concept of an interdepartmental resource center, with each department sharing in the funding. That enabled further collaboration as well as a centralized response service, both in terms of shipping departmental resources and personal consultation. Lungren describes the new Covenant Resource Center as “a sort of triage” for getting help. Prior to this, “People would call and not know who they needed and would get transferred from one department to the next. More often than not, they didn’t know exactly what they were looking for, so we helped them determine their need.” Over the years, Covenanters would advise others who had questions about curriculum or other resources, “Call Millie.”
If Lungren or her staff didn’t know the answer they would try to track it down, which might include connecting them with a specific department within Covenant Offices, a regional conference office, another church, or a Covenanter who could help. “It was really fun,” Lungren says. “It was resourcing in that broad dimension. It went way beyond providing print materials.”
In 2012 the Covenant Resource Center was closed because churches and conferences had easier access to resourcing through advanced technology. Lungren shifted to assume new leadership responsibilities in the areas of prayer, spiritual direction, disabilities, and later adult ministries, which she has carried out with the same enthusiasm as her earlier ministry work.
It’s given her the opportunity to exercise her hospitality gift in new ways. Helping guide the disabilities committee is but one example. “One goal of the committee has been to help churches get a vision for what it means for all to belong and be included,” she says.
Lungren also is a spiritual director—another means of extending welcome. She received her certificate from the C. John Weborg Center for Spiritual Direction at North Park Theological Seminary. “I didn’t know where it would lead, but the entire experience was hugely transformational for me.” Spiritual direction has grown in the Covenant thanks to efforts of many individuals. The development of the Association of Covenant Spiritual Directors was approved this spring. Along with regional spiritual direction networks, the association will provide additional support and connection for directors.
Lungren fears it might sound trite, but she believes her spiritual gift of hospitality enabled her to do her ministry well. “It’s looking at hospitality in the broad sense of helping people feel connected to the whole,” Lungren explains.
As for retirement, she says that “at least initially, I’d like to do a little more spiritual direction. I know God has something for me, but I don’t know what that is—and that’s OK.”