LaBOLT, SD (August 4, 2015) — Mark Chapman, pastor of Countryside Covenant Church, says he knows it might seem strange for a congregation of around 70 attendees to construct a $550,000 building out in the country and change their name—but the people believe it is a sign of hope for their area.
People in rural areas struggle with the same personal and community issues as those in suburban and urban regions, Chapman says, with the added stress of declining populations. The move is a statement that the church exists to serve people.
The members of what was once simply Evangelical Covenant Church voted on July 26 to change their name to Countryside. They chose from among four names. “Countryside just soared to the top,” Chapman says.
With the name change the congregation wanted to send a message that “We are a welcoming church and more of a regional congregation,” Chapman says.
He explains that the church had been known as LaBolt Covenant Church, but in their rural area, residents are less likely to attend a church attached to a specific nearby community, sometimes due to longstanding rivalries of one sort or another. “We’ve actually had people tell us they would attend our church if we moved out of town into the country.”
“Currently we hardly have room for our potlucks,” Chapman says. A new foyer with chairs and a fireplace will give people a place to linger.
Chapman says workers are racing to complete construction prior to the move-in date of September 1. A dedication service is slated for September 20.
The church was originally founded in 1900 with the name Swedish Christian Mission Church of LaBolt and joined what is now the Evangelical Covenant Church. In 1965 the name was changed to the Evangelical Covenant Church of LaBolt.
The decision to relocate was part of a long discernment process that has included being part of the denomination’s Vitality Pathway. “We were on the pathway before there was a pathway,” Chapman says.
National Covenant Properties helped fund construction. “They really cared about our overall ministry as well as the building,” Chapman says. “They made this possible.”