BUFFALO, NY (October 22, 2012) – Beatrice Radakovich, pastor of Buffalo Covenant Church, says the grace and compassion with which the congregation closed its doors for the final time has deepened her own trust in God and will inspire the rest of her ministry.
Due to declining attendance, members voted in August to close, with the final worship service on October 14. The church was started 122 years ago in 1890, just five years after the Evangelical Covenant Church was founded as a denomination.
“The way that they loved, encouraged and supported each other through our final six weeks was awe-inspiring,” says Radakovich. “Not once did any person express anger or resentment that the church was closing under my pastorate – instead, they thanked, loved, and blessed me.”
Radakovich says the church has ministered well in Buffalo despite hardships. “In recent years the church has built a reputation for serving its neighborhood, particularly the neediest among us, through our outreach ministries to adults with disabilities, the residents at the McAuley Residence Nursing Home, our Kenmore Kindness meals, clothing, and tutoring, and the recovery group.”
The church was intent on ministering to others, Radakovich says. “It has been a challenge, because we have served a very needy community with a lot of deep problems. Many church members themselves have suffered great loss and tragedy, and yet have continued to push forward and to be faithful in honoring God and serving their community.”
Although the church closed, its final days also evidenced the congregation’s heart to serve the broader Christian community. They recently baptized a 17-year-old boy who feels called to ministry. “That was a real affirmation that God’s work through us continues on,” Radakovich says.
The church also voted to be a Living Legacy congregation. Funds raised through the sale of the property will be used to help plant churches in the Great Lakes Conference and the denomination.
“The congregation was courageous and Christ-honoring in their vote to become a Living Legacy congregation and to bless future churches when it became apparent that we could no longer sustain the ministry, and God was bringing it to a close,” Radakovich says.
“The final Sunday was a poignant and powerful time,” Radakovich says. “The church was standing room only. Many former friends and members came to help us celebrate and say goodbye.” Members also shared testimonies of how God had moved powerfully in their lives.
The Swedish Mission Covenant Church was formed with 15 members in 1890. All services were conducted in Swedish.
The first worship services in English began in 1919, but were limited to one service a month. “It wasn’t until 1941 that the use of the Swedish language in worship would come to an end,” Radakovich says.
Members say it will be difficult to start attending another church. For some, they are at least the third generation in their families to have worshipped at Buffalo Covenant.
Radakovich says leaving the church is difficult for her as well. “I was blessed here with a loving church family and a supportive, committed, and missional leadership team,” she says. “I have been trained and equipped for further ministry in countless ways here and will miss my brothers and sisters dearly.”