By Stan Friedman
HARCOURT, IA (October 11, 2013) – United Evangelical Covenant Church celebrated their 125th anniversary on Saturday by breaking ground for a building that will accommodate three times the number of people who currently attend.
About 70 people worship at United each Sunday in this community with a population of 300. “Everybody’s excited,” said Pastor Craig Vote. “We are literally building for the future. We’re really setting history for those who—should the Lord tarry—come after us.”
The first phase of construction will include a fellowship hall with room for up to 250 people to worship until a sanctuary is built in the second phase.
The phase one building also will include office space, Sunday school rooms, a kitchen, and room for children’s ministries. “Our numbers are increasing and we’re seeing a lot of children,” said Vote. “We just needed more room.”
When the church broke ground, they also had staked out the shape of the new building and prayed over it. Vote said rains had made the ground muddy the day before, but the clouds broke long enough for sunshine and a breeze to dry it.
A planned second phase would include construction of a sanctuary that would include seating for up to 350 people—more than the community’s entire population.
Vote said the church wants to expand its ministry to a wider region, explaining, “There are a lot of lost people in our area.”
The new location, which is on prime real estate that can be seen from the highway, will make it easier for newcomers to find the church. The congregation purchased the cornfield in 2009.
The church has gone through several cycles of growth to about 80 people and then decline, only to grow to its previous numbers and plateau, Vote said. The lack of space to expand the church’s ministry was a major factor, he added.
Vote pointed to history to encourage the congregation to take the steps of faith required to construct the new building. He emphasized the efforts of the immigrants who started the church in 1888.
“I wanted the congregation to consider what the church forefathers thought,” Vote said.
The church was first called the Harcourt Mission Church, and services were conducted in Swedish. It was built at a cost of $1,210.67 with horse barns also built on the property.
The church later was accepted into membership of the Swedish Evangelical Covenant Church. In 1966 the congregation merged with the Dayton Evangelical Covenant Church, and the name was changed to the United Evangelical Covenant Church.
The celebration included a dinner after the groundbreaking, and Midwest Conference associate superintendent Rick Mylander spoke in the evening and at the Sunday service.