CHICAGO, IL (JANUARY 29, 2016) — Jim Sundholm was honored with the 2016 North Park Theological Seminary Alumni Award for Distinguished Service during the Tuesday evening worship service of the Midwinter Conference.
In presenting the award, Dave Kersten, seminary dean, highlighted the “polarity of (Sundholm’s) ministry as pastor and prophet.”
Although Sundholm may be best known for his service as executive director of Covenant World Relief and Paul Carlson Partnership, Kersten said, “What we most need to lift up tonight is his 20-plus-year pastorate at Community Covenant Church on the north side of Minneapolis.”
Sundholm helped plant the church when he graduated the seminary in 1972. “He and Eric Newberg—when nobody was talking about urban, when nobody was talking about multicultural, when nobody was talking about the urban poor—went there and began that work, and I think it is foundational and even seminal to all that is going on in the ECC today, and we need to cite it, and remember it, and celebrate it,” Kersten said.
He also noted that Sundholm was the founder behind the Urban Commission and helped launch the Sankofa Journey.
Sundholm grew up attending First Covenant Church in Seattle. He told the audience that when he left to attend what was then North Park College in 1963, “I was voted outstanding Christian teenager, and they gave me a trophy for that, and obviously I was quite impressed, so I knew that North Park was really going to get something special.”
Over time, he said, “I learned that I needed North Park more than North Park needed me.”
He learned in large part through the time he spent interacting with faculty at the college and the seminary. He recalled studying the Gospel of John with professor Henry Gustafson and a kairos moment after a particular class during Lent.
He recounted approaching Gustafson to say, “You know last year I would have run out of Nyvall Hall and said, ‘The tomb is empty, Christ is risen, hope is reborn.’ This year, I’m tempted to say, ‘Looks like the stone’s been moved, Jesus is missing, and we shouldn’t talk too loudly about this.’”
He continued, “Dr. Gustafson reached across his desk and he grabbed my arm and he said, ‘Jim, when will you give God your mind as well as your heart?’”
Choking up, his voice slightly trembling, Sundholm said, “That became my second conversion. I needed to become as good a student. Just like Paul had to go aside for two years, I needed to do the same length.”