Blessing Others Key Theme at Great Lakes Meeting

By Cathy Norman Peterson

OREGON, OH (May 5, 2010) – “Do you know how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?” Tana Schiewer asked delegates to the Great Lakes Conference Annual Meeting on Friday night.

It was an important question.

Some of the delegates were going to be making sandwiches that night and then distributing them to homeless people in Toledo the next day. The executive director of the Food for Thought ministry needed them to know there is a right way. (The trick is to put the peanut butter on both pieces of bread to prevent sandwiches from becoming soggy overnight.)

Food for Thought feeds up to 4,000 people a month and is a nonprofit ministry based out of New Harvest Christian Church, the Evangelical Covenant church where the Conference Annual Meeting was held last Friday and Saturday.

Feeding the homeless was just one of the opportunities delegates had to serve the surrounding community. The multiple outreaches focused on the theme “Blessed to Be a Blessing: Sent to Care.”

During the business sessions, two churches blessing their neighborhoods were enthusiastically welcomed into membership – Love of Christ Christian Center in Detroit, Michigan, and Revival Covenant Church in Columbus, Ohio.

Larry Sherman, associate superintendent and director of church planting, told delegates the conference aims to plant five new churches in the coming year.

New partnerships among churches also were highlighted. Adam Rohler, pastor of First Covenant Church in Jamestown, New York, shared how his congregation and Zion Covenant Church (also in Jamestown) were starting new ministries together.

Although the churches are within two miles of each other, they have rarely engaged in joint ministries. In recent months, however, they have started a 12-step Christian recovery group. Their youth groups now meet together weekly for fellowship, worship, and service. And they are working with the new Hispanic Covenant congregation in Jamestown, Nueva Vida Covenant Church.

The delegates also were excited about the addition of newly hired director of church vitality, Steve Armfield. After serving in pastoral ministry for more than 30 years, Armfield now looks forward to working alongside the 77 churches in the conference.

“I take this position with a lot of humility,” he said, “believing that we don’t understand all that there is to know about the body of Jesus Christ, about its vitality, about its healing.

“But Jesus loves the church,” he continued. “I believe that one of the callings of the church is to pray for healing grace and for discerning grace and then act on the direction that the Lord, in his grace, would open for us.”

In other business:

  • Dick Lucco was re-elected to serve his third term as superintendent.
  • Prayer was offered for members of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Hudson, Ohio, which closed. Established in 1961, the church’s weekly attendance surpassed 300 people at one point. A preschool operating in the facility plans to remain open and the conference is negotiating sale of the building to a local congregation in another denomination.
  • The conference celebrated record financial support from its churches in 2009, with giving up 3.3 percent over 2008’s record levels. Delegates approved a budget of $843,600 for 2010.
  • Debbie Blue, executive minister of the Department of Compassion, Mercy, and Justice, preached during the worship service on Friday evening.
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