21 Congregations Welcomed into ECC Membership

ST. PAUL, MN (June 25, 2010) – Delegates to the 125th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church welcomed 21 churches into membership, representing a cumulative average attendance of 2,796.

Following are the new churches, grouped by conference, including brief comments on each one. Click here for video coverage.

Central Conference

Lakeview Church, Vernon Hills, Illinois. Pastor Joshua Kang – approximate attendance 350

Lakeview is a multi-site, multi-ethnic church, which started on February 22, 2004, with the desire to “make disciples of all nations.” The congregation currently meets in two rented facilities. The median age of attendees is 30. “We are passionate about helping people become more like Christ,” Kang says. To that end, the church publishes a monthly devotional called The Dew, which is used as a daily quiet time and weekly small group Bible study guide. The Sunday messages come from the same passages as The Dew. “We seek to join the Evangelical Covenant Church in order that we may partner with like-minded churches to fulfill the Great Commission,” Kang says.

East Coast Conference

The Valleys Evangelical Covenant Church, Halifax, Pennsylvania. Pastor Kris Heckard – approximate attendance 81.

The church’s local roots extend back to 1788 with the founding of St. Peter’s (Fetterhoffs) church near Fisherville. On World Wide Communion Sunday in 1968, three congregations – St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s, and Trinity – began combined worship and they chose the name The Valleys United Church of Christ. In 2009, the church voted to withdraw from the United Church of Christ (UCC) and seek other affiliation. “The Evangelical Covenant Church was the place where we found a home,” Heckard says.

Highrock Covenant Church, Brookline, Massachusetts. Pastor Joshua Throneburg – approximate attendance 225.

Highrock Covenant Church in Arlington, Massachusetts, planted the Brookline congregation on August 3, 2008. Throneburg ministered to the young adults while serving the Arlington congregation before being called to start the new work with 40 people from the existing church. The congregation meets in an elementary school auditorium. More than 100 people participate in cross-generational small groups.

Great Lakes Conference

Love of Christ Christian Center
, Detroit, Michigan. Pastor Michael Dexter – approximate attendance 30.

The church is located on the north side of Detroit, an area that has an unemployment rate of 25 percent, a high school drop out rate of 50 percent, and where drug use and gang activity is rampant. In response, the congregation offers ministries that include afterschool mentorship, tutoring, teenage parenting classes, gang prevention training, entrepreneur workshops, and financial management and home ownership programs. The church started in January 2005 with 15 people. Since that time, the church has met in a Salvation Army building, Montessori School, and a Catholic church. In April, the congregation re-launched their ministry with a grand opening in the church’s newly renovated building. The facility is a 5,000-square-foot, single-story building that seats 150 people. “We are excited about joining the Covenant because we desired to be in a fellowship of other believers whose ethos mirrors ours,” says Dexter.

Revival Covenant Church, Columbus, Ohio. Pastor John Kareithi – approximate attendance 100.

The multicultural congregation includes people from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The church learned of the Covenant after meeting Paul Macharia, pastor of Christ Covenant Church, in St. Louis, Missouri.

Midsouth Conference

Access Covenant Church
, Houston, Texas. Pastor Ted Law – approximate attendance 115.

The church was planted by a group of people sent from West Houston Chinese Church. They initially met in a community clubhouse on Sundays for Bible study. Access rented an office space for a year, where they also worshiped on Sundays. They started community interest groups around activities that included sports and cooking. In January 2008, the church started a nonprofit called Vox Culture, which hosts art shows, concerts and community benefits. The congregation held their preview services that year.

Midwest Conference

Crossroads Community Church of Halstead, Kansas. Lay leader Tom Wells – approximate attendance 150.

The church started with five families in this town of 1,800. Initially, the congregation met at the local Senior Center, but moved last September to a building in the center of town. Sale of the building is expected to close next week. The church has no senior pastor, but is led by a lay leadership team. They are a network church of LifeChurch.tv and use preaching videos of Pastor Craig Groeschel.

Ecclesia, Denver, Colorado. Pastors Chad Wible and Jodi Adams – approximate attendance 35. http://www.ecclesiadenver.org/

In May 2008, eight couples began discussing the possibility of starting a new congregation in Denver that would focus on reaching people with particularly post-modern worldviews and felt disconnected from church. Ecclesia held their first worship service in August 2008 in borrowed space. They now meet at St. Cajetan’s Church on Denver’s largest college campus. The space is well suited for the congregation’s ancient-future worship. Ecclesia says their vision is to be “an urban community following in the way of Jesus through mission, restoration, interdependence, liturgy, and transformation.” Ecclesia sought membership with the Covenant because of the church’s desire to be part of a larger community, resonating values, and leadership of the conference personnel.

La Miel Covenant Church, Salina, Kansas. Pastor Dario Vasquez – approximate attendance 46.

La Miel Covenant Church is pastored by Dario and Rosa Vasquez who are both originally from Peru. La Miel has received ongoing support from First Covenant, and First Covenant has been impacted by the many community ministries of La Miel, which include: assisting in jobs, legal issues and translation services, much like ethnic Scandinavian churches did years ago.

Northwest Conference

Abbey Way Covenant Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Pastor Jan Bros – approximate attendance 60.

Abbey Way Covenant Church meets Sunday evenings in Northeast Minneapolis. Begun in 2006, Abbey Way members emphasize shared commitment to common spiritual practices, corporate rhythms and intentional relationships.

Cedarbrook Church, Menomonie, Wisconsin. Pastor Remy Diedrich – approximate attendance 450.

Cedarbrook was planted seven years ago with the help of the Baptist General Conference in Menomonie, a college town of 15,000 people one hour east of the Twin Cities. The church moved into its new building in May. “From the beginning, we have highly valued being inclusive, accepting people where they are at, and empowering women to lead,” Diedrich says. “As we learned about the Covenant Church we felt that the Covenant values were identical to ours and are happy to be joining the denomination.”

The Compass Covenant Church, St. Paul. Pastor Terrance Rollerson – approximate attendance 68.

Several families and individuals began praying for the vision of this church in June 2007. They committed to serving the local, multi-racial community in the urban area of East St. Paul. Preview services began in September 2007. Weekly services began in September 2008. Churches within and outside of the denomination have helped start the congregation. Some churches have provided financial support, and others have sent people to help with outreach projects and work on ministry staff. “Several churches also allowed us to cast our vision to their membership during their worship services, and blessed their members who decided to join the Compass,” Rollerson says. The congregation currently meets at a Boys and Girls Club located in a housing project.

Emmanuel Covenant Church, Shoreview, Minnesota. Pastor Chris Studenski – approximate attendance 237.

The church held its first weekly service in December 2007. The congregation meets Sunday mornings on the upper level at the Shoreview Community Center, and the facility is “amazing,” says Studenski. The meeting site gives the church exposure to the people who are working out in the fitness center, which is open at the same time.

Living Stones Covenant Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Pastor John Foley – approximate attendance 105.

Four Evangelical Covenant Church congregations have partnered to launch Living Stones. The multi-racial church encourages people to “be.home.here.” The congregation meets at Minneapolis South High School. Foley was ordained while serving the para-church ministry he founded, DinoMights, also known as “Hockey in the Hood.”

New Day Covenant Church, Rochester, Minnesota. Pastor John DuBall – approximate attendance 120.

Rochester Covenant Church, where DuBall previously was associate pastor, is parenting the New Day congregation. In January 2009, the church began meeting once a month at the YMCA and held their first preview service that May.

Nueva Vida Covenant Church, Monticello, Minnesota. Pastor Javier Carrillo – approximate attendance 32.

Nueva Vida is in its fourth year as a church plant. As the church becomes a member of the Evangelical Covenant Church, it is also in the process of a pastoral transition. Carlos and Rosalinda Mendez have attended Nueva Vida for two years and after attending the assessment center for church planters, Carlos has been selected as the new pastor for the church.

Verbo en Accion Covenant Church, Minneapolis. Pastor Juan Ovando – approximate attendance 104.

Verbo En Accion started on January 4, 2007 in the home of the Rivera Vidal family and began with six adults, two teenagers, and two children. The congregation grew and began meeting at Crosstown Covenant Church. The two churches have developed a close relationship.

Pacific Southwest Conference

Bayside Covenant Church, Plumas Lakes, California. Pastor Randy Sherwood – approximate attendance 225.

Local Bible study groups formed the core of the congregation in 2006, and the church launched on Easter 2008. Weekly attendance has doubled in the last two years. The church meets at an elementary school.

Catalyst, Culver City, California. Pastor Doug Lee – approximate attendance 50.

Catalyst was planted out of Life Covenant Church in Torrance, California in 2006. For the past three years, the church meets at a physical therapy clinic for children with autism, developmental delays, and injuries. It is a multipurpose space with several classrooms, a main gym, a rock climbing wall, a zip line, an indoor jungle gym, and a small mountain of toys and other equipment.

Shepherd of the Hills Church, Shingle Springs, California. Pastor Will Salyards – approximate attendance 70.

Founded in 2000, Shepherd of the Hills Church meets in leased retail space and ministers to the community by feeding the hungry, including providing food for needy families.

Southeast Conference

Safety Harbor Covenant Church
, Safety Harbor, Florida. Pastor Joan Hill – approximate attendance 94.

Safety Harbor is a town of 17,500 with a predominance of two-parent families with children. “Because it is a small town we have been very involved with the community, participating in parades, housing an after-school program for a year, working with the poorer children, offering a summer reading program, and helping with the local food pantry,” says Hill.HilH The church dates to 1918, when a group began to worship together. They formally organized in 1922.

Editor’s note: The accompanying photos are representative of the welcoming ceremony during this morning’s business session, showing (in order): Great Lakes Conference Associate Superintendent Larry Sherman welcoming one of the churches into Covenant membership, Midwest Conference Associate Superintendent Rick Mylander welcoming one church; Central Conference Superintendent Jerome Nelson welcoming a new conference church; and Southeast Conference Superintendent Robert Owens welcoming a new church.  All photos by Warren Dillaway.

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