Covenant Offices Facility Officially Decommissioned

By Don Meyer

CHICAGO, IL (August 30, 2010) – A partially cloudy sky did not dampen spirits as employees – present and past – and other guests gathered on the side lawn of the Covenant offices facility at 5101 North Francisco Avenue to bid a fond farewell to the building that has housed Covenant offices since its construction in 1947.

One highlight of the hour-long service was opening of a time capsule that had been placed in the cornerstone when the building was constructed and dedicated in 1947.

“This service is for everyone involved in the mission of the Evangelical Covenant Church,” said Donn Engebretson in his welcoming remarks, “especially for the dedicated and gifted team serving from these offices each day.” The service, he explained, provides one way to say thank you to the Lord for the way he provides, also providing an opportunity to say goodbye to the many memories and remembrances of what God has done over the years.

Following an invocation by Doreen Olson and the reading of Psalm 46, remembrances were offered by Carolyn Pitezel, Jane Swanson-Nystrom and Bud Hodgkinson.

Hodgkinson was a North Park University student at the time the building was being constructed. He and other students were recruited to help the contractor in the building project, mixing and hauling cement.

“He told us, two sands and one gravel,” Hodgkinson said in relating the recipe for how the cement was to be mixed. He recalled the first wheelbarrow full of the mixture that he attempted to roll onto the construction elevator that was lifting material to the second floor of the building. Hodgkinson didn’t get the wheelbarrow completely onto the elevator lift, and when it started up, the wheelbarrow tipped, spilling the wet cement all over him.

Later, the foreman up above shouted down to them, saying the mix had too much stone in it – “we forgot the instructions,” he admitted.

“I just hope the folks on the first floor of this building move out quickly so I don’t have to worry about the second floor falling on top of them,” he quipped, much to the delight of those gathered.

President Gary Walter then shared personal reflections as he looks back on our Covenant history and peers into the future.

“I define legacy as contributions not limited to one’s life span,” Walter said. “I think of all the ministry put into motion because of this place. This building was designed to facilitate mission,” he added, noting all of the good around the world that has come as a result of the good work done in this place.

However, as with past locations that served as ministry hubs, the current facility bumped up against its physical limits, he said, noting that the decision to replace the current offices with a new location began with discussions as early as 1985.

“T.W. Anderson (Covenant president when the building was built) and others knew the day would come when it needed to be replaced,” Walter said. “The time capsule is evidence of that – you don’t plan on being here forever and want to leave something behind.

Aided by Covenant historian Phil Anderson and Covenant archivist Anne Jenner, Walter opened the metal box containing items placed in 1947.

“What lies ahead?” Walter asked in anticipating the move of offices to the new facility at 8303 West Higgins in Chicago. “We will take the cross . . . and the pulpit . . . and the Covenant logo . . . and pictures of our former leaders, those who went before us and continue to speak into our mission and ministries.”

Comments also were shared by David Dwight, president of Covenant Ministries of Benevolence, and Mark Newton, president of Swedish Covenant Hospital, which purchased the property and will use it for continued expansion of the hospital.

Noting the founding 124 years ago of the Covenant Home of Mercy on the site occupied today by the hospital (Foster and California avenues), Dwight declared the Covenant offices property “sacred ground” in terms of Covenant history. “Tens of thousands of lives have been touched” because of the Covenant’s widespread global ministries, he noted. “How grateful we are that this site is now available to continue healing ministries.”

Plans call for a commemorative marker to be placed on the site to help future generations remember the important ministry that has gone on here, he announced.

Newton, also praising the good work that has been done through the ministries at Covenant offices, pledged to continue “to fill this space with good people doing good things. We will continue the mission.”

Following a Litany of Decommissioning and singing of the hymn “This Is a Time to Remember” from the Covenant hymnal, Walter pronounced the benediction with a reception following on the front lawn.

Plans called for live broadcast of the service. However, broadcast was disrupted when the Internet connection provided by a third party vendor failed to operate properly. However, the entire service was captured on video and will be available for downloading or viewing online tomorrow. A shorter segment covering the opening of the time capsule was in the editing process following the service for posting yet this evening.

Editor’s note: the top photo shows President Gary Walter (center) with Anderson and Jenner as they shared contents of the time capsule, which is featured in a close-up view in the center photo. The lower photo was taken as Hodgkinson shared his amusing story of helping to pour the cement during construction of the current office facility in 1947.

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