Central Conference Celebrates 125 Years, Looks to Future

CHICAGO, IL (May 12, 2011) – Delegates to the 125th Annual Meeting of the Central Conference committed themselves to pursuing a future that embodies their predecessors’ passion to serve one another and a hurting world.

The meeting was held April 29-30 at North Park Covenant Church and North Park University.

Anderson Chapel, where delegates met, was filled with historical displays of conference churches and camps highlighting ministries that have impacted many lives since Swedish Mission Friends arrived in the region. The meeting opened on Friday night with each district recounting how God had worked through churches and individuals.

Four videos showed throughout the celebration also highlighted how the conference has transformed from a mono-ethnic to multiethnic body. Churches contributed photos and video footage to be used in this project, and interviewees included conference staff, pastors, and laity who reflected on the future and purpose of the conference.

In his first appearance at a large gathering since his kidney transplant, superintendent Jerome Nelson led devotions on Saturday morning. He told delegates how grateful he was for the compassion shown to him by Debbie Griffith-Samuels, who donated her kidney to him. Griffith-Samuels, of Fellowship Christian Covenant Church in Oak Park, Illinois, and said donating her kidney was just “the Christian thing to do.”

Allan and Cathy Barsema of First Covenant Church in Rockford, Illinois, were honored for their work with homeless people as well as for helping nonprofit organizations coordinate their ministry through an online system now being used in several states. They were honored with the J. William Fredrickson/David A. Larson Award.

To read other news stories on the Barsemas, who have received national recognition, see Carpenter’s Place and Covenanter honored.

The treasurer’s financial report stated that the conference had to transfer $407,262 to meet ministry expenses in 2010. The funds were used to plant churches the conference initially had not budgeted for, says Nelson.

The money was drawn from a reserve fund specifically designated for church planting. Money from the sale of closed churches is deposited in the fund.

“We had more people that went through the assessment center than we thought we would, so we took advantage of the opportunity,” Nelson says.

Delegates welcomed incoming churches Fountain of Life Family Worship Center in Madison, Wisconsin, and Storehouse Evangelical Covenant Church in Chicago. Delegates also approved the merger of Korean Central Covenant Church into the Lakeview Covenant Church in Skokie, Illinois.

To watch videos, click intro, chapter one, chapter two, chapter three, chapter four.

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