By Stan Friedman
DETROIT, MI (September 7, 2012) – Covenanters attending the 2013 Annual Meeting here next year may have the opportunity to engage in two days of mission ministries immediately prior to the denomination’s gathering set for June 27-30.
The planning team met Thursday with 24 area pastors and lay leaders to begin discussing the possibilities.
Donn Engebretson, executive vice president, recalled that only two Covenant churches existed in the Detroit area when he pastored Faith Covenant Church in Farmington Hills from 1993-1998. He dreamed that eventually the denomination would start a third church.
Today, there are 15 congregations worshiping in the Detroit region.
He began the day with a devotional taken from 2 Cor. 8 in which Paul exhorts the Corinthian church to good works by sharing how the Macedonian church was thriving beyond their natural abilities and despite hardships.
He noted that throughout the New Testament, Paul repeatedly uses the words, “We want you to know …” The mission opportunities would be a way to encourage others in the denomination about the exciting ministry that is happening here and inspire participants to consider fresh outreaches in their own communities.
“We are interdependent churches for whom shared ministry is part of our DNA,” Engebretson said of the Covenant. He and others pointed to the close cooperation that exists among the churches in the Detroit area, including partnerships among the city and suburban congregations.
Detroit churches engage in ministries that include providing space for urban community gardens in places where there are no grocery stores, arts programs and after-school ministries in a district where dropout rates reach 70 percent, and a multi-site health clinic for the underserved that has attracted national attention.
Doreen Olson, executive minister of the Department of Christian Formation, said mission opportunities would enable participants to engage in ministry. “People learn best by doing,” she explained.
Attendees at Thursday’s meeting emphasized that they want next year’s Annual Meeting participants to return excited about ministry possibilities in their own communities, but not be concerned about replicating what is happening in Detroit.
“We want them to have the same heart,” said Bob Hoey, pastor of Messiah Covenant Church.
Jody Eidnes, office administrator for the Great Lakes Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church, said that the churches in the area have been able to impact their communities because the congregations operate with an attitude of abundance. The churches don’t first consider an idea and then determine whether they can afford to do something. Rather, they first ask what God is calling them to do, and then trust that God will provide, she explained.
A committee was formed to seek God’s will and discuss a variety of issues, including what opportunities would be available, lodging, and transportation to ministry sites.
Attendees at Thursday’s gathering acknowledged that some people might have an image of Detroit as a depressed city, but they expressed pride in their community and the many ministries that are thriving – and the economic and social rebirth in downtown as well.
Next year’s Annual Meeting will be held in the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center.
“I’m so glad the Covenant is going to be here next year,” says Semmeal Thomas, pastor of one of the newest Detroit church plants, City Covenant Church. “God is doing great things here.”