PAXTON, IL (October 22, 2013) — Paxton Evangelical Covenant Church culminated its yearlong celebration of 135 years of ministry October 19-20 with a Saturday night dinner and a special Sunday morning service with Central Conference superintendent Jerome Nelson giving the message.
Three former pastors, Jim Ecklund, Dan Gansch-Boythe, and Karen Lichlyter-Klein returned for the event. Ecklund addressed the gathering of some 100 people Saturday evening and reflected on his unusual ministry to the church—three interim pastorates—over a 20-year period.
Preaching from Galatians 5, he encouraged the church to continue to its long history of exemplary faithfulness. On Sunday morning Nelson exhorted the church to imagine itself in the future as they took full stock in how wide, high, long, and deep the love of Christ is in their lives.
Sunday’s service was one of four reflective events held by the church throughout the year. In April, Chris Nelson, a Covenant pastor in Oberlin, Kansas, who grew up in the church, preached one Sunday.
Covenant administrator Dick Lucco visited a month later and spoke during the church service. Paxton’s pastor, Craig Pinley, said that Sunday was especially meaningful for him because Lucco had been his camp counselor.
“For me, celebrating our church’s 135th anniversary was important,” Pinley said. “Nearly half of those who attend our Sunday worship service weren’t regulars at our church five years ago. This gave some of our newcomers a sense of the rich history our congregation has.”
Paxton Covenant Church began with a group of Swedish immigrants who had been part of the Lutheran tradition but were influenced by a revivalist preacher and began their ministry as a church with approximately 20 families in 1878. The church’s current sanctuary and main building was built in 1921 and includes a large painting in the front of the church called “The Ascension” that is more than 100 years old.
Among the 29 pastors who have ministered at the church were former Great Lakes superintendent Harry Swanson, missionary Elmer Fondell, and Covenant administrator and longtime editor of the Covenant Companion James Hawkinson. Gust Nelson, the church’s longest-tenured pastor, left to start the Children’s Home in Princeton in the 1920s.
Currently the church averages 75 in Sunday worship attendance and has a growing children’s ministry. The congregation has embarked on two mission trips in the past four years, helping an area devastated by a tornado in Harrisburg, Illinois, and assisting Covenant Mountain Mission Bible Camp in Jonesville, Virginia.