By Stan Friedman
PLAINVILLE, CT (September 23, 2010) – An infant baptism earlier this month and the sending off of a teenager to serve in short-term missions has helped Trinity Covenant Church deal with their grief as they prepare to hold their final worship service on Sunday, says Pastor David Chandler.
“That was very meaningful to us to have those kinds of celebration in our last days,” Chandler says. Those moments were reminders that the ministry of the congregation will continue. To see additional photos of the congregation in 1916 and today, see below.
Declining finances and attendance led to the congregation’s decision to close. In doing so, they also committed to becoming a Living Legacy Church, which will enable them to help other churches get their start.
“We could continue to draw down on our modest reserves or we could give them to the Covenant and have 100 percent go towards planting churches,” Chandler says.
Howard Burgoyne, superintendent of the East Coast Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church, says that the congregation’s generosity and previous ministry will strengthen the conference far into the future.
The church has ministered in the community for more than 130 years. It began in the early 1870s with small group meetings in the home of Svenning Andersson. Soon after, that group formally organized as the Swedish Congregational Church and was incorporated in 1895.
Connections with the earliest days remain strong. “There are still five church members who trace their roots back to the charter members of the church, including two who are five generations removed from those founders,” says Chandler.
One of them is Richard Anderson, a descendent of Svenning Andersson. He is among the trustees charged with overseeing the dispersal of the building contents.
Two of the current members are in their nineties and served in music ministries at the church for 70 years, Chandler says.
As part of the final service, the congregation will hand control of the assets over to a representative of the East Coast Conference. Chandler says he expects that after Sunday’s worship, the congregation will process outside, where they will be commissioned to serve elsewhere.
That ministry includes other parts of the world. During a recent worship service, members laid hands on teenager Karen Blandino, who is leaving to serve with Youth With A Mission.
Blandino doesn’t know yet where she will be assigned, but says she was largely inspired by attending CHIC 2009, where ministry in Thailand was a special focus. She also considered missionary work while attending and later working Camp Squanto, which is part of Pilgrim Pines Conference Center in Swanzey, New Hampshire.
A baptismal service last Sunday connected the past with the future. An infant baptism brought together four generations of family members – including her great-grandmother and grandparents who are members of the congregation.
Chandler has pastored the congregation for 16 years and says he is grateful for the support the congregation has received from the denomination and conference throughout the process of closing. Brad Hill, who was pastor of Glenview Covenant Church in Glenview, Illinois, when it closed, has spoken at least weekly with him.
Hill is among the pastors trained by the denomination to help guide congregations through the difficult transition of closing.