CHICAGO (October 28, 2017) – Donald A. Njaa, executive secretary emeritus of the ECC Department of Ministry, and “mentor to a generation” of pastors, died early this morning. He was 87.
Don was born March 11, 1930, in Cooperstown, North Dakota. He graduated from North Park Junior College, Whitworth College, and North Park Theological Seminary.
He married Terri Rafos on June 30, 1956.
Don served as assistant pastor at First Covenant Church in Spokane, Washington, and Bethesda Covenant Church in Rockford, Illinois. He served as pastor at the Evangelical Covenant Church in Thomaston, Connecticut; Covenant Congregational Church in Waltham, Massachusetts, and Elgin (Illinois) Covenant Church.
Don was also a nucleus builder for the East Coast Conference and associate superintendent of the Central Conference before becoming executive secretary of the Department of Ministry in 1984. He served in that role until his retirement in 1998. He was also influential in developing the current clergy pension plan. In 2000, in recognition of his contributions to the denomination, he was awarded an honorary doctor of divinity degree by North Park Theological Seminary.
“The entire Covenant owes a deep debt of gratitude for Don,” said President Gary Walter. “He insisted on a high bar for clergy character and competence while also being a champion of caring for clergy and their families. He was a professional in every good way, a loving disciple of Jesus and mentor to a generation. Those of us around during his tenure will feel the loss of another leader who helped shape the Covenant that shaped us.”
“It was an honor and a privilege to know Don and work with him over the years, especially on the Board of Ministry,” said Garth Bolinder, superintendent of the Midsouth Conference. “His pastoral foresight about the ECC pension has blessed thousands of ECC pastors and missionaries.”
Former ECC president Glenn Palmberg said, “Don was a friend to many of us pastors and an advocate for all of us. Under his leadership, the Covenant Church clergy credentialing and care process became a model for other denominations. Don accepted God’s call to a challenging ministry. In the midst of conflict and sometimes controversy Don’s goal was always redemption and restoration. The Covenant is indebted to his faithful and strong leadership. Gratitude and condolence to Terri and family.”
Don is survived by his wife, Terri; three children Kari Hutson (John), David (Jan), and Sarah Hill (David), and four grandchildren.
Services are pending.