Obituary: James Swanson

NEW SMYRNA, FL (March 20, 2018) — Retired Covenant minister, James Swanson, who helped guide the Covenant’s ministries to people with disabilities, died Sunday. He was 80.

Jim was born on July 17, 1937, in Bellevue, Washington. He married Beverly Nyberg on June 26, 1965.

Jim earned a bachelor of arts from the University of Washington and graduated from North Park Theological Seminary.

He served the Evangelical Covenant Church in Detroit, Michigan; Evangelical Covenant Church in Kewanee, Illinois; Calvary Covenant Church in Cranston, Rhode Island; Community Covenant Church in Springfield, Virginia; and the Evangelical Covenant Church in Buffalo, New York. He also served as a chaplain at the Covenant Village of Plantation, Florida.

Jim’s interest in serving people with disabilities began when his daughter Karna was born with Down Syndrome in 1971. He helped launch the first of what would become Covenant Enabling Residences (CER), Bjorklund House, where his daughter was a charter resident.

In 2007, Steve Burger, director of children, family and intergenerational ministry for the ECC, asked Jim to chair the newly formed Disabilities Ministry Resource Committee. “We shared a concern about the need to recognize persons with disabilities as equal members of Christ’s body,” Burger said. “We both wanted to resource the church to equip, advocate for, and encourage their participation in the mission and ministry of the church.”

When the resource committee was formed Jim said that people with disabilities need the ministry of the church, including proclamation of the gospel, even if some are mentally unable to understand. “The gospel of grace isn’t just a matter of intellect. Who really understands communion? Who really understands God?” he said. He chaired the committee for 10 years.

Jim also served as the denomination’s representative to the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA Committee on Disabilities and coordinated support for people with disabilities at the national CHIC youth events in 1991, 1994, and 1997.

In addition to his wife and daughter Karna, he is survived by daughter Erika Muecke; sons Karl and Nils Swanson; and six grandchildren.

A memorial service will be conducted at 1 p.m. Friday, March 30, at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in New Smyrna Beach.


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  1. It was my privilege from the Midsouth Conference to work with Jim on a number of special projects for the benefit of SEC Pastors. I was always impressed by his patience and gentle advocacy for them. He and my wife had another connection, each had deep love for and knowledge of beautiful flowers. What a role model- Peace to his family.

  2. I did not know Jim on a personal basis, but I did serve with him on the disability committee for several years via teleconference and I always loved hearing his warm voice marking his presence. As a person dealing with physical challenges myself, I feel as though I am a beneficiary of Jim’s mission and concern. The Covenant is far ahead of most denominations in the area of accepting those with disabilities because of Jim. He was a true gift and blessing to all of us.

  3. I have fond memories of Pastor Swanson & his family from my childhood when he was our pastor at Community Covenant in Springfield, Virginia. Prayers for his family and friends!

  4. Jim’s sweet spirit, humility and strength will be greatly missed. Prayers for Beverly and his family.

  5. Christ’s servant Jim Swanson never became captive to power and money. His leadership was winsome and winning. His lasting legacy in ministry will be the authentic care of persons with disabilities and their families, as well as making places of worship accessible and open to all. The joyful “welcome home” has been announced with full-throated grace by the Lord of the least and lowly.

  6. What a wonderful human being Jim was. He was a friend and colleague to me for over a decade. Jim was a pastor, through and through. I will miss him greatly. Peace and sympathy to Beve and the family.

  7. Jim’s passing has brought me great sadness. The joy of the Lord was definitely his strength and on numerous occasions he taught me how to find that joy with our son and his different abilities. My prayers are focused for Beverly and their family for strength and comfort in these days.

  8. Blessings on the memory of a faithful pastor, loyal Covenanter and good friend. Jim was progressive in vision, ecumenical in outlook, inclusive in spirit, and devoted to the Lutheran Pietism at the core of our tradition, and one of the few in our generation who had proficiency in the Swedish language. To Beve and the children we extend heartfelt condolences. His legacy as outlined above lives beyond his 80 years. Well done, good and trusted servant. We shall miss your warm smile and and tender convictions.

  9. Jim was a very good friend and colleague in ministry. He was always a delight to be with. The news of his passing brings me much sadness. My prayers are with Beverly and the family.

  10. I love the picture of Jim. It matches the spirit and personality of a very dear and always positive fellow pastor. Our prayers for Bev and the family.

    Much love,

    Dick Lindman

  11. Sending our heartfelt sympathy and love to Beverly and their family.
    Jim blessed us with his life and witness!

  12. I never knew Jim well, but I always respected him and enjoyed talking with him. May he rest in peace.

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