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.