Salem Covenant Church in Pennock, Minnesota, is older than the denomination itself.
Founded by Swedish immigrant John G. Sjoqvist, the church started meeting as house groups in 1870, then was chartered in February 1871. When Carl Nyvall helped churches in Minnesota form the Northwest Mission Association in 1884, Salem was a charter member.
“That means the Northwest Conference is older than the Covenant by about three months!” says Jonathan Wilson, current pastor of the church.
Salem has marked its 150th anniversary through a yearlong celebration. Guest preachers included Mark Stromberg, superintendent of the Northwest Conference; Brian Alnes, executive director of Lake Beauty Bible Camp in Long Prairie, Minnesota; and several former pastors.
“The guest pastors emphasized that God has been faithful for 150 years, so we can expect that the same God is going to continue to be faithful,” Wilson said. “You know those things matter. When we hear these things from other preachers, they are God’s vessels, speaking into us. We really appreciated them.”
Despite the challenges of celebrating during the pandemic, “I’m glad that we didn’t postpone,” Wilson said.
As the church researched their own history in preparation for the celebration, they found notes from a meeting in 1918. “We have attendance records from Sunday school in 1918, including October, which read week after week, ‘Did not meet—flu.’”
The sesquicentennial culminated with a weekend celebration that included an ice cream social on Saturday night, followed by worship and a BBQ on Sunday. Covenant President John Wenrich preached.
“It felt so good to be on the road again and back with people face to face,” Wenrich said. “I realized how much I missed this part of the president’s role. Both Julie and I enjoy honoring people and churches. We had so much fun!”
He shared an especially meaningful note he and his wife, Julie, received from a longtime member of the church.
Dear Pastor Wenrich and Julie,
Thank you for being so nice and friendly. The sweet presence of the Holy Spirit was radiating far and wide today through Word, message, prayer, music, and fellowship.
Thank you, Pastor Wenrich, for your timely message. I didn’t want the day of community and mission friends to end.
I am thankful that my great-grandfather (my dad’s grandfather) sat at the table of 12 pioneers to discuss and bring forth a small church that God, through the Holy Spirit, has blessed others and shared the Word for 150 years. We pray for continued movement as Mission Friends with the Holy Spirit leading. God’s blessings for safe travels.