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Church Closing Plants Seed for New Beginning

PORTLAND, OR (September 9, 2011) – Community Covenant Church concluded its ministry August 21 after nearly 80 years of faithful service, but did so with an eye to the future.

The church had declined over time to about 15 attendees. Most were Palauans who had moved to the area from the South Pacific island.

An estimated 80 people attended the final service. Participants included a member of the founding family of the church as well as an Evangelical Covenant Church planter who is beginning a new work. As part of the celebration, a group photograph was taken at the very same spot as the photo of a Sunday school class that was taken in 1948 (see accompanying photos).

Music during the final service featured songs in Swedish, English and Palauan. The service was followed by a traditional Palauan barbecue as a way of thanking the North Pacific Conference for its work in helping ease the church’s transition, said Ken Morse, the interim pastor hired to help the congregation through the process.

Don Robinson, associate conference superintendent, shared the scripture, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces an abundant harvest,” noting how well the verse describes the process the congregation experienced.

The ministry began in a borrowed house in 1934, starting out as a Sunday school mission to the many families living in the St Johns neighborhood of north Portland. The work, known then as East St. Johns Mission Chapel, proved so successful that a small building was built to house the growing work.

By 1951, Community Covenant Church was founded and continued to meet in the same space. By 1956, with help from the Covenant’s Frontier Friends initiative, the congregation was able to expand into a sanctuary seating approximately 100 people.

The church fell on hard times in the late 1990s, however, and began to decline. In mid-June the conference installed Morse as interim pastor to facilitate the process of caring for the congregation and making room for the new work.

With help from the North Pacific Conference and the Department of Congregational Vitality, Andy Goebel and Morse discussed how the church plant might use the existing property while continuing a ministry to Palauans. “Together, a process of sharing the past and shaping the future emerged,” said Robinson.

This fall, the church plant’s core group will continue to meet under Goebel’s leadership, while the Palauans also will continue to meet with Morse to explore their ministry to the Islander community.

About the Author

  • Marianne Peters is a freelance writer, master gardener, and environmental educator. She lives in Plymouth, Indiana with her husband, two teenage daughters, and two mischievous ginger cats called Fred and George (after the Weasley twins of Harry Potter fame). From 2008-2013 she wrote the Creation Care column for Covenant Companion magazine. In 2011, her family decided to downsize by half, a decision that led to the publication of her book Declutter for Good: Share Your Life and Reclaim Your Life. She blogs about green living and gardening at www.freshwordswriting.com.

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