In his address to delegates of the 135th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church, President John Wenrich lamented the ravages of Covid-19, praised the innovation of individuals and congregation amid the pandemic, and called on Covenanters to continue to minister in new ways. The meeting is being held virtually due to the pandemic.
“In 2020, an unforeseen storm called Covid-19 upended the world,” Wenrich said. “It was a storm so big and so furious, there was no way we could have imagined the devastation it would leave in its path.”
That devastation included the loss of family and friends, closed businesses, and social isolation. “We suffered greatly from the loss of regular face-to-face interactions.”
Wenrich celebrated that despite the pandemic, individuals and churches found ways to meet the needs of their congregations and communities. He noted individuals such as Annie Espinoza, who along with her husband, Roberto, serves as co-pastor of Iglesia del Pacto Evangelico Douglas Park in Chicago. Despite suffering a stroke, Espinoza used her phone to record a puppet program that was posted on Facebook for children in her community.
Those programs grew to 10-minute reflections on Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” After the first week, children in South and Central America as well as Spain had viewed the video.
Wenrich also noted that churches distributed food to their communities, and planters had continued to develop ministries despite not being able to meet.
“You have been resilient,” he said. “You have been courageous in reflecting the heart of Christ in some of the most beautiful ways that I have ever witnessed.”
He added, “By God’s grace we have endured this storm. We are not just 3StrandStrong but have grown Three Strand Stronger through the partnership of our local churches, 11 regional conferences, and the entire Covenant denomination.”
Wenrich exhorted churches to continue innovating. “The skies may be clearing but we must continue to reimagine, re-create, and adapt in order to strengthen our common mission for the future,” he said. He emphasized, “The big question is not how do we get back to normal but how do we get back to mission and into the new thing that the Holy Spirit is doing among us.”
That work includes continuing to advance racial righteousness. “This past year has opened our eyes to the areas where we have lacked around racial righteousness and reconciliation, both inside and outside the Covenant.”
Mission friends are our roots. A mosaic of mission friends is our future.
Wenrich said he desired that every Covenant church would use the Six-Fold Test for Multiethnic Ministry to engage a meaningful discipleship experience. The test is a metric for the denomination’s growth in multiethnic ministry.
“Mission friends are our roots. A mosaic of mission friends is our future,” he said.
In addition to advancing racial righteousness, the Covenant remains committed to advancing women in leadership, Wenrich said. He told delegates that 40 percent of the candidates for ordination this year are women, the highest number in history. Thirty percent of church plants this year are being led by women.
Throughout his message, Wenrich tied the present and future of the Covenant to its historical values. “In some ways, this pandemic storm has required some of the same fortitude that our church founders exhibited when they crossed the Atlantic, emigrating from Sweden with a desire to worship freely in America,” Wenrich said. “This obedience to God’s call, as well as a spirit of innovation, adaptability, and hospitality, all remain a part of the Evangelical Covenant Church today.”
He concluded, saying, “I am convinced the church was built for times such as this. I am convinced that the Evangelical Covenant Church is built for such a time as this. Because, the gospel, communicated through the local church, is the hope of the world.”