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In anticipation of the annual Midwinter Conference for all Covenant ministers less than two weeks away, the Companion caught up with a few speakers to help us prepare. 

We sat down with a group of pastors who will comprise one of the panel discussions on drawing near to our communities. The group, serving in a wide range of contexts across the Covenant, is asking how we serve the people around us without getting in the way. “We often engage communities with good intention, but who is really being served by our efforts?” asks Kimberly Wright, senior pastor of Church of the Resurrection, a Covenant congregation in East Harlem, New York. “Are we humble enough to get away from serving self?”

“What I appreciate about the Covenant,” adds Cindy Wu, “is that as we seek the renewal of our community, the emphasis on development is not just about relief and charity. We look at the whole person.” Wu is an ordained Covenant minister and co-founder of Mosaic Formation, a nonprofit that focuses on spiritual formation care and training for leaders serving diverse and underserved communities.

The panel will be hosted by David Swanson, pastor of New Community Covenant Church in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago.

We also checked in briefly with a couple of plenary speakers.

Peter Ahn

Peter Ahn is the lead/founding pastor of Metro Community Church in Englewood, New Jersey. He will speak on the theme of drawing near to God with our whole self.

What is one way God surprised you in your ministry this year?

My greatest surprise is coming to grips with the reality that when God speaks, it will always come to pass—but that is not the surprise. The surprise is how much my process in getting there varies from his. God will often take the longer, more painful, self-denying route, rather than my preferred quick and easy way. Spiritual growth happens in “the process,” even more than God doing what he said he would do.  

How does the Midwinter theme “draw near” resonate with you?

Drawing near to God does not come naturally for me. I have to work hard at it. However, I believe that one can never really draw near to God until they have learned to draw near to a few people. Intimacy can only be present when there is vulnerability. I hope I can do that with some folks at Midwinter this year. If that happens, then I’ll be drawing near to God. 

What’s the last song you sang aloud to?

“Dreams” by Van Halen

What was your first job?

Working at Burger King at the age of 12 years old. I lied about my age and they believed me. Hey, I needed the money.

What’s a good book, TV show, or podcast that you can’t wait to get back to?

Yellowstone is my favorite TV show. I’m going to be self-promoting here: Weak Pastor is my favorite podcast. I can’t wait to start recording again. 

Where in your home or your neighborhood do you do your best thinking?

I do my best thinking in my dining room. It is my office because my wife, Jenny, has taken over our spare room as her office. 

Jeanne Stevens

Jeanne Stevens is the co-lead pastor of Soul City Church in Chicago and the author of What’s Here Now? How to Stop Rehashing the Past and Rehearsing the Future—and Start Receiving the Present. 

What is one way God surprised you in your ministry this year?

I was reminded and surprised in fresh ways that God is faithful. There are no limits to his love. 

How does the Midwinter theme “draw near” resonate with you?

I am reminded of what Jesus says in John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Drawing near to Jesus is where we bear much fruit. 

What’s the last song you sang aloud to? 

“Breakthrough Miracle Power,” by Patrick Mayberry (a Soul City Church original)

What was your first job? 

Taking orders at a pizza company a few blocks away from my house. 

What’s a good book, TV show, or podcast you can’t wait to get back to? 

I am rereading Atomic Habits, by James Clear. I am also reading The Best of You, by Dr. Allison Cook.

Where in your home or your neighborhood do you do your best thinking? 

Walking around my neighborhood or through the forest preserve near my house. 

Join us in person or online for more transformative opportunities to draw near! covchurch.org/midwinter

About the Author

  • Staff Author

    The Communications staff at The Evangelical Covenant Church works to bring you the most complete information on the stories that matter to the Covenant.

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