The Covenant Companion: Sharing Stories of the Covenant Since 1923

The Walt Disney Company, Warner Brothers Pictures, and Time magazine all celebrate centennial anniversaries this year. So does The Covenant Companion. Pretty good company as we celebrate this historic moment.

But to celebrate our history, we must first remember. Like celebrating, remembering is not passive. It takes work. We identify the changes and challenges—the joys and disappointments—and we learn and grow. Over the past 100 years, the Companion has had its fair share of adjustments and achievements.

Since our very beginning, the Covenant has placed a high value on the written word. Before we were even organized as a church, we were publishing periodicals. In 1923, the Covenant made the decision to invest in the next generation by launching a “youth paper” for young people in English. The Covenant Companion derived its name from for Psalm 119:63, “I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts,” the likely text of F.M. Johnson’s sermon at the founding of the Covenant in 1885. Subscriptions cost $2 a year.

Under the leadership of its first editor, G.F. Hedstrand, the publication dedicated half of its 32 pages to general reading material for young people, feature articles, and news of churches. The other half provided material for Sunday school teachers.

The Companion continued to evolve with the needs of its Covenant readership in January 1934 when it merged with the Swedish-language Förbundets Veckotidning (The Covenant Weekly), which had started in 1911 under the name Missionsförbundets Ungdomstidning (Mission Covenant’s Young People’s Paper). The name changed to The Covenant Weekly with Covenant Companion Edition as a subtitle. By 1936, the magazine was primarily in English with a four-page section in Swedish that continued until 1956. At that point, we ceased publishing the Swedish supplement and moved to an English-only format.

Since our very beginning, the Covenant has placed a high value on the written word.

On June 24, 1955, Hedstrand stepped down after serving as editor for 32 years, with circulation at a peak of 13,000. He wrote somewhat wistfully, “I am the only immigrant in captivity left at the Covenant headquarters. I feel as a leaf of last year on the elm tree in spring. The winter’s storm could not remove it. But when the sap begins to run, it is pushed off the branch and new leaves are formed. I am an ‘old forsaken leaf’ upon the denominational tree, testifying of our fathers who founded the Missionskyrka. The story of our publications is thus the story of our metamorphosis from a Swedish-speaking church to an indigenous church.”

The periodical reverted to The Covenant Companion name in 1959. By 1970, typesetting had been moved in-house rather than off-site but the process was cumbersome and time-consuming. Through an aggressive promotion of the magazine’s Every Family Plan, long-time editor James R. Hawkinson built up the subscription list to 33,600 in 1975, at a time when membership in the denomination was 71,253.

In February 1984, the Companion transitioned from 22 issues per year to 12. That year also marked the 99th anniversary of the denomination. In a message to readers, Hawkinson reflected on a quote from Goethe’s Faust that he kept in his datebook so that once a year he would benefit from its wisdom: “‘What you have as heritage, take now as task; for thus you will make it your own.’ The past is important, and we should celebrate what was good in it with every ounce of enthusiasm we can muster. Yet all that is only prologue, really; it waits to be completed in us and in those who come after us. We need, indeed, to take it as task, for only in so doing can we truly make it our own.”

When he retired as executive secretary of Covenant Publications and editor of the Companion in 1994 after 28 years of service, Hawkinson had written more than 560 articles under his “In Conclusion” banner on the last page of the magazine.

As the publishing industry evolved, typesetting moved from galleys to laser proofs, then to desktop design. In 2014, the Companion team took time to intentionally discern whether the Covenant should continue to publish a print magazine. Executive director and editor Edward Gilbreath wrote in his editorial, “Our conclusion: Yes—perhaps now more than ever before. Though the media world is in flux, we determined that a spirited magazine that could serve as a unifying agent during these times of rapid change would be a valuable contribution to the life of the church.”

In 2015, the Companion relaunched as a bimonthly magazine, expanding its page count from 40 to 68.

Jane K. Swanson-Nystrom served as managing editor, then managing editor of publications. Upon her retirement after 40 years of service in 2020, she wrote, “The Companion lives into its name when it encourages conversation, when it is a place for shared dreams and aspirations, disappointments and pain; when it invites us to listen to one another and be shaped and changed by the stories and experiences and insights of others; when it challenges us to value each other even in our distances, to respect each other even in our disagreements, to give voice to each other even when we struggle to speak.”

Adapting our storytelling continued when a decision was made to move the Companion from six print issues per year to two in 2021. Today we continue to publish twice yearly in print and we have boosted the visibility of our digital storytelling by launching our weekly email, CovChurch Now available at

On this landmark anniversary, we celebrate the long, vibrant ministry of The Covenant Companion. We are grateful for thoughtful conversations, award-winning stories, and faithful writers and editors throughout the years. We have also grappled with the changes, challenges, and tensions in the life of this magazine. Our history is not dissimilar to that of our denomination. And through it all, we confidently rest in God’s promise to be a companion to all who fear God.


  • Linda Sladkey

    Linda Sladkey is the managing editor of the Covenant Companion and a member of Naperville (Illinois) Covenant Church. She and her husband, David, have a bucket list to ride their bikes together in all fifty states.

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