Saturday, June 28, 2008

'From Age to Age the Same'

There is always more to life than meets the eye. God sees to that, as he always has, generation after generation since the days of Father Abraham. "One generation shall laud thy works to another," the psalmist says (145:4, KJV), and it is true!

I have just returned from the 123rd Covenant Annual Meeting in Green Lake, Wisconsin, where I had the joy of laying my hands on my grandson Lars Eric Stromberg on the occasion of his Ordination to Ministry. His certificate is signed by Glenn R. Palmberg, president, and David W. Kersten, executive minister of the ordered ministry.

Out calling this morning on others, I have been caught up in the mystery of God's providence in the life and care of his people.

My own maternal grandfather, Ole H. Myhren, pastor of a pioneer Mission Church in Brookville, Wisconsin, himself born in Norway, was ordained in Hastings, Minnesota on July 9 (my birthday), in 1887, two years after the founding of our denomination. His certificate, which I have in my study, was signed by the first president, C.A. Bjork, and the first secretary, E.G. Hjerpe.

My father, Eric G. Hawkinson, an immigrant from Sweden and pastor in the Austin Covenant Church, Chicago who was later to be dean of North Park Seminary, was ordained in Chicago, Illinois on October 21, 1928. His certificate, also in my possession, was signed by C. V. Bowman, then president, and Joel S. Johnson, secretary. At my ordination in the North Park Covenant Church of Chicago, June 24, 1956, my father laid his hands on my head as the Ordination Prayer was offered for all of us being set apart for the high and holy office of ministry. My certificate is signed by Theodore W. Anderson, then president, and Joseph C. Danielson, then secretary.

Two of my nephews, David and Timothy Hawkinson, the sons of the late Zenos and Barbara. are also ordained Covenant ministers. I am waiting on information from David, but Timothy was ordained in 1988, and his certificate was signed by Paul Larsen, president, Timothy Ek, scetretary, and Donald Njaa, executive secretary of the ministry. My sense is that Grandpa Eric laid hands on both of them as well.

My wife Alyce is the sixth child of the late Leonard J. Larson of Worthington, Minnesota, who after service as an army chaplain in WWI and training at North Park Seminary was ordained in 1920 when E. G. Hjerpe was president. Consecrated with his wife Alice for missionary service in China through most of that decade, he later served 24 years as pastor of First Covenant Church in Kansas City. His youngest son and child, Quentin, who died untimely young in 1996, was also ordained by the Covenant in 1963, Dad Larson laying hands on him when Clarence A. Nelson was president and Milton B. Engebretson secretary. Well-known especially for his love of and service to rural America, Dusty is honored to this day by a scholarship fund at the Seminary in his honor.

In 1996, I had the privilege of laying my hands on my own son Peter's head, as he was ordained, also in Chicago. His certificate was signed by President Paul E. Larsen, Secretary John Hunt, and the then executive secretary of the ministry, Donald Njaa. And now, 12 years later, it was Lars Eric, a gifted and dedicated grandson, with the honored name among us of Stromberg.

Nor is that all to think about. Another grandson, Timothy Hawkinson, who is now completing his seminary at North Park while serving on staff in Turlock, California Covenant Church, will no doubt be seeking ordination a few years hence. And where is Turlock? Just a few miles north of the Hilmar Covenant Church where my grandfather Ole was its first pastor, where my parents grew up, where Dusty served his internship, and where over six decades after its founding in 1902 Alyce and I served as a pastoral family from 1963-66.

Sitting in the Ordination Service last Thursday evening, I was deeply moved by the number of other families celebrating continuity in ministry with us. And I was overwhelmed also by the incredible richness that God is now supplying to Covenanters worldwide in the magnified warmth, commitment, ability, and inspiration so evident in people of many other nations and ethnic backgrounds who have joined and are enriching this family of faith.

May those of us rooted in Covenant tradition always make room for those rooted in other traditions, so that we may truly be in the future what we set out to be at the organizational meeting of our denomination in 1885, "a companion of all those who fear God" (Psalm 119:63), and are looking for his appearing.

The base theme of this whole website is, after all, true and worthy of remembering:

Roots exist for the wings that propel them into life as we know it,
and wings exist to magnify the creative power of roots within them.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pastoral Visitation Report

The following is my annual report to Salem Covenant Church in New Brighton, MN as pastor of visitation. It has occurred to me that the themes it explores bear wider thought and exploration. Any comments or suggestions you might have in reading and pondering its content will be welcome. You may enter such under "Comments" at the conclusion of the report.

‘Getting to know you, getting to know all about you…’

In a wonderful little 1973 monograph on A Plan for Letting the Church Become the Family of God, Wesley W. Nelson wrote the following:

“In flesh and blood families, children grow up and are scattered. Husbands and wives die, leaving lonely widows and widowers. Many people are denied marriage and family love. Some families break up through misunderstanding or unfaithfulness. At best, flesh and blood families remain intact for only a few years. With passing years ties are broken by death, and we must adjust to being left alone. In deep contrast with all this is the church, as God intends it to be. No matter what our background, personality, maturity in Christ, or the cause of our alienation, this church will become closer to us even than flesh and blood families, for we know it will never desert us or be removed from us by death….

“We have generally thought of the church this way in theory. In practice, however, it has not reached this ideal…. [We must] seek to develop a means of nurturing this love and family spirit until it becomes the strongest force in the church” (Quoted in Glad Hearts, Covenant Publications. 2003, pp. 356, 357).

Pastoral visitation, like all the other ministries here reported, is essentially about us as a people of God—i.e. our relationships to him and one another. Whether meeting in the narthex after worship, in home- or office-based conversation, or in the extremities of illness, loneliness, and grief, the challenge is always to bolster in each other the awareness that in Christ no one is ever alone. We are all part of a family of faith that can count on the promises of God’s Word, the presence of Christ, and the healing power of his Spirit.

It is my privilege to be a bearer of such good news to both members and friends of this congregation in time of need. Since March of 2007 the catalogue of calls, though focused on urgent care, has included contacts and conversations with people of every age in varying circumstance. To rehearse them in my own mind, as I often do, is to realize how much more I have received in the process than I have been able to give.

Though in a church as large as Salem there is clearly much yet to be done to help everyone see themselves as part of our family of faith, I have been especially blessed by the numbers of really caring lay people who have dedicated themselves to aiding in that process. Everywhere I go I either see or hear about their influence in individual lives and circumstances. Please be thanked if you are among them. And please be invited to join them if you are not.

At this juncture I am also heartened by the manifest joy and expertise that Nancy Olin is already bringing to her newly entered calling as our parish nurse, with the assistance of Kris Beilby. Their knowledge and experience in all things medical, as well as their deep devotion to Christ and the church, are clearly advancing the ground-breaking work that Jan Schmidt did among us before she retired.

My prayer for Salem, already well-grounded in its faith and history as a family, is that working together in the name of our Triune God we may both deepen our bonds with one another and broaden our vision to be more inclusive of others. To seek no more than our own good eventually leaves us barren and fruitless. Joy and the deep sense of fulfillment we all long for await us in Christ at each other’s door, as well as our neighbor’s.

Pray for us in this ministry that we may be wise in the use of our time, helpful to the rest of our staff as we serve with them in whatever circumstance, and fruitful above all for the kingdom.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Jesus People USA

A Covenant website news item this morning cites the upcoming Cornerstone Festival in Bushnell, Illinois June 30 to July 5 that will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year.

Sponsored by Jesus People USA, a Covenant church on the north side of Chicago, this festival--which gathers as many as 20,000 people each year--has become known world-wide as the 'Jesus Woodstock.'

To read more about the flavor of the event--highly charged with Christian Rock Bands playing constantly to tentground fans--might seem a bit outrageous to many. The music is certainly not my cup of tea. But look to whom Jesus People minister--both down and out types and those either largely disengaged from the church and maybe even themselves.

Look, too, at who is their major speaker this year--Yale Professor Miroslav Volf, one of the world's leading theologians who also addressed our Covenant Midwinter Conference in February. Others in former years have included Ron Sider, John Perkins, Jean Vanier, and Brian McLaren. Continuous seminars "are even more important than the music," Festival Director John Herrin declares. And one look at the Jesus People website ( will likely amaze many at how seriously literate and thoughtful this movement and their dedicated leaders are.

Kudos to my long-time friend Neil Taylor and Musician Glenn Kaiser and all the others whose service to Christ in the inner city of Chicago is a model of Christian witness and compassion. Strange as is the world they live and work in to most of us, we ought be grateful not only for their devotion to Christ but their passion as well for the lost and their devotion to the lone and the needy. Keep them and Cornerstone this year in your prayers. They will all bne in mine.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Thanks for Your Prayers and Support!

So many of you over five and a half years now have offered your prayers and support for Paul and Kristin's daughter Kajsa Grace that it seems appropriate to share with you the result.

Born with half a heart, she has had quite a pilgrimage in this life, four major operations and the kind of occasional crises that have occurred in between. Yet here she is, in all her glory, ecstatic under the crown of flowers that attended her recent debut as a dancer.

Nils Frykman's ode to Christmas and the birth of Christ, "Joy Bells Are Ringing" (The Covenant Hymnal: A Worshipbook, No. 166) expresses the familial joy we feel as well, for surely it is in Christ and through him that our common hopes and prayers for Kajsa Grace have been heard. And so we sing with Frykman, of Christ and of her, Oh, what a treasure God in his pleasure lovingly gives today! Grace to the lowly, peace pure and holy, angels to all convey.

We are so grateful to all of you who have shared in Kajsa's life saga to date. Look on her as we do with joy, and praise God for his goodness in not only preserving her life but prospering it as well!