How a 125-year-old church stays relevant

When Scripture is even more applicable today than when written 2,000 years ago, you know you have a winning formula



April 21, 2023 - 3:35 PM

The Covenant Evangelical Church in Savonburg will celebrate its 125th anniversary on April 30.

Earlier this week Annie Vogel dropped by a flier announcing the 125th anniversary of Savonburg’s Covenant Evangelical Church on April 30.

“Come help us rejoice!” it said.

No need to be a member. No need to bring food — “God will provide,” the flier states. “Come celebrate God’s faithfulness to His church.”

That last sentence caught me off guard. I thought it was the other way around. 

As with any church, Covenant Evangelical has had its ups and downs, attested Charles Hawkinson, a longtime member and the church’s designated historian.

“Between my family and the Vogels’ that’s pretty much the congregation,” Hawkinson said Friday evening. On the table before him were a pile of photo albums, church bulletins and manuscripts cataloging the church’s history.

Hawkinson estimated average attendance today at 25. 

His local roots go back to the 1860s when his great-grandfather, Peter Hawkinson, came as a homesteader.

Besides his immediate family, his cousins and their families also attend the church. 

The church organist, Susan Woods Haddan, is the wife of his cousin Richard Haddan.

Just down the road from Covenant Evangelical is the Swedish Cemetery.

“It’s so full of my ancestors there’s no room for me and my wife, Gloria,” said Hawkinson, adding they have plots in the Odense Cemetery.

That’s not to say the church’s future is dim.

“They say if you don’t have children in your congregation, then you don’t have a future,” Hawkinson said. “Well, every Sunday there’s a swarm of kids. Nine of them are Jon and Annie’s grandkids.”

Charles Hawkinson serves as unofficial historian for Covenant Evangelical Church. “Maybe it’s because I like to be the one taking the pictures,” Hawkinson joked.

Jon Vogel serves as the church’s part-time pastor.