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April 08, 2014 | 04:15 PMAn ad appeared in the Regional News a few months ago, inviting people to attend Anchor Covenant Church, a congregation with a long history in Lake Geneva, in its new location, the former Immanuel Lutheran Church, at 1229 Park Row. The copy ended with the phrase, “Old building, new church.”
That line just scratches the surface of the story Anchor Covenant has to tell.
The congregation began as a Bible study in the home of one of its members. After some time passed, Sunday services began being held at Covenant Harbor, a summer resident camp in Lake Geneva. Later, the church met at Woods School on Sundays, then moved to the Lake Geneva YMCA. Most recently, before this move, they shared the sanctuary of the First Congregational United Church of Christ, Lake Geneva, holding their services in the evening.
Through all of the growth and moves, the church has strived to be an active presence in the community, reaching out in many ways. It was always a dream to have a building of its own and the congregation has reached the first step of that goal.
The church is a member of the Central Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church in America, also the parent organization of Covenant Harbor. Property at the camp and another one in Upper Michigan can be used by congregations for conferences, outdoor activities and camping.
The pastor of the church, the Rev. Bruce Bruns, has been in Lake Geneva since 2010. He became a full time pastor in Los Angeles in 1997, following completion of his theology studies. Acting first as the youth pastor, he later became an associate, then assistant and finally the head pastor of the congregation.
As the congregation attempted to find a permanent location, several options seemed possible. The exploratory effort to purchase the old Arrow Manufacturing facility, now the site of Kwik Trip, proved impractical, considering the cost of necessary renovation. Discussions and more possible solutions continued. In the meantime, the congregation continued to meet, grow, carry out missions and serve the community as well as its members.
The next step sounds almost impossible to believe. A member of the church is also a member of the Lake Geneva Fire Department, where the Rev. Mark Moller-Gunderson, a pastor at Immanuel Lutheran, is a captain. In a discussion about relocating the Anchor church and the move of Immanuel to a new building, Pastor Mark said to him, perhaps jokingly, “Well, you will buy our building, won’t you?”
The germ of the process was planted, and the work began. Prayer and consultation resulted in a positive response to buy the existing facility. A capital campaign was carried out and with the help of the lending branch of the conference, the deal was made, with a contract signed in January 2013. On Easter Sunday that year, the congregation moved its office and activities into the new location, sharing space and facilities with the Lutheran group, whose congregation moved to its new building Dec. 29. The sale of the building closed on Jan. 3, 2014, and the first 10:30 a.m. Sunday service for Anchor Covenant was held Jan. 5.
One of the first planned activities was a 24-hour prayer vigil, where participants could sign up to pray for half hour or hour commitments. Pastor Bruns had his turn at 2 a.m. For an hour, he spent most of the time walking in all parts of the building. He sensed the history of the church and all it represented as well as the feeling of exciting and promising things to come.
The building presents many opportunities for the congregation to carry out its plan to put down roots, a home base, to be in service to the community, as well as to its members. Some ongoing activities of the congregation are Love in Action Sundays, quarterly events where members go out into the community to be in service, wherever needed. The church supports two specific missionaries. In June, the senior high youth will go south to work with a local church, helping to build and repair homes and conducting Bible school for the children.
Members of the congregation want to remain flexible, to see where God is leading them to benefit the community.
Various age groups and activities are included in the life of the congregation. There are evening meetings for middle school through seniors in high school. Children have classes during worship time and there are two regular Bible study groups. Outreach and compassionate ministries include taking food to shut-ins on a monthly basis and having programs at Havenwood, a home for seniors, and at Woods School.
There is a “house band,” including the pastor on guitar at various times. The middle school and high school students provide instrumental music during worship services once a month.
Some remodeling has been taking place in the building. The overflow area of the sanctuary has been changed and the hope is to establish a coffee house facility, with opportunities for local musicians and artists to have a place to share their work. The upper floor has been converted to be used by the young children and infants, with classrooms and nursery facilities. Woodwork in the building has been restained and replaced where necessary and new windows have replaced the stained glass that moved to the new Lutheran church. About 90 percent of the work has been done by members and friends of the congregation. Much more will be done to the building, as time and funds allow, but the important part of being a church goes on, serving, reaching out and worshiping the Lord.
Including the community in the life of the congregation is very important to it, and a big step on that path has already taken place. The Walworth County affiliate of Habitat for Humanity has been operating without a space of its own almost since its inception. It now has an office and conference space at the church and Larry Green, head of the affiliate, will be in that office during hours yet to be determined.
The only paid staff at the church are a part-time office coordinator, a part-time music director and the pastor. Volunteers are welcomed and necessary to help keep the church alive, providing individuals the opportunity to serve God by serving in the church.
Pastor Bruns and his wife, Alissa, a teacher at Woods School, live in the Pell Lake area.
They have three sons, Sam, Jack and Dakota.
The family and the church, are determined to be in Christ and in the community, now settled in at 1229 Park Row.