By Don Meyer
CHICAGO, IL (May 27, 2011) – Expressions of sympathy and affirmations of a life well lived continue to flow in the aftermath of the death of James R. Hawkinson, who died Tuesday from complications following surgery May 5.
Hawkinson, who over the years served a number of Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) pastorates as well as numerous Covenant boards and commissions, is perhaps best known for his 28 years serving as executive secretary of the former Covenant Publications department (now Department of Communication) and as editor of The Covenant Companion.
Visitation will be observed this coming Sunday, May 29, from 2 to 6 p.m. at Salem Covenant Church, 2655 Fifth Street NW in New Brighton, Minnesota. A funeral service will be conducted at 1:30 p.m. Monday, May 30, at Salem Covenant, where he served as visitation pastor at the time of his death. Representing the Covenant will be President Gary Walter, David Kersten, executive minister of the Department of the Ordered Ministry, and Don Meyer, executive minister of the Department of Communication.
A memorial service will be conducted at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 1, at North Park Covenant Church, 5250 N. Christiana Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.
“Jim, in his person, lived out the best of who we are, as someone deeply committed to God and to God’s mission in the world,” said President Gary Walter. “In terms of transmitting the unique identity of the Evangelical Covenant Church, no one has been more influential than Jim. His work lives on through his writings and collections of Covenant wit and wisdom.”
Hawkinson was born July 9, 1930, in Oak Park, Illinois, the son of Eric and Lydia Hawkinson. He was baptized the following March at Austin Covenant Church in Chicago. He received an Associate in Arts degree from North Park Junior College in 1949, a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Augustana College in 1951, and graduated from North Park Theological Seminary in 1955, earning a Master of Divinity degree in 1972. He also completed studies at the University of Chicago Divinity School from 1957 to 1960.
He married Alyce Mae Larson on June 11, 1954. The couple was blessed with five children: Judith, Eric, Mary, Peter, and Paul.
Ordained in the Covenant in 1956, he went on to serve a number of churches, including Bethel Covenant Church in Middletown, Connecticut (internship); Bethany Covenant Church in Chicago (interim); Redeemer Covenant Church in Chicago (associate); Evangelical Covenant Church in Paxton, Illinois, initially as interim pastor and later as senior pastor; and the Evangelical Covenant Church in Hilmar, California, as senior pastor.
He joined the denominational offices in September 1966 as executive editor of publications, assuming the position as executive secretary of Covenant Publications in July 1970.
“Jim cared passionately about the church, which meant he cared deeply for the community of believers,” said Jane Swanson-Nystrom, managing editor of The Covenant Companion and one of four individuals Hawkinson originally hired who remain on staff. “For him, the Covenant was family – not a static one but an ever-growing family – and he saw the promise in each family member and encouraged full participation in the fellowship. He understood the Companion and the Home Altar, the hymnal and book of worship (produced by Covenant Publications) as an essential way to connect that community of believers to each other and to ground them in the spirit of the Covenant Church that he loved so much.”
“Jim was always an encourager – he cared about people and he was everyone’s pastor and friend,” said Jan Gray, production manager and another of the four original staff. “Jim also knew how to bring people together, creating fellowship through his stories and his laughter.”
Steven Velez Luce, creative director, and David Westerfield, art director, also were hired by Hawkinson and remain on staff.
“Jim served as a reminder of the image the Apostle Paul presents when he says he is laying a foundation on which others will build,” said Meyer in reflecting on his predecessor. “I often think of Jim, Carl Phillip Anderson and others who came before, carefully building the communications platform upon which the team today continues to build. It serves as a sobering reminder that we, too, need to exercise the same kind of care so that the workmanship we offer faithfully preserves and further expands that platform on which those who follow us will build.”
To say that Hawkinson left a deep impression on countless lives would be an understatement, as reflected in many of the tributes that have come in response to Tuesday’s online news story sharing the sad news of his passing.
- “God gave Jim that wonderful spirit of love and encouragement that was a blessing to so many and continued until long after his retirement.”
- “Our first memory of Jim was of him sitting on a log at Mission Springs, lovingly counseling a young junior seeking God. Jim was a humble giant, full of wisdom and delightful stories.”
- “When I became a part of the Covenant family, he made me feel like I was one of his best friends.”
- “With great joy and affection we remember Jim – his smile, love, concern and personal interest in each of us along with his commitment to the Covenant Church.”
- “Jim was one of God’s great gifts to the Church through storytelling, singing, preaching, writing, and above all, loving and serving God’s people.”
- “Jim Hawkinson was our speaker at CHIC ’68. As high school students we were more than a little impressed how “that balding man” communicated with such warmth, humor and passion. That was only the beginning of Jim’s influence . . . in my life and ministry. Jim exuded the genuine hospitality of Christ.”
- “I knew Jim when I worked at Covenant Press in the early 1980s. He was always cheerful and encouraging.”
- “He had a way of making one feel good. He’s probably singing “The Lord’s Prayer” to Jesus right now.”
- “Jim will be missed, not only for his leadership in the Covenant, but also his wonderful sense of humor and positive outlook.”
- “Jim was more than a leader in the Covenant – he was an institution. His celebration of life, wide reading, witty and insightful speaking and writing can never be forgotten.”
- “He was such a wonderful, vibrant Christian who had a profound influence upon us . . . he was so joyful and always encouraging.”
- “I will always heed Jim’s beloved mantra to ‘Keep telling the Story’ of what Jesus has done in my life and how he can bless others, with equal reflection on bringing God’s story out from other lives as well.”
- “His actions matched his words.”
- “Jim loved world mission and gave Mexico a lasting and beautiful gift. It was his visit and encouragement that moved Mexican Covenant leader Miguel Ortega to create and publish a daily devotional entitled “Hoy Con Dios” that was modeled on the Covenant Home Altar. This publication has been widely used in Mexico, among Spanish-speaking Covenanters in the U.S. and throughout Latin America for many years.”
- “Jim and Alice were so incredibly hospitable to us when we first came into the Covenant and for many years thereafter. What a wonderful friend and role model.”
- “I was always impressed with Jim – we were all sure he could do ANYthing. He was an inspiration to stay interested, active, and informed. He was a man of wisdom, deep faith, and loyalty to the cause of Christ and his church.”
- “Jim had a special place for all of us who were ‘adopted’ into the ECC family, whose roots were not Scandinavian and who came out of other Christian traditions. His embrace was genuine, his appreciation of what others brought to the table always so appreciative and affirmative.”
- “An affirming friend and wonderful example. It’s interesting that at this time we are reading together an article each day from “Glad Hearts,” which he edited a few years back. He kept us connected and will continue to do so.”
- “With a voice that is once again resonant and powerful, I imagine Jim presenting his gift of song with the Heavenly Host! Though we will most certainly miss the infectious smile in his eyes and the warm ‘Great to see you!’ greeting, I know we are able to look forward to meeting Jim again.”
Hawkinson was preceded in death by his parents and a brother, Zenos. In addition to his wife of 57 years, Alyce, he is survived by two daughters and three sons: Judy (Bob) Stromberg, Little Canada, Minnesota; Eric (Patty) Hawkinson, Turlock, California; Mary (Bob) Manning, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Peter (Bonnie) Hawkinson, Wilmette, Illinois; and Paul (Kristin) Hawkinson, Green Oaks, Illinois; 16 grandchildren; and seven great grandchildren.
The family suggests memorials be directed to the Presidential Scholarship Fund at North Park Theological Seminary, 3225 West Foster Avenue, Chicago, IL 60625.
To gain a more personal insight into Hawkinson, visit his Rooted Wings website. To view a collection of five Hawkinson videos from the Covenant website library, click here. Three of the videos are presentations Hawkinson made during the historic 125th anniversary Annual Meeting in St. Paul last year around his favorite theme of “Telling the Story.” Two additional videos are interviews that Hawkinson conducted with Efrem Smith and Bob Stromberg.
And, click here to read an interview with Jim Hawkinson published in the February 1995 issue of The Covenant Companion.