FOUNDATION IS BUILT
is not intended to be a complete historical document of the
early beginnings of the Pacific Southwest Conference. No attempt
has been made to recognize all personalities who contributed
to the beginning and development of this conference in its
first twenty-five years. Rather, it is offered as a brief
summary to capture the spirit of our founders, which continues
to shape our ministries as we launch this next century to
find the lost, grow disciples, and help the hurting.
SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY
By Eleanor Swenson with assistance of LeRoy
Satterberg and Greg Jonsson in February 2002
were moving to a foreign country with no knowledge of the
language, one of the first things you would do would be to
seek out other English speaking people. If, in addition, you
had come out of a widespread revival, you would seek others
with a similar spiritual experience and a Christian testimony.
This was tantamount to the beginnings of the Covenant in California.
was a small town, having been established as Fresno Station
on the new railroad in 1872, and Kingsburg down the line was
even smaller. Enterprising Swedes had secured parcels of land,
divided them into farm-sized units and advertised cheap land
to Swedish settlements, especially in the Midwest. In the
Fresno area, Washington Colony to the southwest and Scandinavian
Colony to the northeast were available. Churches for the Swedes
were scarce. With the pattern from Sweden, people in the Colonies
gathered in homes for social and spiritual succor along with
prayer and sermons by Waldenstrom, Rosenius, and probably
others were read and discussed. This went on for some time.
were real pioneers. The land was cheap and unimproved. Cabins
were built and occupied while the land was cleared of impediments,
animals, varmints, and even rattlesnakes. A system of canals
was dug to bring water from the Kings River several miles
over the flat land to water the vines, trees, and other crops
on the dry fertile land. The Swedes helped in all these endeavors,
improved the land, and built nice homes.
that time there were two churches established in California:
San Francisco in 1877 and Oakland in 1887. Somehow the Scandinavian
Colony and Washington Colony Swedes got together and the Fresno
Church, with fifteen members (five wives and one maiden lady)
was organized and founded on August 26, 1888. Rev. John F.
Gilberg, LeRoy and Herb Satterberg's grandfather, had come
to Fresno and was a charter member and the pastor. The organizational
meeting was held in the Erick Swenson home in Scandinavian
Colony and the leaders seemed to be Erick Swenson, Eric Johnson
and C. A. Sandstedt from Washington Colony now known as Easton.
The present church building is located in part of the old
Scandinavian Colony. It was my privilege as a child to know
three of the charter members, Mr. Sandstedt, Grandmother Swenson
and Aunt Kate Johnson. Sandstedt, as he came to be known,
still spoke with fervor when I was a child.
time, with horse and buggy transportation, Sunday School was
held in the School House and the evening prayer services continued
in the homes. At first, Sunday services were held in rented
halls in Fresno until mid-summer, 1897, when the church moved
into their first home at P and Divisadero Streets on the edge
two years, the Rev. Gilberg was called to the Kingsburg-Riverside
area where Swedes had bought cheap land and settled. At that
time, two Swedish churches were available in Kingsburg, but
these Swedes had come from the Midwest or other areas where
Covenant churches had been established and they wanted their
own form of worship. For services, at $5.00 a month, they
rented the Baptist Church in Kingsburg. Distances from the
Colony with horse and buggy made transportation difficult
so by April 2, 1895, the new building half way between Kingsburg
and Riverside was ready for services. Land for the church
had been donated by Rev. Hallner who had succeeded Rev. Gilberg
organization of the Fresno Church and the Kingsburg-Riverside
Church in 1890, Los Angeles had organized a church in 1889
according to the records. Ministers did not stay long in these
new churches and so a listing of the ministers in both the
Colony church and the Fresno church is long. The Colony church
building has been added to and improved since its erection
in 1895, but is the building housing this one hundredth anniversary
celebration of the founding of the California conference which
has grown outside of California and is now called the Pacific
Southwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church.
22, 1902, the Kingsburg-Riverside Church had the honor of
hosting the meeting establishing the Svenska Evangeliska Missionsforeningen
i California now known as the Pacific Southwest Conference.
Quoting from the 50th Anniversary Booklet of the Evangelical
Mission Covenant Association of California, we have the following:
from six Covenant churches in California met at the Evangelical
Covenant Church in Kingsburg (known now as Colony Covenant)
on February 22, 1902. The purpose of their meeting was to
unite these churches into what is known today as the Evangelical
Mission Covenant Association of California.
informal meetings had been held. At one of these gatherings
the California Covenant Ministerial Association was organized.
This occurred in Oakland in the month of October 1900.
Covenant churches in California at the time were those in
San Francisco, Oakland, Fresno, Los Angeles, Kingsburg-Colony
and San Jose.
The meeting in Kingsburg was called to
order as a result of a decision made at a meeting in Fresno
two months earlier.
The first Conference board elected
at this meeting consisted of Albin Anderson, Chairman, A.
Hallner, Vice Chairman, E. M. Carlson, Secretary and E. O.
celebrating its hundredth anniversary now was thus begun in
this same church and building. The work was growing and churches
joined the Conference in the next twenty-five years in the
following order: Hilmar and Turlock - 1902, Berkeley and Kingsburg
- 1907, San Pedro - 1910, Patterson - 1911, San Diego - 1912,
Sacramento - 1913, Stockton - 1915, Ripon - 1916, Escalon
- 1919, and Pasadena - 1922. The financial support for this
new organization's work increased from $285.85 in 1903 to
$4286.13 in 1926.
could be written about each of the churches. All would read
similarly. Swedes continued to come from Sweden and from the
Midwest and sought out the churches where the ethnic groups
felt at home and where the Word of God was preached with power
and blessing. Newcomers were welcomed. Sunday Schools were
continued or established. The young people formed their Societies
and the ladies had their meetings. Only eternity will reveal
the influence of these churches and the many who have since
joined our branch of the Covenant.
were changing. The automobile, even at 25 mph, turned the
long horse and buggy treks to a relatively short trip. The
new member staple of Swedes from Sweden grew smaller and virtually
stopped. The children were educated in the public schools
and many were no longer bilingual. In the late twenties and
thirties, the language situation became an issue in the churches.
In some cases they waited too long to change over to English
and the church lost members to other churches.
celebrate this anniversary, we thank God for the salvation
we have through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior and our
freedom to worship Him. We also thank God for and bless the
memory of all the ministers and dedicated pioneers and workers
who have gone before us. It is comforting to read in Isaiah
55:11, where God says, "My word shall not return unto
Prepared by representatives of Los Angeles
First and Pasadena Covenant in February 2002
California there were only four churches in the first twenty-five
years of the Pacific Southwest Conference. They were Los Angeles,
founded in 1889; San Pedro, 1910; San Diego, 1912; and Pasadena,
1922. The Los Angeles church was the "mother church"
to the other three, lending strength and support to those
churches in their infancy. All of these churches came from
humble beginnings. The people were often poor, but fervent
in spirit. They gathered in homes and later in rented halls
until they could acquire their own facilities. One of the
most difficult things to find was help with preaching. Originally
all of the meetings were in the Swedish language. Today that
has all but disappeared, as we are now a multilingual denomination.
of this congregation would be incomplete and lack much of
real interest if we forgot what preceded the organizational
beginning. A few Mission friends had arrived in Los Angeles
and settled down mostly on so-called "Swedish Hill"
(properly called Bunker Hill). These friends had belonged
to congregations where they previously lived and longed to
gather around God's word and pray together and sing praises
them who took a strong part in the work at this time was A.J.
Warner, a layman. He wrote:
left New York the 14th of January, 1888, and arrived in Los
Angeles the 24th of the same month. I got together with a
few of the Lord's born again believers, about fifteen or twenty
altogether. These were Mission Friends. We went to the Methodist,
Baptist, and Lutheran meetings for a while, but we did not
feel really at home with them. We longed to have our own work
and have Holy Communion together.
our first communion in our home in May 1888. It was a wonderful
meeting. After that we continued with meetings in homes. On
week nights we had prayer meetings and on Sunday mornings
we had Sunday school. We continued this way until fall when
we invited Pastor Carl Anderson (who at this time was pastor
of the Swedish Tabernacle congregation in San Francisco) to
come and preach for us. He was the first Mission Friends preacher
to visit Los Angeles to preach God's Word. Many people gathered
in these meetings and with thankful hearts and tear-filled
eyes listened to the spoken word."
1, 1889, the church in Los Angeles was organized with twelve
charter members. A missionary, Adolph Lydell, who had to leave
his field of service in Alaska had come to Southern California
for health reasons. It was he who was elected as chairman
for the organizational meeting and became the first pastor.
Lydell left after a couple of years, which brought the little
group to a major decision. They had to decide whether to continue
or disband the work. They decided "We want to continue
as long as it is God's will". Pastor N.P. Wallgren came
and served from January 1891 to the fall of 1892. Following
him, Rev. S.O. Lindgren came as the first full time pastor.
The Lord blessed the efforts. In 1893 the young congregation,
numbering forty souls, built a church that seated 300 people.
Some faith! The cost of the property was $1,800 with construction
costs of $2,000. The church was located on 8th Street between
Grand and Olive and served the congregation until 1906 when
they had outgrown their facilities. The pastor at that time
was Rev. A.G. Delbon who himself drew up the plans for a new
church seating 800 people. Cost of property was $10,000 with
construction costs of about $20,000. It was built at the corner
of 8th Place and Francisco street where the congregation remained
until it was disbanded in 1989 - A 100 Year History.
First Covenant Church was notable for the large number of
people that went out as full time missionaries, ministers
and Christian workers. Also, over the years it provided leadership
for the establishment as follows: in 1940 the Elim Covenant
Home for the elderly in Tujunga, a forerunner of the Mt. Miguel
Covenant Village; in 1957, the founding of Alpine Conference
Center, and in 1965, established a Spanish speaking ministry
under one membership with the English ministry which ultimately
became two separate ministries. This is reportedly the first
Spanish language church in The Evangelical Covenant Church,
from the proceeds of the sale of the church property, it gave
leadership and one million dollars for the establishment of
CHET (Centro Hispano De Estudios Teologicos), the Spanish
language Theological School in Bell Gardens. An additional,
approximately four million dollars was divided in half. The
Spanish ministry used their half to buy a church facility
in Bell Gardens, which they share with CHET. The English ministry
used theirs to benefit Covenant ministries ($1,968,785) and
other ministries ($19,500).
early 1900's, Pastor A.G. Delbon, of the Los Angeles church,
wrote as follows. "Now that the Lord had blessed the
(Los Angeles) church, both spiritually and materially, we
were moved to widen our borders and work was started in San
Pedro. First the place was visited on Sunday afternoons by
the preacher or someone else. Later a pastor was called in
conjunction with the "California Missionsforening"
(predecessor to Pacific Southwest Conference), and the church
contributed $25.00 a month towards the ministry in San Pedro."
23, 1909, the Swedish Christian Mission Church of San Pedro
was organized with 12 charter members, and in 1910 was accepted
into the denomination. Meetings were held in Swinford's Hall,
Mellgren's Hall and even for a short time, at the Sailors
Rest Mission on the waterfront. In 1913 a church was built
on 6th Street between Pacific and Grand. The lot was small,
less than 50 feet wide, but big enough to build a parsonage
on the back.
members came from all walks of life, mostly Swedish immigrants,
and included building tradesmen, domestics, longshoremen,
cannery workers, bakers, etc. In 1920 a visitor, Victor Olson,
wrote to his family in frigid Jamestown, New York, that he
had discovered something very desirable. What he had found
in San Pedro was a very mild climate; houses on a hill overlooking
a pretty harbor, a blue ocean and a church filled with spiritually
minded believers. The appeal was so great that he moved his
family west, and because of a housing shortage they lived
in the parsonage for a period of time. Olson became church
chairman and served more than twenty years.
the years the little warm-hearted church never grew large
but brought its children up "In the way", true to
the gospel in outreach, witness and support of missions. In
1945, Vanette Thorsell, one of the young people of the church,
heeded the call to foreign ministry and served in the Congo
for approximately 40 years before dying on the field. As time
passed, it became evident that the church was hindered in
its growth as a small downtown church with no parking and
sandwiched between two larger churches. Change was on the
way. They began to look for another site.
meantime a group of Covenanters, largely from the Los Angeles
Church, began bible study meetings in their homes in the Torrance
area. They wondered how the Lord would lead them. Should they
start a new church? The superintendent of the conference,
Rev. Gordon Nelson, saw an opportunity for unity of purpose.
He encouraged the two groups to consider joining together.
of 1956 the San Pedro church voted to dissolve and sold its
facility on 6th Street. They then bought 2.1 acres of open
land in Rolling Hills. In 1957 the two groups met in the Torrance
home of Evert and Carmen Anderson. With 54 charter members,
the Rolling Hills Covenant Church was established. For a time
the fledgling church met at the Miraleste Elementary School
until 1959, when they moved into their first new building
on Palos Verdes Drive North. Since then they have bought additional
property and built a mega-church, one of the biggest in the
Covenant. Its ministry however, remains the same as what Victor
Olson found many years earlier: a church filled with spiritually
early 1900's a student at North Park College, Frithiof Peterson,
was advised by doctors to interrupt his studies and seek a
better climate for his "broken down health." Moving
to Southern California he served as an interim pastor at the
Swedish Mission Church of Los Angeles. This lasted only a
few months, as his strength did not allow him to continue.
He later moved to San Diego where he met other Swedish Christians
who were seeking the will of God in their lives.
30, 1912, the Swedish Salem Church of San Diego had its founding
meeting in the home of Carl and Sophie Hallstrom. Founding
Pastor Frithiof Peterson was named vice chairman/secretary,
C J Jacobson chairman and Carl Hallstrom treasurer. These
three plus 7 ladies were charter members. Rev. F.O. Kling
of the Los Angeles church and its church chairman, A.J. Warner,
were there to give encouragement and the Los Angeles Young
Peoples Society started contributing $10.00 a month to the
work. Shortly after the founding meeting a Ladies Aid Society
was organized in 1912. As the little church grew, meetings
were held at various halls and locations. But, these earnest
people wanted a place of their own. On December 5, 1912, The
Ladies Aid Society held an auction netting $125, which was
the start of a building fund.
the church changed its name to Swedish Tabernacle and, in
1916 a property at 19th and E Street was purchased for $4500.
This included a house, which was moved to the rear of the
lot for a parsonage. By 1917 a church was built on the front
of the lot and dedicated to the service of the Lord. In connection
with the dedication, the funeral service of Rev Frithiof Peterson,
first pastor of the church, was held. He was thirty-eight
years of age.
the church name was changed to "Evangelical Covenant
Church" and in 1952 to "First Covenant Church."
Through the years First Covenant experienced many blessings
of the Lord as they ministered to many service men, and sent
out and supported a number of missionaries. The church helped
start new churches giving of its membership and finances to
do so, and was instrumental in the founding of Mt. Miguel
Covenant Village Retirement Center in Spring Valley.
a decision was made by the congregation to relocate from their
original downtown facility at 19th and E Street. A piece of
property in the Clairemont area of San Diego was leased. The
last Sunday service of the First Covenant Church of San Diego,
at its original site, was held on June 6, 1966. While meeting
in a nearby school, construction at the new site was begun
and on September 24, 1967, the new church was dedicated as
the Clairemont Covenant Church. This church in its old and
new locations has sponsored or assisted in the start-up of
a number of churches in the San Diego area.
Pasadena was a vacation destination for wealthy industrialists
from the Midwest and East. They came in the wintertime to
enjoy the mild climate and many built large mansions that
required domestic employees. In its early days many of the
members of the small band that formed the Pasadena Church
were Swedish single women from these homes. As early as the
year 1902 Rev. E.M. Carlson from the Los Angeles church traveled
to Pasadena to minister to the domestics who met together
for fellowship and bible study on Thursdays, their day off.
Successive pastors from the Los Angeles church sporadically
came through the years until 1919 when Rev. P.B. Wellander
came weekly for these meetings. On October 23, 1921, the group
formed itself into a Ladies Aid Society with eleven charter
members. They, together with other Swedish folk in the area,
were interested in forming a Mission church in the city. Under
Rev. Wellander's leadership the larger group formally organized
the Pasadena Church on April 19, 1922, with twenty-six charter
the church extended a call to Rev. A.G. Sporrong to become
the first full time pastor. He accepted the call and began
to minister to that fledgling organization on February 18,
1923. That same year the church decided to build a new church
building on property they had acquired at Lake Avenue and
Santa Barbara Street. The members sacrificed and gave generously
of their means. This was particularly true of the women domestics
who worked six days a week for limited salaries and spent
most of their remaining time, energy and money on behalf of
the church. Pastor Sporrong used his considerable talents
for the project. He traveled extensively in California as
well as in the East, singing, playing and preaching in order
to secure donations.
on the new church building was completed in 1924 for a total
cost of $29,185.45 with only $7,000.00 of debt remaining on
the property. The work flourished and Rev. Sporrong remained
until 1930. Through the years the Pasadena Church has acquired
much more adjacent property and still remains at the same
original location. Its close proximity to Fuller Theological
Seminary has influenced many students to enter the Covenant
the story of each of the first four start-up churches in the
Southern California section of the Pacific Southwest Conference.
Each one is remarkably different. Yet, as we think back, this
is just a continuation of the Book of Acts. We have a precious
heritage from our forefathers. May we, in our time, be faithful
to the trust that God has placed in our hands "
not weary in well doing for we (too) shall reap if we faint
not" 2 Thess 3:13. Time flies faster than we think.
FRANCISCO BAY AREA
by Marvel and Allan Johnson with assistance from representatives
of First Covenant - Oakland and First Covenant - San Jose.
Covenant Church - San Francisco
and twenty-five years ago in October 1877, the Swedish Tabernacle
of San Francisco was begun. Swedish immigrants were coming
to San Francisco in search of gold, or better living conditions.
Very few found gold. But many found Jesus, much, much better
than gold. Immigrants began coming by the thousands. The mission
field was growing large. The Swedish Tabernacle was the one
place where Scandinavian people could find familiar surroundings.
The Swedish language was, of course, a main ingredient.
the traditional early Christmas morning service, was the one
service many attended at home in Scandinavia and brought with
them to the New World. Some came having celebrated the evening
before with the residue of "spirits" still present.
Even so, the Gospel was presented in the power of the Holy
Spirit and souls were marvelously converted or renewed.
Carl Anderson became pastor of the San Francisco Church in
1886. He quickly became aware of the need for expanded ministry
in California. He began to enlarge his ministry in neighboring
communities. The "home groups" increased and larger
facilities became necessary. Pastor Anderson prevailed upon
other young ministers to come to California to help in the
expanding ministry. It became evident that there was a need
to unite these churches for a more effective work.
1902, representatives from six Covenant Churches in California
met at the Evangelical Colony Covenant Church in the Kingsburg-Riverside
area. The purpose of their meeting was to unite these churches
into the Svenska Evangeliska Missionsforeningen i California,
now known as the Pacific Southwest Conference of the Evangelical
Covenant Church. The six churches represented at that meeting
and the year of their beginnings included: San Francisco-1877,
Oakland-1887, Fresno-1888, Los Angeles-1889, Kingsburg Colony-1890,
and San Jose-1892. Rev. Albin Anderson of First Covenant -
San Francisco was elected as the first conference board chairman
and was followed by Rev. Carl Anderson of First Covenant -
San Francisco who served as chair from 1904 to 1931.
the first thirty years of the conference, the Swedish language
prevailed. This naturally limited the outreach into the community.
The young people of immigrants needed services in English.
To maintain the Swedish language was not the priority. To
make Christ known was the overwhelming desire of God's people.
By the early 1930's, most or virtually all of the earliest
churches had English services. In some places Swedish died
more slowly. Churches grew greatly as English became the dominant
earthquake of 1906 destroyed the Swedish Tabernacle in San
Francisco. One year later, the church made up entirely of
immigrants with little resources, built the present church
on Dolores Street debt free.
God for the dedication of the early pastors and lay persons.
Our churches today are the result of God's faithfulness to
Covenant Church - San Jose:
21, 1892, a group of eight people under the leadership of
Rev. N. P. Wallgren, met in San Jose, in a rented hall, and
organized themselves into the Swedish Evangelical Mission
Church of San Jose, California. By the turn of the century
the congregation was growing to the point that the building
of a church was becoming a top priority. Rev. J. Osborn and
his small band of enthusiastic people purchased a lot at 136
W. San Carlos.Street for $1350, and by February 1904 the church
building was dedicated.
immigrant Swedes could hardly have imagined what 100 years
would bring. They did have confidence in a great God. They
knew that He wanted them to have a special role to play in
leading people to Christ and that He wanted them to be partners
with other Covenant churches in a world wide mission.
Covenant Church - Oakland
late 1880s, at the invitation of a group of Scandinavian families
in Oakland, Pastor Carl Anderson of the San Francisco Swedish
Mission Church held meetings on Sunday afternoons in homes
of various persons who became the core group for the Swedish
Emmanuel Church of Oakland. In 1887, Rev. N. J. Lindquist
began his ministry as the first pastor of the small group.
His monthly salary was $25 and raised to $30 when he married.
Fourteen charter members formed the church officially on October
its first thirty years of existence, the Oakland church was
characterized by three distinctives that continued to shape
its ministry throughout following years: a strong mission
emphasis evidenced in the sending of missionaries to China
and South America, concern for teaching youth through establishing
branch Sunday Schools, organizing a Youth People's Society
and holding confirmation classes, and excellence in music
with the ministry of a choir and string band. Learning to
live with change was a challenge for the young congregation
that experienced five facility locations in its first 30 years
and the leadership of nine pastors. Amid these changes, however,
they grew steadily and experienced the stable lay leadership
of J. S. Swenson who served as chairman for 25 years until
terminating service in 1914. By 1930 the membership of the
church was recorded as 203.