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This review is not intended to be a complete historical document of the early beginnings of the Pacific Southwest Conference.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.

By Eleanor Swenson with assistance of LeRoy Satterberg and Greg Jonsson in February 2002

If you 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.

Fresno 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.

These 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.

During 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.

For some 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 of Fresno.

After 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 as pastor.

Between 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.

On February 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:

"Representatives 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.

Earlier 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.

The six 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. Carlson, Treasurer."

This organization 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.

Pages 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.

Times 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.

As we 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 me void."

Prepared by representatives of Los Angeles First and Pasadena Covenant in February 2002

In Southern 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.


The story 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 to God.

One of them who took a strong part in the work at this time was A.J. Warner, a layman. He wrote:

"I 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.

We announced 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."

On August 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.

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.

Los Angeles 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, USA.

In 1990-91, 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).


In the 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."

On November 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.

The early 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.

Through 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.

In the 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.

In August 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 minded believers.


In the 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.

On March 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.

In 1915 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.

In 1941 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.

In 1964 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.


In 1900 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 members.

In 1923 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.

The work 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 ministry.


So goes 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 "…be not weary in well doing for we (too) shall reap if we faint not" 2 Thess 3:13. Time flies faster than we think.

Prepared by Marvel and Allan Johnson with assistance from representatives of First Covenant - Oakland and First Covenant - San Jose.

First Covenant Church - San Francisco

One hundred 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.

"Julotta", 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.

The Rev. 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.

In February 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.

During 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 language.

The great 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.

We praise God for the dedication of the early pastors and lay persons. Our churches today are the result of God's faithfulness to His people.

First Covenant Church - San Jose:

On September 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.

These 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.

First Covenant Church - Oakland

In the 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 12, 1887.

During 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.