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Messiah Lutheran Church 1881-1931

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headquarters of ministers and theological students. It is not surprising, therefore, that another of the Bergh daughters, Emelia, later became a minister's wife, united in marriage to Rev. P. O. Bersell, of Ottumwa, Ia., now President of the Iowa Conference.

A few of the decisions, made during Rev. Johnsson's pastorate, which possibly have less historical value, but yet might hold some interest, are the following :

Jan. 13, 1893—Decision made to buy 2 dozen "Psalmbooks", to be placed in the church for the use of those who might have neglected bringing books with them.

Jan. 22, 1897—Motion carried to require the delegate to the Conference to pay his own expenses, but exempt him from his church dues for the year.

Sept. 28, 1897—Decision to take down the fence which stood in front of the church and the parsonage.

Feb. 11, 1898—Decision to install electric lights in the church.

Jan. 27, 1899—Eight men volunteered to serve as janitors during the year, on condition that the remainder of the debt to Augustana College, which was of long standing, be paid by the congregation that year. It is interesting and encouraging to see from the records that the debt was paid that year.

Before Rev. Johnsson left, Rev. F. A. Linder of Lemont, Ill., was called and accepted the pastorate. Just when he arrived to take charge, the records do not indicate. But it is very evident that his vigor and dynamic personality soon made themselves felt in the church. On August 10th, 1900, only a few months after his arrival, a most important business meeting was held. And the most remarkable feature of that meeting is the promptness of the action taken. But let Rev. Linder himself tell the story through an excerpt from his pastoral report, translated into English : "When I came to this congregation, several told me that there had been some talk of repairs to the church; but then came the change of pastors as a deterrent. I was asked what my opinion was, that is how much ought to be done. After taking all things into consideration, I drew a plan and showed it to several of the officers of the church and to a few members. My plan was considered good, and I was encouraged to secure complete architect's plans, which was done. At the extra business meeting which was called (August 10th) for the purpose of examining the plans, these were accepted and a building committee was appointed and instructions given. Subscription was

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started and the work begun September 16th.- This is the story of the building of the front part of the auditorium, with the choir lofts and the chancel. Certainly, the work was well done and resulted in great benefit to the church; for not only was the auditorium enlarged considerably, but for the first time in its history the church had a room for meetings of a social type, in the new basement.

There seems to have been a spirit of enthusiasm among the people during the early days of Linder's pastorate, which enabled the congregation to undertake big things with utmost confidence. For not only was this large addition to the church built, but a pipe organ also was purchased and installed in time for the 20th Anniversary on May 17th, 1901.

Reverend Linder was a man with a fine sense for everything churchly. Church, to him, stood for not only religion in the narrowest sense of the word, but for everything that was noble and fine, for culture in a broad sense. He desired to center everything in the church. For this reason he urged the people to bring children to the church for baptism, rather than to have them baptized in the home or in the parsonage. Weddings also should be held in the church, he thought, and of course, church members should be buried from the church.

The progressive spirit of Linder was shown in his conception of the Sunday School. Already at his first annual meeting he emphasized the importance of efficient teachers, and considered it advisable for himself to become the Superintendent. One year later he still complains of the great need of teachers and of lack of interest on the part of the parents. Of course, the same conditions prevail in many churches most of the time, but all too often pastors will let things run along the line of least resistance. Not so with Rev. Linder. He scored the teachers for irregularity in attendance and strove to raise the standards of the school, at the same time stimulating interest among the parents.

It is significant that several years before any considerable amount of instruction in English had come into our Sunday School, Rev. Linder, in 1904, made the following statement in his pastoral report : "Our Sunday School does not exist for the purpose of teaching the children the Swedish language, but to impart to them Christian knowledge."

It is equally significant for setting forth the conflicting ideals and cross-currents of opinion that characterize the transition-period, from which we are just emerging, to note that six years later the Sunday School Superintendent, in his annual report brings out a diametrically opposed standpoint. He writes in 1910: "Sunday School Teachers put too little stress on the use of our Swedish language in the class in-

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struction. For the true welfare and advantage of the children and for the future existence and growth of our church, as a Swedish Lutheran communion, it is of great importance that we still use this language in our instruction, and it might be considered as one of the most important purposes of the Sunday School to do this. It is therefore desirable that we put forth more effort during the short period which is available only on Sundays for the religious instruction of our children, to use, as far as possible, that language exclusively, which we rightfully may call our own. And this should be an easy matter, as long as we use only Swedish text books in the instruction."

We notice from the above quotations that in the progress of the church work, the same ground is gone over time and again, now forward, now backward. It reminds one of two opposing armies who with alternating success surge forward and backward over a contested area.

There is no doubt that as one year after another passed, Rev. Linder felt more and more alone in the work. In 1903, he expresses mildly dissatisfaction with the Deacons and the Trustees. One feels that he has in mind a lack of cooperation and aggressiveness. And in 1904 he writes in his pastoral report: "It is impossible for one man to take charge of so many organizations, and keep them all alive. It would be well if some one would take on the responsibility for some of them. Then a better result would be shown."

Year after year the note of disappointment sounds more pronounced. In 1905, he reports that the mid-week services are poorly attended, and asks the Deacons to consider carefully whether it pays to keep them up,—a question which doubtless has been asked by pastors many times since. He complains that so many fail to do their financial duty to the church, stating that if $1,250.00 came in through the annual dues, this would cover all salaries. He suggests that "Perhaps a thorough house-cleaning in the church would be wholesome", and urges that special care be exercised in the choice of Deacons and Trustees.

It is not surprising therefore to find that Linder resigned in 1905. His ministry in Marquette is typical of what often happens in our churches. An able and active pastor arrives and is received enthusiastically by the people. What he proposes the first year is carried out with vigor. Gradually, however, the enthusiasm dies and his own zeal is chilled, until, after a few years he is sufficiently discouraged to leave. There are just two medicines for this ill: more constant congregations and more patient and persistent ministers.

One or two interesting decisions during Linder's pastorate might

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be mentioned. In 1902 this congregation went on record as being in favor of the division of the Illinois Conference in such a way that the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin would become an independent conference. In August, 1904, it was decided to install a central steam heating plant for both the church and the parsonage. This was done, but as a matter of fact, the arrangement proved so unsatisfactory that after two winters it was discontinued.

At Linder's resignation the Church entered a period of approximately three years during which great difficulty was experienced in getting a permanent pastor. The meetings that were held for the purpose of calling a pastor, were very poorly attended. And those who were sufficiently interested to come could not easily agree on a candidate. After two special meetings, Rev. S. J. Sebelius, then of Blue Island, Ill., now Professor in our Theological Seminary, was called with a discouraging majority. The call was rejected. A second call was sent, this time unanimous, but to no avail, and the congregation found itself still without a pastor at the annual meeting in January, 1906. Mr. K. M. Holmberg, now pastor in Ortonville, Minn., had been secured to fill the pulpit temporarily and served the congregation very capably for about a year. With Mr. Holmberg as chairman, the meeting decided to invite Rev. J. A. Sandell from Des Moines, Ia., to preach here with the avowed purpose of putting him up as candidate. The official records have nothing to say as to the result of this decision, but it is evident that nothing came out of it, for already on Feb. 14, Student Anders Andre of the Theological Seminary, was called to take charge after his ordination the following June.

This call was accepted to the great satisfaction of the Messiah Church. The joy, however, was of short duration, for already in September of the following year, Rev. Andre resigned. Efforts were made to induce him to stay longer, since the church had had such difficulty in securing a pastor, but were not successful. He was determined to leave, and did leave in November after only a year and a half in Marquette.

It might be well here to make the observation that up till the year 1913 the Messiah Lutheran Church had six permanent pastors, and of them, four were called direct from the Seminary. It is safe to say that as a general rule a young minister does not hit his best stride the first two or three years, but rather increases in efficiency and power after a few years of experience. It is fortunate for the church here that in almost every case, when a newly ordained pastor took charge, he

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stayed long enough to get "the feel" of the congregation and put in several very profitable years. It was a decided draw-back that Rev. Andre found it advisable to leave so soon after his arrival.

The outstanding event during Andre's time here was the celebration of the 25th Anniversary in the spring of 1906, at which occasion Rev. Frykman (then in Sycamore, Ill.) and Rev. F. A. Johnsson (then in Galesburg, Ill.) were present representing bygone days. The newly elected pastor, Andre, not yet ordained, and the acting pastor in charge of the congregation, Mr. K. M. Holmberg, also appeared on the program. The latter read an historical sketch of the Messiah Lutheran church, covering the 25 years of its existence.

With the departure of Rev. Andre, the congregation again faced the problem of finding a suitable candidate to fill the vacancy. The thoughts of the members again gathered around Rev. S. J. Sebelius in Blue Island, I11., and this time he was elected unanimously with a vote of 50 ballots, the largest vote cast for a candidate up to that time. It seems that the time of the vacancy had taught the congregation that more general interest in the affairs of the church had to be put forth if any candidate should be induced to come. However, Rev. Sebelius declined once more, and the situation looked discouraging. But it is darkest just before the dawn. Theological student Oscar Sandahl was called to take charge after his ordination in June, 1908. He accepted and came to Marquette in July, and with his coming the church again began an active and vigorous life. In the interim, Mr. Leonard Alexander, then a theological student, filled the pulpit. He was later ordained, but being in ill health, succumbed after but a few years of service as pastor in our Synod.

Rev. Sandahl found a responsive congregation, and says in his first pastoral report: "It seems that the congregation, during its vacancy, began really to feel the need of a pastor stronger than ever before." He also proved to be a leader of ability and strong convictions. He carried the souls of the individual members on his heart and in his prayers, and was zealous for cleansing the church from all impurity. Especially did he disapprove of the lodges and their inroad among the members of the church, and on occasions when the issue became particularly acute, such as church funerals of lodge members, he did not leave anyone in doubt as to his position.

Sandahl was an able preacher. His sermons are still remembered among the people of the church. He was forceful and outspoken, and not infrequently did members return home from church with their tem-

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pers ruffled. But they would come back the following Sunday for more of the same medicine. And in many cases that was exactly the medicine that was needed. Naturally, there were also those, who, under the same treatment, vowed they would never again darken the door of the church, and who actually have kept their vow.

But not only law was preached. The gospel too was given to sin- sick souls, who have since then remained faithful to their Saviour, and active in the work of the Messiah Church.

According to Rev. Sandahl himself, in his pastoral reports, the greatest enemies to the church's work are "the saloon-life, participation in worldly organizations hostile to Christ, and worldly amusements." He also states: "Some of the church's women take part in unchurchly and worldly organizations, where dancing, card playing, and drinking parties sometimes occur". That Sandahl kept well posted regarding the activities of his members is reflected in the following statement in 1912: "So far as I know, there has been a dancing party only in one home belonging to the congregation during the year."

The attendance seems to have been gratifying during this period, excepting that in 1913, at the annual meeting, Sandahl complains about the attendance, and hints that "perhaps a better successor to him might be able to draw the members to the services." This was evidently not an empty remark, for in September of that year, he presented his resignation, and left Marquette on November 30th.

More vigorous means were employed during Sandahl's pastorate for collecting the dues. A list was posted in the church which showed the status of every member of the church. It seems to have had its desired effect in bringing the delinquents to time, for the practice was continued for several years. On the other hand, the pastor commends the congregation for not using certain other means of raising money, such as "bazaars, theatrical programs, and other doings for the purpose of attracting people to the church and to collect funds." He also refers to "revival meetings" as "questionable" means, and commends the church for not using them.

The year 1912, however, seems to have been a particularly trying one, for the pastor states that additional debt had been contracted on account of the fact that members failed to pay their dues; that the Trustees had tried to collect, then the Deacons—but to no avail. In fact, it had been found necessary to drop from membership more than

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had been taken in during the year. Such conditions are likely to give any pastor a heavy heart.

But there were several bright features in this period that must be mentioned. The Messiah Sick Benefit Society was begun in 1909 and has been doing splendid work these many years. In 1911, weekly Bible studies were begun with the young people, and they proved a real blessing. The same year, the 30th Anniversary of the Church was celebrated, and the newly organized Superior Conference held its first annual convention in conjunction with this celebration. Several items of improvement on the church property were undertaken, chief of which was the excavation of the basement under the south part of the church, and the redecoration of the church proper. This work was underwritten largely by the Dorcas Society, and so it happens that the south room in the basement usually is called the Dorcas room. In connection with the redecoration of the church there is an interesting item recorded. It seems that for some time the pews in the church had been sticky on account of inferior varnish, and it seems to have been a matter of no small satisfaction to the whole congregation that these were thoroughly scraped and revarnished so as to be more comfortable.

For about one year after Sandahl's resignation, the chief activity of the church was to call pastors, while the pulpit was filled temporarily by Rev. Swanbom. Those called were: Pastors J. P. Borg, J. A. Benander, Fred Wyman, J. A. Ekholm, A. S. Pearson, M. L. Larson. All of them declined. Finally, Rev. Carl E. Lundgren, Waukegan, Ill., heeded the call sent to him, and, with his family, arrived here in the fall of 1914.

Again, we notice a distinctly new period beginning. The chief element of change is found in the fact that the English language now was introduced into the services. Just when it came into the Sunday School the records do not show, but it must have been used for some time in the case of children, in whose homes no Swedish was spoken. On January 1, 1915, it was decided to have the Evening Service in Swedish on the 1st and 3rd Sundays in each month. But, as if fear- ful of having gone too far in this, the same meeting decided "to use the Swedish in the Sunday School as much as possible."

If we should give a name to this particular period, perhaps the best one to be found is that hackneyed one, "the transition period." The phrase implies a passing or a progress from one stage to another, and in this case the two stages are characterized by the use of two different languages, the Swedish and the English. Everyone knows that in America English will become more and more the universal language for wor-

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ship as well as for education and culture. But the question has been and still is, how fast should this progress advance in our various individual congregations. In the study of this period, it is well to bear this issue in mind in order rightly to understand the historical events as they present themselves.

We find that after English had been introduced by arranging two English services per month, the same arrangement prevailed for seven years, until by reason of a growing demand for more English, it was decided in 1922 to feel out the sentiment of the church members as to the language question through a questionnaire. The returns from this questionnaire made it appear advisable to hold one morning service in Swedish each month, in addition to the two evening services.

Shortly after this decision, Rev. Lundgren resigned. The language question anywhere is touchy, and there is no doubt but that the friction which usually is developed wherever that delicate issue is in the foreground, was one of the contributing reasons why he resigned. But he had without a doubt fulfilled a very important function in the Messiah Lutheran Church. He had introduced the period of transition, which was inevitable, in a most gentle way. He was the type of person who would keep patient under most trying circumstances. He might lay himself open to criticism, but he would not antagonize. He was a gentle, peaceful, tolerant champion for progress in the language situation.

In connection with the discussion of the language question, it should be remembered that the World War falls within this period. It, too, became a potent factor in hurrying on the transition, in that it generated a general disapproval of all foreign language meetings throughout the land. Because of this, the Daily Vacation School also, which these many years had continued with more or less success every summer, was threatened with complete failure. For besides the feeling against instruction in foreign languages, there was, because of an increased emphasis on Americanization during the war, a tendency to look with suspicion on any other schools but the public school. Happily, this tendency soon disappeared, and the vacation school revived with a new purpose—that of teaching the Bible and religious knowledge chiefly. Instead of "Swede School", it now was called "Daily Vacation Bible School."

When the War is mentioned, it should be stated that the Messiah Church did her share for her country. Forty-six boys were in the service, and for four of them gold stars indicated that they gave their all.

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Of the forty-six boys, 20 sailed across, 26 were in training on this side.

Another element of change that marks this period as new was the introduction of the Envelope System. Already, before Rev. Lundgren arrived, a committee had been appointed and the matter investigated, and on Nov. 13, 1914, the Single Envelope System was adopted. It proved a success from the start, as it has everywhere, and it revolutionized the whole financial policy of the church. Stimulated by the example of patriotic giving for War chests, etc., the generosity of the members toward their church also increased. One might say that the Envelope System and the War together, forever banished the old plan of having dues, 75 cents per month for man, and 50 cents for unmarried women, which amounts actually seem to have prevailed until the time the new system was introduced. And now, even the memory of it sends a shiver through every enlightened church member. And so it came about that the minutes of 1915 tell of the first "every member canvass" which yielded $2,352.20, a neat sum compared with what the trustees formerly had scratched together from unwilling members. God be praised for progress!

It is, however, interesting to note how difficult it seems to have been to fully leave the idea of "so much per communicant." In January, 1917, it was decided that no pledge was acceptable that amounted to less than the Conference dues. It is plain that such a decision necessarily must mar the spirit of self-determined giving, the spirit of true stewardship. But here too we must bear in mind that it is a period of transition, and progress takes time.

Again during Rev. Lundgren's ministry here the Superior Conference met in Marquette, in 1922, and thus the present festivities mark the third time that Messiah in Marquette is host to the Conference.

Before leaving Lundgren's time of service, a word must be said about Mrs. Lundgren. Of all the pastors' wives in this congregation, she stands out as by far the most active one in the work of the Church. She was untiring in her labors with the music of the church, gave of her able leadership in the activities of the women, and poured out her large store of friendliness and love in visits to the sick, to the poor, and to those who needed encouragement. Yet she did not neglect her home. The fact of the matter is that those who knew her marvelled that she could find time and strength for her many duties.

As Rev. Lundgren left in 1922, the language question seems to have been perhaps at its worst. In the pastoral report of Dr. Fletwood, who served the congregation during the vacancy, this fact is reflected

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in many paragraphs. He evidently tried to pour oil on troubled waters in preparation for the next regular pastor.

Rev. Carl H. Nelson, therefore, who came in the spring of 1923, had by no means an easy task before him. An altogether too sharp line had been drawn between "the young" and "the old" people in the church, and even the Sunday School was threatened with division along the line of the language cleavage. At least two years in succession, the Swedish and the English Departments had had separate Christmas festivals. But through firmness and tact Rev. Nelson handled the situation well, and the unity of the church was strengthened.

Rev. Nelson was particularly gifted musically and had a fine sense of the liturgically beautiful. Under his leadership, the choir made fine progress and became recognized as outstanding among the church choirs of the city. Not infrequently some worthwhile Cantata would be presented in the church, and usually to a large and appreciative audience. In addition to the church choir, which the Pastor himself directed, a Junior Choir of sixteen members was organized. And to give even more variety at festive occasions in the church, a male chorus sometimes also appeared, directed by the pastor-musician.

Nelson's ideal was to make the service churchly and attractive, and with his initiative the choir procured vestments in 1926. About the same time the whole church was redecorated, new electric light fixtures were installed, and pulpit and altar beautified with new hangings in green.

In regard to the ingathering of souls into the church, Rev. Nelson felt the lack of interest among the parishioners and the Board members. The urge to reach out for the unchurched, he expresses in these words, in 1927: "Those who never come near the house of God we must find and help them to come." He appeals for a true and real missionary spirit, but finds but weak response.

In 1925 a "Building Fund Committee" was elected at the annual meeting. It was the pastor's clear intention in this way to lay the foundation for a fund that would enable the congregation in a not too distant future to build a new edifice. In fact, his dream was that the 50th Anniversary should be celebrated in a new church. But instead seemingly without official authorization, this Committee by its own decision undertook only to redecorate the present church. And so not a single step was taken toward the goal that even now clearly lies before the Messiah Lutheran Church, and which it surely must strive to reach

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soon, if it is to maintain its vitality and growth. Without a doubt, this turn of affairs was a severe blow of disappointment to the pastor.

In regard to the language situation, a little progress must be reported. In 1926, "half and half" was adopted as the policy, and this policy was maintained until the arrival of the present pastor.

Other interesting and significant facts from Rev. Nelson's time of service are: the organization of a live and active Brotherhood, the adoption of the envelope system for the Sunday School, and the beginning of a splendid Junior Choir which is still active.

Early in 1928, Rev. Nelson resigned to accept a pastorate in the East, and after an attempt to secure Rev. Gideon Olson, then of McKeesport, Pa., the present pastor was called in the fall of 1928. He accepted and arrived on the field about a week before Christmas.

Since the present pastor is also the writer of this sketch, it seems best to omit here anything that pertains to his pastorate. A few facts from the work of the congregation during the last two years will be found in the special article covering this period, and appearing elsewhere in this volume.

To give a comprehensive view, a summary, of the fifty years that the Messiah Lutheran Church has existed as a member in the great Body of Christ, which is His church on earth, is not easy. To truly evaluate and correctly interpret the events and the developments as they are recorded, is impossible for a mere mortal. But it has been the wish of the author of this historical sketch, as he has filled page after page, to set forth as vividly as possible the life and the work of this church during the decades that have passed, that they may serve as lessons of warning, admonition, instruction, inspiration and incentive for the present and future generations of believers, who with all their heart and with all their powers will believe in and strive to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, their Saviour and their Lord.

O. H. Bostrom.

Untitled 1

Messiah Lutheran Church 1881-1931

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