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|Rev. James E. Fryar||Gerrish Baptist Church, Roscommon, Mich.|
A few adults and children gathered together in the fall of 1918 as a Sunday School. Because of the earnestness of these few folks the Sunday School continued through the remaining months of the year and into the new year. On February 9, 1919 the first meeting of interested people in forming a church was held. Mr. Wilhelm Johnson opened his farm home for this occasion. At this meeting Mr. Matt Matson was chosen president of the group. Mr. Wilhelm Johnson became the first secretary and Mr. Fred. Siederman was elected treasurer (called at that time cashier). Mr. Jonas Carlson became the first deacon.
For the next several months the meetings were held once a month in the different homes of the community. The first regular meeting being held on February 16, 1919, at the home of Fred Siederman. It was decided at this meeting to be known as the Swede-Finnish Baptist Congregation in Roscommon, Michigan. The charter members were: Matt Matson, Sophia Matson, Jonas Carlson, Hannah Carlson, Fred Siederman, Wilhelm Johnson. and Menna Johnson.
The first missionary offering was $8.00 to the Finnish Mission Union. This caused rejoycing in the hearts of every members, because of the feeling that we were a real part of God's church.
The Early Days
It was at a meeting held on November 19, 1920, that we voted to become a member of the Mission Union. We also voted to pay a yearly payment of $1.00 per member to the Mission Union.
February 14, 1921 was the beginning of the Ladies' Aid. Mrs. Matt Matson was its first president. Mrs. William Johnson became its secretary, and Mrs. Jonas Carlson its "cashier." Meetings were to be held once a month in the various member's homes.
During the fall of 1923 Rev. Matt Esselstrom came to Roscommon and held two weeks of special meetings. During these meetings Carl Carlson received Jesus as his personal Saviour. Carl was the first of the young people to take a stand for the Lord.
In the Fall of 1923 Rev. Andrew Blomquist, Mission Union Missionary, came to Roscommon. By December 31, 1923 the church had grown from eight original members to fourteen active members.
On November 27, 1924, after a Thanksgiving fellowhsip dinner, there was a discussion concerning the erection of a church building. The question of where to build was answered when Mrs. Emma Martinson offered one acre of ground in memory of her husband. Erection of the building was begun in the spring of 1925.; We felt that we were ready for a building of our own for the beginning of 1925 the church had grown to twenty-two members.
We experienced a steady growth in membership and by 1931 we had thirty members on our church roll. During this year we had the privilege of having the annual meeting of the Mission Union held in our church.
We suffered a severe blow on July 19, 1940, when the Lord called Mr. Jonas Carlson home to be with Himself. As we look back over the years we realize that this death was the beginning of a decline in interest and attendance of our church due to the lack of support on the part of the people of the community. The doors remained closed most of five years, with the exception of a meeting occasionally.
In 1946 Rev. Toivo Tervonen was passing through Roscommon and offered to do some missionary work and assist the church to reorganize. Among those attending this organizational meeting were Mr. and Mrs. A. E. Hendrickson, Mr. Roy Smith, Mrs. Fred Niederer, Mr. Edwin Carlson, Mr. and Mrs. W. Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Siederman, Elmer Carlson, Mrs. Dagney Ogren, Mrs. Elsie Styoing, etc.
Shortly after this meeting Miss Elaine Tikka was sent to organize a Sunday School. She labored patiently for ten weeks. Much was accomplished. We then asked Rev. Edward Midura and some months later Rev. Severin Bernas, to hold meetings. Rev. Midura spent five or six weeks on the field in intensive work. Rev. Bernas held two weeks of special meetings. We were greatly blessed and strengthened through these meetings. In the summer of 1947 we extended a call to Pastor Bernas to become our pastor.
Pastor Bernas faithfully served the Lord and the church for about one and one-half years. During this time the church grew and became an established testimony in the community. Pastor Bernas felt the call of the Lord to become the pastor of the Elim Baptist Church in Detroit. His farewell sermon was preached on the second Sunday in January 1949.
The Lord was still working in our midst. He did not leave us pastorless very long. On January 30, 1949 He sent us as pastor Rev. James Fryar. Under his leadership the church is going forward. We feel that the Lord is directing us to enlarge our ministry, and at this time we are planning to build a new and larger building in the village limits of Roscommon. We trust that this lighthouse will direct many into the safety of the love of Christ.
Published in Fifty Years of Christian Stewardship 1901-1951. Prepared in commemoration of the Fiftieth anniversary of The Baptist Mission Union of America. 1951, p. 47-49.
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