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The history of this church began with a group of Swedish speaking ladies from Finland and Sweden living in Jersey City, N. J. These earnest Christians formed a sewing circle to raise funds to call ministers of the Gospel to hold meetings in their native tongue. This circle is still active and known by its original name, Enighet, but the method of raising funds was changed from sales and auctions to offerings and freewill gifts. The result of the earnest prayers and labors of love of this society was the organization of Finnish Zion Baptist Church in Jersey City on Decoration Day 1905. A few years later this church was reorganized and given the name First Swedish Finnish Baptist Church. The services were held in Bronx, N. Y., since the members moved away from Jersey City for better employment in the Metropolitan area. In 1938 the name of the church was changed to Cypress Avenue Baptist Church, as the services were held in English.
The charter members were eighteen, and of these only Mrs. Victor Mattson of Gardner, Mass., is still alive. The others, who could be recalled, without a record, were Mr. and Mrs. John Uppgard, Mr. and Mrs. Victor Genberg, Mr. and Mrs. John Best, Mr. and Mrs. Wilhelm Beijar, Miss Sofia Boje, Mrs. Wm. Johnson, Mr. Carl Johnson, Miss Sofia Ostman, Mrs. Carl Johnson, Miss Hanna Gastgifvars, Miss Betty Soderberg and Mr. Victor Mattson.
G. A. Sjogren, John A. Kallman, Axel Edwards and Albert Esselstrom rendered their service to the church filling the pulpit from 1906-1911, when Rev. Erik Jansson from Finland came as a delegate to the Baptist World Congress in Philadelphia, Pa., and took up the pastorate for one year.
In 1914 Rev. Isak Roy accepted the call of the church. During his 14 years as the pastor of the church the New York City Baptist Society began to give substantial support to the church, partly financing the pastor's salary. The Women's American Baptist Home Mission Society also supported by commissioning two missionaries to work on this field in connection with the church. They were Miss Sandra Erickson (Mrs. Sigge) for about one year and Miss Lydia Hedborg (Mrs. Victor Bedell) for eight years. Rev. and Mrs. Roy and the missionary traveled together to hold meetings in Jersey City, in Englewood, N. J., and in Mt. Vernon, N. Y. A stringband and an orchestra under the capable leadership of Charles Osterlund were an additional blessing at the meetings, which were held in homes, in rented halls, in Brown Place Church, at the Alexander Ave. Baptist Church and beginning Christmas morning 1928, after the erection of the church building, in the church at East 137 Street and Cypress Avenue, Bronx, N. Y.
Following pastors continued the work at Cypress: Rev. John A. Kallman 1926-1932, Rev. M. Esselstrom 1932-1937, Rev. John Hugo 1937-1943, Evert Israelson 1946-1946, Rev. Harold Howard 1947-1952 and Rev. Roland Gustafson 1952-1956. Visiting pastors, missionaries as well as laymen filled the pulpit from 1956 until Rev. Richard Moberg accepted the call of the church in September 1959.
The S. S. and the young People's society date back to the beginning of the church. In 1950 the enrollment in the S. S. increased to over 200 with 20 teachers, all members of the church. Children's groups, the Junior church and, the Released School Time for grades 3-8 during the school term meet once a week. The Men's Brotherhood was organized in the fall 1959.
Three Mission Union conferences were held in New York, in 1921, 1939 and 1950. These were times of special blessing, for which all glory belongs to God.
The 50th anniversary of the church was celebrated with a banquet October 8, followed by a Jubilee service the next day. The speakers were Dr. H. C. Wingblade at the banquet and at the jubilee service. Dr. Stanley B. Hazzard, Secr. N. Y. City Baptist Society and Rev. Oscar Gunnerfeldt from the Mission Union.
Published in Sixty Years of Christian Stewardship 1901-1961. Prepared in commemoration of the Sixtieth anniversary of The Baptist Mission Union of America. 1961, p. 37-39.
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