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September 17th, 1908 the Calvary Baptist Church was organized by 38 members. 32 lived in Gardner and 6 in Fitchburg, Mass. The greater part of these members had previously belonged to the Bethel Baptist Church in Worcester, Mass.
As far back as 1895 Christians with a Baptist background came from Finland and settled in Gardner. As early as 1900 they began to hold meetings in homes on the West Side, where the people from Finland had settled. From 1903, when the Bethel Church in Worcester called Rev. M. Esselstrom from Finland as their pastor, the Gardner group also requested regular visits by him which was granted.
In 1903 a Mission Society and Ladies' Aid Society were organized. A Sunday School was started with five children at the first session. Anders Backman became superintendent and held that position with honor for 25 years. In January 1906 the Young People's Society was organized.
The Christians met in homes until 1904, when Anders Backman built a home on Coleman and Wasa Street and provided a large room, where meetings could be held permanently.
In 1906 Isak Roy, who for some time had witnessed and led the services with attending blessings, began studies at the Swedish Baptist Seminary in Morgan Park Chicago. He served the, Gardner group in the summer of 1907 and was called the following year as a permanent leader. Four months previous to the organization as a regular Baptist church, in May 1908, the present church building was started, and in January 1909 the auditorium was dedicated. The lower auditorium was finished 1911.
Since many of the Calvary church members lived in Fitchburg, meetings were regularly held there. The first pastor to serve there was Rev. Isak Berg in the summer of 1910. He was then attending the Morgan Park Seminary.
Seven ministers have found Calvary as the source of inspiration to enter the gospel ministry. They are: Isak Roy, Isak Berg, Emil Nylund, John Hugo, William Knight, John Berg, and John Nye. Isak Roy served the church fifteen years, Isak Berg, has served twelve years. Others of shorter periods are: Anton A. Anderson, E. H. Hart, J. A. Wicklund, Erick Frykenberg, Uno Esselstrom, and Peter Ockerstrom. Among faithful lay-members can be mentioned Anders Backman, Gustaf Sand, and Anders Nordman.
After the second term of Isak Berg as pastor Calvin Booth served two years and Robert Franzen two years, followed by William Knight two years.
Though the membership never has been large, the work has moved on without interruptions. 172 persons have belonged to the church. Of this number 114 have been baptized by the church. Of the 38 charter members the following are still living: Anders Backman, Gustav Sand, Mrs. Maria Rosenlund, and Mrs. Matilda Soderman, Rev. and Mrs. Isak Berg.
Due to various circumstances, the church has now only 22 remaining members, and negotiations are going on to merge with the Pine Street Baptist Church of Gardner. Rev. Walter Haggstrom is presently serving the church.
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. 62-63.
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