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Our Congregation's History

Our congregation was officially organized on January 1st, 1919. The organization meeting took place in the German Lutheran Church on Crimmins Ave., the Bronx. At this meeting the following were present: Mr. and Mrs. Leander Anderson, Mr. and Mrs. Anders Tast and children, Mrs. Beata Erickson, Miss Alice Lutz, Mrs. Selma Ahlquist and children, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Swanson and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Forstrom and son, Mr. and Mrs. Emil Johnson and son, Mr. Matts L. Anderson, Mr. and Mrs. M. L. Johnson and children, Mr. and Mrs. Victor Johnson and children, Mr. Alfred Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Anders Bygden and children, Mr. and Mrs. Joel Sandvik and children, Mr. and Mrs Alfred Bjork and children, Mr and Mrs. Victor Lutz and children, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Holm and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Fridolf Gustafson and children, Mr. and Mrs. Victor Gustafson and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Johnson and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Carlson and son, Mr. and Mrs. Gideon Holm, Sandra Sund, Betty Skomars and Esther Hastbacka. The above attended the first meeting, but others signified their desire to join the congregation, so that, in all there were 126 adults and 70 children counted as charter members.

Most of the members of the newly formed congregation had previously been members of the St. Johannes Lutheran Church of Brooklyn. The initiative in organizing this, the mother-congregation was taken by Rev. Johannes Nystrom in the summer of 1913. In November, 1914, Dr. John Gullans, then located at Worcester, Mass., moved to Brooklyn and assumed full charge of the new congregation. Under the guidance of this gifted and energetic young pastor the congregation grew rapidly. It soon became evident that a large percentage of the members lived not in Brooklyn, but in Manhattan and the Bronx. Dr. Gullans was quick to realize that the traveling distance to the church was too great for those members who lived in the Bronx. Therefore he organized the social activities and Sunday School so that the Brooklyn people and the Bronx people each had their separate organizations. Almost from the beginning the two groups realized that eventually they would have to divide and establish two separate congregations. But with commendable wisdom the two groups worked harmoniously together as one organization until the day came that each group was strong enough to stand by itself. At the time that the Bronx group withdrew to form a separate congregation it received $2,364.15 as its share of the funds in the treasury of the St. Johannes congregation. Dr. Gullans continued to serve as pastor of both the mother church and of the newly formed daughter church in the Bronx.

After organizing as a separate congregation on January 1, 1919, we rented St. Peters Lutheran Church of East 140th Street, the Bronx. Here services were held until we moved into our own church on December 17, 1927.

The lots for the new church were procured in 1926 largely through the efforts of Mr. Victor Johnson. Soon thereafter a building committee was appointed consisting of Dr. John Gullans, Mr. Victor Johnson, Chairman; Fridolf Gustafson, secretary; and the following, Joel Sandvik, Oscar Holm, Gideon Holm. Decision was made to build the structure complete as to exterior, but to leave the main auditorium unfinished until more money was made available. The large auditorium on the first floor, intended for Sunday School and social purposes was completed in every detail. It was fitted up with a temporary altar and divine services were held here as well as socials. On the second floor, the main auditorium, where it was intended that the divine services should eventually be held, was left in an unfinished condition, the floor, walls, and ceiling being left in the rough. Two large rooms at the rear of the auditorium, one intended as a Sunday School room and the other as the pastor's study were finished largely thorugh the voluntary labor donated by the men of the congregation. On the third floor of the building a spacious and well planned seven room apartment served as the parsonage.

On August 7, 1927, the cornerstone of the new church was laid with appropriate ceremony. Dr. J. Alfred Anderson, vicepresident of the Conference officiated. Three days of festivities marked the dedication of the church on May 19th, 20th and 21st, 1928. Much yet remained to be done before the building could be said to be completed, but there was great rejoicing among our people for now we had a building of our own. It was a building that we could be rightly proud of for when completed it would rank among the larger and more beautiful churches of our Synod in this world metropolis. If the economic depression had not come as it did there is no doubt but what the building would have been completed within a short time. However the work had to be done in slow stages as the money was raised a little at a time. The work was done entirely by voluntary labor donated by the men of the congregation. Special mention should be made of the work done by Edmund Mattson in cutting out the panels for the choir platform and the chancel, and of the work done by Oscar Nylund in directing the painting of the auditorium. Others who helped to lay floors, finish the walls, build the chancel, and paint the church were members and friends of the church headed by a committee consisting of Fridolf Gustafson chairman; Harry Holmquist, Alfred Bjork, Hugo Nelson, and Edmund Mattson.

In 1935 the beautiful new electric fixtures were installed and the first service was held in the newly completed auditorium on Christmas morning, 1935. At the annual congregational meeting in January, 1936, Mr. Algot Bjork, who incidently has served gratis as the organist of the congregation since December 1st, 1932, urged that we install a pipe organ. This suggestion occasioned considerable debate because of the expense involved. Mr. Bjork and Mr. Fridolf Gustafson volunteered to serve on a committee to collect funds for the purchase of an organ. The Choir also gave several concerts for the benefit of the Organ Fund. Several of the organizations made donations. The result was that through the help of Mr. Schuster, a good friend of the congregation, we were able to procure an organ that had originally cost $12,500 and have it installed in the church before the end of the year. The complete cost of the organ, with harp and chimes including both the cost of the instrument and the installation, was a few dollars less than $1,000. When the organ was installed and dedicated the complete cost had been raised by the committee. The Luther League of the church also donated a beautiful altar painting of the Christ in 1936 although it was paid for in 1937. In 1938 the Swedish Young People's Society donated a pair of seven arm electric candlesticks and Swedish and English altar books. Friends of the congregation donated offering plates, altar and pulpit hangings and communion cloths. Mr Matts Gustafson collected funds to tile and paint the kitchen and the Sunday School donated the money to paint the Sunday School auditorium, hall and toilets. The ceiling of the church auditorium still remains in the rough but there is little doubt but what this improvement can and will be made in the very near future. Then we will have a church building that any congregation could well be proud of.

The following men have served the church in their respective administrative capacities during the last twenty years: as Pastor Rev John Gullans D.D., from January 1, 1919 to November 30, 1932; as Acting Pastor Rev. H. Nore Olson, B.D., since December 1, 1932 The following have served as Secretaries of the congregation, Carl Furn, Ture Anderson, Ture Sagfors, and Eugene Peterson. As Financial Secretaries: Atte Forss, Fride Janson, and M. L. Johnson. As Treasurers: Oscar Holm, Alfred Bjork, Gideon Holm, and Frank Forstrom. As Secretaries of the Church Board: Frank Forstrom, Matts Johnson, and Hugo Nelson. To these, and to all others who have in any way served the church we express our sincere thanks.

To date, for local operating expense the congregation has raised $123,000 and $4,129.28 for charitable purposes, in other words a grand total of $127,139.28.

The Ladies' Aid Society

Mrs. Elvira Furn, Chairman
Mrs. Carl Swanson Mrs. Fred Anderson
Business Managers
Mrs. Fride Jansson, Secretary Mrs. Algot Bjork, Treasurer

This organization had its beginning in June, 1913 when a group of women, about fifteen in number, met at the home of Mrs. Joel Bjork, 250 Brook Ave. Mrs. Bjork was elected chairman and also acted as Secretary and Treasurer. Mrs. Victor Johnson and Mrs. Alfred Bjork were elected Business Managers. On August 19, 1914, the society was reorganized and adopted its present name, "Myran" which means "ant" and surely that was an apt name for the ladies are busy as ants. The reorganization meeting took place in the home of Mrs. Amanda Skoog, 259 West 152nd Street. The Ladies Aid, consequently is celebrating its 25th anniversary during the same year that the congregation is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its existence. Well, the ladies always are a little ahead of the rest of us you know. They have given a very good account of themselves during these 25 years for the records prove that during that time they have contributed more than $30,000 to the church treasury. May God richly bless those who have given so unstintingly of their time, money, and labor in furthering the work of this organization.

Sunday School

Arne Wickman, Supt.
Elvira Furn, Asst Supt.
Alfred Bjork, Jr., Sec'y

Eugene Furn, Treas.
Georqe Nelson, Fin. Sec'y
Hildur Nelson, Cradle Roll

Next in importance to the preaching of the gospel is the teaching of the children in the Sunday School. Therefore in our Lutheran Church one of the very first organizations to be founded when a new congregation is organized, is a Sunday School. This was the case also with our Sunday School. In the fall of 1913 the first children were organized into a school in the home of Mr. and Mrs. E. Carlson, 1470 Southern Boulevard. Miss Elvira Bjork and Mr. John Skrivars were the first teachers. We thank God for the faithful teachers who have given of their time to instruct our children in the teachings of the Word of God.

Swedish Young People's Society

Rev. H. Nore Olson, Chairman
Elvira Furn, Vice-Chairman

Fride Jansson, Secretary
Fred Gustafson, Fin. Sec'y

Jenny Johnson, Treasurer

This organization dates back from the early days of our church's history. It is an organization existing primarily for social purposes and for the preservation of the Swedish language and culture among our people. It meets the fourth Sunday evening of the month and the attendance is as a rule very good.

Luther League

Alma Fransen, President
Henry Forstrom, Vice-President

Myrtle Furn, Secretary  
Robert Nelson, Treasurer

November 5th, 1919 is the birthday of this organization. It is our local branch of a national Lutheran youth organization numbering tens of thousands of our young people thruout the entire country. Its purpose is to foster loyalty to Christ and His church among our young people and also to give them a much needed outlet for their social life.

Published in 20th Anniversary 1919-1939. Pilgrim Evangelical Lutheran Church. 923 Woodycrest Avenue, The Bronx. P. 9-19 of 28 pages.

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