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Memoranda of St. Mark's Nascent Days

Erick Pellinen

For it is God Who is at work within you, giving
you the will and the power to achieve His purpose.
Phil. 2:13, Phillips transl.

In recreating data from the nascent days of this evangelical Lutheran church we had better incorporate into our focus something about the state of things at the time.

In 1899, Warren's lone steel mill had sent a scout to Fairport Harbor, Ohio to enlist, if possible, laborers. As far as particulars go, he was instructed to acquire immigrant Finnish men. Results show that a small company of such did come with a few more trickling in as time lapsed. Thus this oldest county seat on the Connecticut Western Reserve got its first evangelical Lutherans of Finnish descent.

This mankind was young, extraenous, and easily trekking so that, as yet, they were not easily given over to cooperative activity in the more permanent institutions of mankind such as the church. Impermanency marked their outlook for the present. For the fleeting moment they chose to be foot loose and fancy free. But not for long.

On the thirteenth of April in 1895 these settlers founded the Hedelmä (Fruit) Temperance Society. The group did soon bear fruit. That very year in July the minutes of the society show that an Alex Niemi had proposed the establishment of a congregation, which, however, proved immature since the move lacked sufficient support. That summer the temperance fraternity contracted to import visiting clergy from Ashtabula Harbor, Ohio for an occasional devotional cottage prayer service. Very occasional they were.

A little folio has survived, overlined 1898 and entitled "Carried to organize a congregation". Beneath it are the signatures of over thirty persons. Nothing more is recorded of the venture. Obviously the steel mill slackened down - as it often did - giving cause for many of our friends to leave town for employment. Another attempt had come to naught.

Nevertheless, "God is at work within". A smouldering desire to hear the Word of God preached was there, judging by the further notations now in the temperance society's minutes that a decision was reached to have a pastor from Ashtabula Harbor come down for worship services in Warren. Heeding the call, pastors Kaarlo Huotari, Tiitola and Juho Kallen frequented here. They were remunerated five dollars per trip at first, and six dollars similarly a bit later. Their ministrations, perforce, were on Thursday evenings - the only time the maids had off, and their company was desirable even as their coming had been. Furthermore, these overburdened pastors were busy with their regular charges on Sundays. To guarantee the salary paid them, appointed collectors visited all disposed to their services, in advance. Prior to 1899 - when the first temperance hall was erected - even the worship services were in houses, henceforth, rent-free in the new edifice.

Something new was added in 1901. The first bazaar benefiting the salary-fund was a success. The net proceeds of sixty-one dollars encouraged our friends mightily. They decided to have regular monthly visitations by a pastor. The Rev. Kaarlo Salovaara of Finland had just taken charge of the Fairport Harbor, Ohio parish. He consented to the regular service, which he performed with assiduous devotion.

"God is giving the will to achieve." Off and on, private conversations turned to the subject of a possible organized church, indigenous to the needs of our friends so far away from their parental homes. This writer feels that they came to naught only for the lack of a solid motion. Some of the hesitation may have come from the statistical fluidity of the Finnish community, which varied from one hundred to one hundred fifty up through 1910, but particularly at this time. Size and permanence did not come until the storm clouds of the First World War brought with them a hail of plants, industries and peoples into Warren.

Yet, in 1903, the growing desire for a regular congregational activity came to flame. It was generally spoken of. This writer feels that no other explanation for it can be given than that expressed in the verse that introduces this article. God was at work, His time had come. Our friends were sufficiently burdened about their desire to speak about it to their pastor as he was on his December visit in 1903. Pastor Salovaara proposed that there be a duly called meeting about it after his next monthly service. All approved.

Page 12-13 in: Fiftieth Anniversary. St. Mark's Ev. Lutheran Church. Warren, Ohio. 1904-1954. Warren, Ohio 1954.

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