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September 17th, 1908 the Calvary Baptist Church was organized by 38 members. These were: Anders and Maria. Backman, Isak and Vendla Roy, Jonas and Edla Svarvar, Anders and Lisa Knight, Isak and Hanna Berg, Herman and Salami Sand, Gustaf and Ida Sand, Emil and Sofia Hendrickson, Carl and Lovisa Johnson, Amanda Sten, William Berg, Mathilda Soderman, John Berg, Maria Rosenlund, Edith Erickson, Katarina Ahl, Edla Gullman, John Nye, Anna Maki, Edla Skinnar, Edla Gustafson, Amanda Larson, Frans Welin, Lina Hudd, John Engman, Sofia Osterberg, Anna Rönnberg, Hilma Sten, and Emelia Kulla. Of these 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. Among these we find John E. Lindberg, Edward Svarvar, later known as Rev. Flemming, Emil Hoglund, Anders Backman, Matts Stark, Anders Wennberg, and some years later Maria Sundell, Lina Simonson, Emil Enholm, John E. Sten, Isak and Vendla Roy, and Bata Gran. Of these some joined the Pine Street Baptist Church, but as early as 1900 they began to hold meetings in homes on the West Side, where the people from Finland had settled. Pastors of the Swedish Baptist Church, J. A. Roos and Herman Litorin, often spoke at these meetings. The Worcester pastors, J. A. Vicklund and Carl Orre, who served the Bethel, Baptist Church those years, also came at times and preached the gospel. Otherwise John E. Sten and other laymembers brought the message. From 1903, when the Bethel Church in Worcester called Rev. M. Esselström from Finland as their pastor, the Gardner group also requested regular visits by him, which was granted, bringing great blessings to the struggling Christians.
Men's group of the Calvary Church.
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 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.
A group of ladies of the Calvary Church.
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 scource 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 has departed to be with the Lord and John Berg, and John Nye had to cease the ministry because of ill health. Isak Roy served, the church fifteen years, Isak Berg, the present pastor, and in his second term has served twelve years. Others of shorter periods are: Anton A. Anderson, E. H. Hart, J. A. Vicklund, Erick Frykenberg, Uno Essselstrom, and Peter Ockerstrom. Among faithful lay-members can be mentioned Anders Backman, Gustaf Sand, and Anders Nordman.
Though the membership never, has been large, the work has moved on without interuptions. 172 persons have belonged to the church. Of this number 114 have been baptized by the church. 127 members have moved to other places. The present membership is 45. In regard to the future, the Calvary Church has complete trust in the God who spared not His Son, but delivered Him up for us all, knowing He will bring His church to victory and glory.
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. 28-30.
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