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Bethel Baptist Church, Worcester, Mass.

Arthur Johnson

Baptist work was begun in 1897, when a student pastor, Matts Esselstrom in company with Rev. Oscar Tornquist came to visit some people whom he knew from Finland. Calling people together in homes many were saved and baptized.

Rev. Esselstrom was called to hold meetings at Christmas time, 1897. John J. Fors, who later became pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church at Duluth, Minn., and also served in pastoral work in Finland, was converted that time.

The organization of the Calvary Baptist Church took place August 10, 1902 with 26 charter members, mainly transferred from Ishpeming Baptist Church. Services were held in homes and halls until 1915 when a house was purchased and remodeled. It was later sold and the present building bought in 1928.

In 1949 a parsonage was erected. The members of the church as well as willing friends donated the time for the building.

The following pastors served the church the last 59 years:

Matts Esselstrom served at various times, the last period 1929-1930. John Berg 1913, C. W. Nordling 1917-1918, Axel Edwards 1920-1922, also in 1927, J. W. Isaacson 1938-1940, Severin Bernas 1946-1947, L. T. Justune 1949-1951, Emil Nylund 1951-1955, Arthur Johnson 1955 until the present time. Besides, Matt Mattson, Alex F. Olson, and others have filled the pulpit. Of our own members, Andrew Backlund, John Peterson and Edward Anderson have served with the word of God.

The ladies organization and Sunday School have faithfully served the people of the community, also the young people's society.

Many and wonderful revivals have been experienced with such men of God as Rev. Torrey Johnson, Rev. Pat Malone, Rev. David Anderson, Rev. Carl Antonson, Rev. John Berg and Jacob Bakk.

The last few years God called and equipped Ruth Bertell to serve as Missionary Nurse in India and her brother Bernard Bertell to serve as pastor of Conference Churches, presently in British Columbia.

During the period of our present pastor, God has been pleased to add unto the membership and seemingly the present church building is not adequate to house people in the church activities.

Calvary Baptist Church is grateful to the Lord, but also to the Baptist Mission Union and the Baptist General Conference, who have helped us financially.

Presently, there are two charter members living, John Peterson and Mrs. Emma Lindstrom.

To God who has faithfully blessed us in the past we look with confidence in days to come and know He will prosper His work. Jeremiah 33:3.

The history of the Baptist work in Negaunee goes as far back as 1897. Rev. Matt. Esselstrom, a student pastor in the Republic Swedish Baptist Church that summer, came with Rev. Oscar Tornquist, a classmate from Morgan Park Seminary, who was then in Ishpeming. They came together to look up some people that Rev. Esselstrom had known from the old country. After much questioning they found their way to Buffalo Location where some of them lived, and they were well received. They stayed three days and had services both in the afternoons and evenings to accommodate those who worked on different shifts in the mines. Their preaching and singing proved to be very fruitful in that souls were saved. They returned two months later, with the same good results. Several were saved and baptized in the Ishpeming Swedish Baptist Church. The work here then became a mission to the Ishpeming Church, whose pastor was C. O. Dahlen. The Mission called Rev. Esselstrom, who had then won much love and respect of our people, to preach in Negaunee during Christmas vacation, 1897.

John J. Fors was converted during that time. He later became a preacher of the Gospel. He studied in Morgan Park Seminary at Morgan Park, Illinois. He served the church here and in Duluth, Minnesota in the church that is now known as the Ebenezer Baptist Church. From there he went to Finland and served the Baptist Church in Larsmo. This man of God, who many considered outstanding in many ways, God took home to Glory as it seemed in the prime of his life; the year was 1912. Rev. Dahlen had served faithfully and given as much time as he could to the Negaunee field, and the work was going forward.; Then the need was to organize a church here, and that took place August 10, 1902 with 26 former members of the Ishpeming church. Delegates from four churches were present. They were Rev. C. H. Ekblad of Menominee, Rev. B. M. Johnson, Daggett, Rev. K. A. Lundin, Iron Mountain, Mr. J. A. Johnson and Mr. A. Larson of Ishpeming. The church was called the Swedish Finnish Baptist Church and the name was later changed to the present name, Calvary Baptist Church. The Congregation met for services and Sunday School in rented halls until 1915 when a house was bought and remodeled to a meeting place. Mr. John V. Rudness, for many years a member had charge of the work. This first and much-loved church house was sold to the mining company in the year of 1927. Our present building, which proves to be much too small now, was built and dedicated in the fall of 1928.

A number of pastors have served here during the years: Maybe space wouldn't allow to mention all, including Evangelists at Revival Meetings which have been held during the years, and all the student pastors who have served the church. We want to mention some of the pastors who have served. Rev. C. O. Dahlen and John J. Fors have been already mentioned. Mr. Matt Mattson 1905-1906, Rev. Esselstrom at various times, the last during 1929 and 1930, Rev. John Berg the summer of 1913, Rev. C. W. Nordling 1917-1918, Rev. E. B. Peterson for some time, Rev. Axel Edwards 1920-1922 and again in 1927, Rev. J. W. Isaacson 1938-1940, Rev. Severin Bernas 1946-1947, Rev. L. T. Juntune 1949-1951, Rev. Emil Nylund 1951-1955. Our present pastor, Rev. Arthur L. Johnson was called shortly after Rev. Nylund left in 1955 and accepted the call. We cannot forget to mention in our history that Rev. Alex F. Olson for many years pastor in the Bethel Baptist Church in Marquette, Michigan preached to us every other Sunday afternoon for a number of years in times when we did not have our own pastor. He served us faithfully at every occasion including weddings and also at funerals.

The church has been blessed with local talents also. In times when there was a need to fill the pulpit in both leading and preaching, Andrew Backlund, now home with the Lord, was for many years a faithful witness here. John Peterson, still living, one of the two charter members, served faithfully through the years. Edward Anderson for many years Sunday School Super-intendent and Treasurer of the church served the church faithfully in various ways. He and his wife Irene are now living in Florida. Missionary John Lindgren showed much interest and was active too in the early years. Missionary Andrew Blomquist visited among us for many years and the work here was very dear to him. Many of the young people who have been won to the Lord have gone to larger cities and other places where they are active in the Lord's service. There are two of our young people who are engaged in fulltime service as missionary and pastor.

Miss Ruth Bertell now Missionary Nurse in India, and Rev. Bernhard Bertell serving a church in British Columbia. The Women's Missionary Society has been shown in different activities to win the young people that surround our area.

God has shown His favor to us here especially in recent years in that He has poured out His blessing in many wonderful ways. Souls have been saved, and added to our local fellowship for which we are most thankful.

We want, at this time, to render our thanks to the Mission Union and the General Conference in times past when financial help has been needed and they have both so graciously assisted.

We have in our organization many who are faithful and have stood by, and we are thankful for Rev. and Mrs. Arthur Johnson. We all rejoice together for victories won at the present and in the past. We trust God and know that He will lead us in the future as we make plans for expansion of our present building, as the work is progressing to the place where we need more room to accommodate those who come and worship and are being trained and taught the ways of the Lord.

At the time of this writing there are two charter members still living: Mrs. Emma Lindstrom and Mr. John Peterson.

It is with grateful hearts that we claim the promises of God. We have seen His promise become a reality in our work here in Negaunee, Michigan. "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not." Jeremiah 33:3.

This article was submitted by Mr. Alex Bertell a faithful and willing servant of the Lord, and one who has done much to further the work of Christ here at Calvary Baptist, in Negaunee.

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. 22-26.

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