THE BAPTIST CHURCH OF CONCORDIA
The union of the First Baptist Church and Swedish Baptist Church was celebrated Sunday, November 25, 1923. This is a very simple statement but the merger of these two Churches was not as simple as that. In the year 1952, as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of Baptist work in Concordia, and as we think of our present Church, we trust with pardonable pride, we at once become thankful to God for divine guidance, and grateful for the heritage which is ours in this Church.
As we think of our inheritance and of those to whom we should be grateful, we are reminded of two particular groups of people; first to those sturdy pioneers of faith who, in 1877 organized the First Baptist Church and Swedish Baptist Church of Concordia; second, to those faithful, who promoted, believed, prayed and labored so consistently that the two Churches should be united.
The merger of these two Churches had been considered at least lightly, at various times during their history. The use of the Swedish language was gradually discontinued in the Swedish Church until on January 1, 1923, the decision was made to use English exclusively. This seemed a propitious time to try to promote the union of the Churches. So, accordingly, a committee was named from the Swedish Church to meet with a like committee from the First Church, to discuss and work out plans with reference to this matter.
The committee from the Swedish Church was namely: Rev. C. W. Anderson, J. A. Huggerth, Mrs. John Ganstrom, C. A. Palmquist, Frank Carlson, Charles Fredrickson Charles Mellin, Gordon Huggerth, Mrs. Herman Ganstrom, Albert Palmquist and Lawrence T. Nelson. The committee from the First Church was G. C. Wilson, Silas Harvin, W. A. Clevinger, A. A. Stocker, Walter Huscher, Don D. Bramwell, Mrs. Robert Misell, Mrs. G. C. Wilson, Mrs. Henry Bevan, Mrs. C. P. Brewer and J. D. Caldwell.
As we think of the problems facing these committees working out the plans for the amalgamation, we must remember they had to deal with two Churches, each with its own sentiments, traditions and ties binding it to its past history, each with its own customs and habits. We would remember also, as we think of these people, that they were firm in their convictions and principles and strict in their adherence to their beliefs and customs. We do not believe this to be an uncomplimentary statement.
It required many conferences, many reports back to Churches, much giving and taking to work out the details. It required a vision, much prayer, much persuasion, an unselfish attitude and the forgetting of past Church pride to find a suitable ground upon which these two Churches could meet. We should be grateful to God for his guidance and to the individuals on this committee for their faith, for their vision, for their promotion, for their unselfish and consistent labor in this matter.
Terms upon which the two Churches could be united were agreed to in October 1923. A committee of three members from each Church was now named to plan a program to celebrate the union of the two Churches, to plan the reorganization of the two Churches into one body, to act as a nominating committee and to serve as pulpit committee for the united Church. The committee consisted of the following: Charles Fredrickson, August Olson, Frank Carlson, J. D. Caldwell, G. L. Wilson and A. A. Stocker. So, as before mentioned, on November 25, 1923, the union of the two Churches was celebrated in a festive way, the union to become effective January 1, 1924.
Special mention should be made of the two pastors, Rev. C. W. Anderson and Rev. Valentine Rites, who worked so untiringly, so unselfishly that this union might be consummated, knowing that it would end their pastorates.
The united Church was incorporated under the name of The Baptist Church of Concordia and began worship and service on January 1, 1924, with a membership of 340. In the selection of their first pastor, the Church was surely divinely guided. Rev. Walfred G. Holmberg, as a young man, was called to the pastorate from Fargo, North Dakota, and continued as pastor for over nine years, resigning as of October 31, 1933.
Worship services of The Baptist Church of Concordia were first held in the old First Baptist Church, but it soon became evident that it would be necessary to build a new building. So, early in 1925, praying and planning began, which resulted in the building of the present Church edifice by Busboom Bros. of Fairbury, Nebraska, at a cost of $47,000.
Dr. Ray York of Kansas City, Missouri was invited to conduct dedicatory services on September 26, 1926, a day of unusually impressive worship, a day ever to be remembered by those present, a day of sacrificial giving as the membership made five year pledges to cover the entire cost of the building before the Church was dedicated.
The members of the building committee that worked so faithfully, so patiently to provide for us our fine Church building were: Charles Fredrickson. Chairman: G. L. Huggerth, Secretary; G. C. Wilson, Treasurer; J. D. Caldwell, C. A. Palmquist, Richard Nordeen, N. P. Nelson, J. A. Olson, Walter H. Huscher, Mrs. Robert Misell, Mrs. Harry Smith, J. Albert Ostrom, Fred Carlson, C. Harve Culbertson and Mary Peterson.
In October of 1925, the Kansas Baptist State Convention was entertained by the Concordia Church assisted by the entire community. This was one of the "high lights" in the early days of the united Church. Rev. Holmberg resigned as of October 31, 1933, leaving Concordia to accept the pastorate of the Bethel Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. At the present time, he is Pastor of the Church at Stromsburg, Nebraska.
As we think of the ministry of Rev. Holmberg in Concordia, we think of an outstanding piece of work. He came to a Church made up of two Churches, each with its distinct habits, customs, traditions, and yes, prejudices. He was faced with a building program, which was most successfully and wonderfully accomplished. When Rev. Holmberg closed his ministry here, he left a truly united Church. As we think of his work here, so careful, so judicious, so fair and impartial, we know he was divinely guided, and we cannot commend him too highly for this labor in this Church.