GRANTSBURG––The church was filled with old and young, people who came from down the street in Grantsburg and others from great distances for a celebration. They gathered as one congregation to enjoy each other’s company and to mark the momentous occasion.
“Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before,” Peter Johnson said to the congregation as they entered the sanctuary.
Grace Baptist Church turned 150 years old over the weekend.
The milestone was marked by two services, Saturday evening and Sunday morning.
Saturday nights service included prayer, singing hymns, sharing memories, recognizing missionary work of the church, weddings celebrated at the church, former pastors and an extensive video outlining the history of the church.
Prior to the service on Saturday members of the congregation met to share a meal across the street from the church, then the group made their way to the church, which broke ground in 1969. That building was full of photos and other historical artifacts dating back to the mid-1800s in Sweden.
History of Grace Baptist
The beginnings of Grace Baptist date back to 1868 in Munktorp, Sweden when Gustaf Larson, Lars Anderson, Gustaf E. Erickson and Gustaf Anderson and their wives got on a train and traveled to Göteborg going through Köping. From Göteborg they took a boat to England and eventually ended up in Liverpool.
The group sailed across the Atlantic Ocean arriving in Quebec in October of 1869 and then took a train to Chicago. Next the men walked, yes walked, over 800 miles to Burnett County arriving in February 1869. That spring the wives arrived by train.
Some of the historical artifacts at the church last weekend included a trunk brought over on the trip that the itinerary was inscribed on. In that trunk was a Swedish communion set, offering baskets and a Swedish bible dating back another 100 years to 1769.
By June of 1869 the group organized themselves in the Canute Anderson School house.
From there, the Wood River Baptist Swedish Baptist Church was incorporated in August 1869. The church was completed by Christmas of 1870 at the intersection of Highway 70 and Williams Road. The church was later moved one mile north.
A few years later in 1884 the First Swedish Baptist Church was organized and in 1887 their church was built on W. Wisconsin Avenue. Both congregations worked together, including mission work. As they did more mission work over the years both churches dropped the name Swedish. Although both congregations continued to pass down the Swedish customs and cuisines.
Then in 1963 church boards from Wood River and First Baptist Churches met to discuss the possibility of merging the two congregations under the leadership of Rev. Gordon Johnson. Later that year both congregations voted in favor of the merger. The next year the combined churches met and incorporated under the name Grace Baptist church and planned on building a church in the Village of Grantsburg.
The groundbreaking was held in 1968 and the first services were held June 15, 1969.
A video played outlining the history of Grace Baptist that highlighted every pastor from both churches up until Pastors Brad Moore and George Selbher who lead the congregation today. The video also included short video clips from 1969 of members of the congregation entering and leaving the church after the final service.
As the video continued there were more reaction from the congregation in attendance. Funny photos were followed by loud laughter. Other photos from the past got big reactions as well. Many people were wrapped up in the nostalgia of the video.
After the video, microphones were passed around sanctuary for people to share memories from Grace Baptist. Those included stories of people connecting with God and continuing their education at Bethel University and becoming pastors. Other people remembered the youth pastor that was at the church when they were in their teenage years. One woman said that Grace Baptist was a great place for her during her childhood because of the hard times she had struggled with in school.
Another woman did mission work in Ethiopia and years later she returned. When she arrived she was met by a man who told her, “I waited 25 years to thank you.” He then recited John 3:16
Then they had all the members in attendance.
The service continued with Paul and Yvonne Bergman who read letters from former pastors who were unable to attend the anniversary service. Then Russ Erickson introduced a video sent in by former Grace Baptist Pastor Delmar Dahl. Pastor Brad Moore led the congregation in a closing pray.
The evening concluded with deserts being served in the basement of the church.
Grace Baptist has sponsored many programs over years and many of those were outlined in a historical packet produced by the church for the 150th Anniversary.
Those programs included Friendship builders or Young Marrieds, a class for young couples and newlyweds, Graceful Seniors, a group organized in the 1970s who met monthly for potlucks or for coffee and treats, Feed My Sheep and Clothe My Sheep, the ministry started their own food distribution and warm clothes were donated to the church.
They held their first Mortgage burning in 1976, “it was a service in which we praised God for His Faithfulness to His people serving him.”
GMG (Girls Meeting God) was brought up a number of times. It was for girls from third grade to eighth grade held on Wednesday nights. The girls did Bible memorization and had Bible lessons led by the ladies of the church. There was a similar program for boys called Boys Brigade.
The church sponsored countless other programs all rooted in serving Christ, spreading the word and helping the community.
One of the most prominent programs is the Grace Nursery School which was started in 1974 by Othelia Tyberg and continues today.
The video including the verse, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” - Romans 10:14-15.