Personal Remembrance: Elmer Fredrickson
The Legacy of Pasadena Covenant Church
Understanding the Characteristics and Growth of the Church
By Elmer Fredrickson
The author of this account is thankful to God for the blessings received over a long lifetime, and for the loving fellowship enjoyed within the Christian body at the Pasadena Covenant Church. Elmer Fredrickson came as a small lad with his immigrant parents to the local church in 1924, two years after the church was founded. At that time all of the meetings were held in the Swedish language. He remained there for the next eighty-some years, with the exception of three years while in the United States military service during World War II. He knew most of the founding members personally and served the church and his Lord in many different offices and endeavors throughout those years. Elmer married within the church and he and his wife Allene raised their daughter and two sons there.
This writing was produced from memory, with a minimum of historical documents available. It was the author’s hope that he could convey the dynamics that were operative in this growing and changing organization that came to be known as the Pasadena Covenant Church.
So many people have wholeheartedly served the kingdom of God in the Pasadena church over the many decades of its existence. It is an impossible task to recall them all, and write about them. It would not be fair to mention some people’s contributions and not those of others. The names recorded here are used to make specific points, but not necessarily to give recognition.
The church has had a variety of names. On the first meeting building the congregation posted a sign printed in the Swedish language that read: “Svenska Evangeliska Tabernakel Forsamlingen.”
The following are the legal names of the Church by year:
- 1922 – Swedish Evangelical Mission Church of Pasadena.
- 1923 – Swedish Evangelical Tabernacle Church of Pasadena.
- 1935 – Evangelical Mission Covenant Church of Pasadena.
- 1972 – Pasadena Covenant Church.
From 1935 to 1971 people referred to the church as the Mission Covenant Church. The church was listed in the yellow pages of the telephone book under the heading of Churches as just Mission Covenant. Pastor Arvid Carlson reported that he would receive a call periodically asking for the “Mission Convent,” the assumption being that this was a Roman Catholic institution. The Pastor would then tactfully explain to the caller his mistake.
The objective of this writing is to describe the nature, motivation and beliefs of the people who organized the Covenant Church at its inception, and of those who nurtured the organization from that time until today. The intent here is to accurately tell the story without bias, and not to evaluate or pass judgment. Included is a description of some of the environmental and sociological conditions that existed at the beginning. It is an attempt to capture the significant highlights and record them for posterity.
In this account a sizable portion is devoted to the acquisition and development of buildings and facilities of the Pasadena Covenant Church. It must be remembered that these structures are only a means to the desired end. They are simply tools for ministry. The real story is this: It is the impact that the gospel has had on thousands of people. Their hearts have been touched and their lives have been transformed by God’s grace, over the many years that this church has existed.
I. THE BEGINNING
The Covenant Church evolved as a result of an ethnic spiritual movement that began in Sweden in the middle of the nineteenth century. The Bible had come to Sweden and had made a significant impact on the lives of the common folk. The Lutheran faith had been embraced and fostered by the state government. Along with this there was a pietistic movement that emphasized spiritual renewal and the priesthood of all believers. This led to serious study of the whole Bible in house churches. These folks believed in conversion, and the New Birth. Their beliefs actually led to disputes with the religious authorities of the state government. The folk in the churches were resolute and firm in their faith but sad about the militancy and failings of organized religion. Their study of the scriptures had a liberating effect on their lives, giving them freedom and joy in their religious experience. They developed a strong interest in spreading the gospel and became known as “Mission Friends.”
The small band who formed the Pasadena Church were Swedish immigrants or children of Swedish immigrants. They were part of the great migration that occurred from the late 1800s to beyond the turn of the century. It has been estimated that one-seventh of the population of Sweden at that time had left to go to the New World. For them America was the land of great opportunity. The immigrants were mostly young adults. Many experienced much loneliness and hardship in making their way. Many had no knowledge of the English language when they arrived in America. Most of them had only an eighth-grade education. This meant that at about age fourteen they entered the work-a-day world as adults in menial jobs. In America at that time there was no governmental economic safety net. Most had no one to rely upon if they fell into difficult circumstances. Often they were taken advantage of by employers. Many did not have the resources to go back to the old country even if they had desired to do so.
A full range of human characteristics are to be found in all ethnic groups. However, those traits will vary in presence and strength in each disparate group. Training, temperament and customs all influence the display of those characteristics in a group. Here is an attempt to describe the general nature of the Swedes who immigrated to America. Most everyone agrees that the Swedes were reserved and conservative. They had a strong desire to do their very best, no matter the task. They excelled in wood working, crafts and carving. They loved to tinker and invent. They were very frugal, practical and somewhat adverse to taking risk. They were modest and self-effacing. They prized freedom and had a healthy respect for law and order. They strove to be educated and were lovers of music and poetry. They loved nature and the out-of-doors. They usually kept their opinions to themselves. The Swedes were persistent in keeping at a task, and perhaps a little bit stubborn.
When the immigrants came to America they became farmers, carpenters, machinists, lumberjacks and factory workers, among other things. The women were homemakers, seamstresses and knitters.
Very few Swedes came directly to Pasadena. Their point of entry was New York or Boston. They initially settled in the northern tier of states, which had a climate similar to their homeland, with ice and snow. They went where there were jobs available and where other of their countrymen had located. Chicago and Minneapolis were prime locations. When some of their members found better situations, the word soon spread far and wide, and others followed. In time the most daring of the immigrants ventured to the Western United States and to Southern California. Eventually they found Pasadena.
Pasadena in the early 1900s had little industry. Agriculture was the primary activity except for one major factor. The balmy climate had attracted the attention of wealthy folks from the Midwest and East. Many had established winter homes in Pasadena and built large estates that required cooks, maids, butlers, chauffeurs and gardeners. Many young Swedish women came to fill the needs as live-in household help. Many business establishments and entertainment venues were established catering to the needs and wants of the wealthy. A good public transportation system was developed for the benefit of workers and the general public. Even the mailmen rode public transportation from the post office to their routes.
For the single Swedish women who worked in the estates there were certain working conditions, which included personal time off. Each week it was usually common for them to have Sunday off after breakfast, and Thursday afternoon and evening off. This gave them the opportunity to congregate for fellowship and worship. It was out of these gatherings that the Covenant Church was eventually formed. For many years the midweek prayer service of the Church was held on Thursday evenings to accommodate those women. The Church was a haven for those who toiled.
TRAVEL BY RAIL
In the 1920s Pasadena was a destination city. The Santa Fe Railroad had a main line track from Chicago to Los Angeles. That train was heavily used for there were no passenger airlines in existence at that time. Travel by car or bus across the country was an arduous undertaking, for there were no freeways or superhighways either. One family changed seventeen flat tires on the way to California. They repaired the inner-tubes with material brought along for the trip. Travel by train was the most suitable way to come to Southern California. The last stop on the railway route before the terminal in Los Angeles’ Union Station was Pasadena. In the days before World War II, Hollywood’s movie stars would get off the train in Pasadena so as to avoid the crowd and the hassle in Los Angeles. They would have their chauffeurs waiting for them as well as some of their admirers.
The Santa Fe Railroad tracks ran east-west through east Pasadena and then turned south to the station in downtown Pasadena. The location of the tracks was near what is now the middle of the 210 freeway. The tracks were neither depressed nor elevated but at grade level. Lake Avenue had become a major thoroughfare, so there were gates and signals to stop the traffic while the freight and passenger trains passed. Streetcars regularly ran up and down Lake Avenue, but none of them ever collided with a train.
The Pasadena train station was a place of joy and sadness for Covenant people and those associated with them. It was a place of joy when friends and loved ones arrived, but it was a place of sadness when friends and loved ones departed. On occasion a group from the church would gather to say goodbye to someone and sing the song “God Be with You till We Again.” On rare occasions the casket of one who had died would be loaded on the train for burial elsewhere. The rule was that someone had to accompany the casket to assure that it reached the proper destination.
In the early 1900s the Swedish working women would gather together on their days off. At times they had problems about what to do and where to go, especially with their meager resources. Virtually none of them owned cars so they had to walk or use public transportation. Other Swedish people would extend hospitality to the domestics, even to granting an “anytime” standing invitation to their homes.
Those who were Christians desired spiritual refreshment and worship. Small groups filled this need. The Swedish Covenant Church in Los Angeles was well established by the turn of the twentieth century. From time to time their pastors would come to Pasadena to minister to these gatherings. Over time they grew so that they needed to meet in rented facilities. In 1921 a women’s group formed, and shortly after that there was a movement to form a Swedish Church. On April 19, 1922, the Pasadena Covenant Church was formally organized with twenty-six charter members. It was a brave move by such a small band. There were seven married couples plus twelve single women.
II. THE PEOPLE AND THEIR FAITH
In addition to the Swedish women who worked as domestic’s there were Swedish families living in Pasadena in the nineteen twenties. For people of foreign extraction, the native language is a strong tie that draws them together. Other ties include religious views, family, relationships, social connections, similar work experience and a common point of origin. All of these factors were operative among the sprinkling of Swedes in this location. It is interesting to note that at one point there were four different churches in Pasadena using the Swedish language. The Swedish Methodist was located at Villa and Summit, The Swedish Baptists were on Oak Knoll below Green, and the Lutherans were on Orange Grove at Madison and the Covenanters at Lake and Santa Barbara. The members of the church were very serious about their spiritual life. They regarded themselves as pilgrims and strangers in a foreign land, but on their way to heaven. They believed that anyone who had not made a commitment to Jesus Christ was lost and bound for hell. They felt responsible to witness to all they came in contact with and influence their decision for Christ. They spent time memorizing scripture and many carried a pocket New Testament with them all of the time. They believed in the imminent second coming of Christ and that one should be prepared, having confessed one’s sins, and confessing Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
At the founding of the local church, life was relatively simple with few diversions available to ordinary folk. Most stores were closed on Sundays. Only a few people had radios. Evening after work was spent reading, writing, playing table games or visiting with neighbors. Few people traveled very far, and many didn’t even take vacations. Life was centered in the church and its activities. For many years the schedule of Sunday church services was as follows: Sunday school 9:45am, morning worship 11:00am, young peoples meeting 5:00pm, social hour 6:00 – 7:00pm and evening service 7:00pm; on Thursday: mid-week prayer service 7:30pm and ladies aid at 2:00pm once per month. It was expected that everyone who could would be present at every service except for special circumstances. All services were in the Swedish language.
The founders of the church were adamant in their belief that the Bible was the wholly inspired word of God. They confessed that the holy scriptures were the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine and conduct. When there were differences of opinion among believers, one would ask the question “where is it written”? Chapter and verse would be required. There were within the body certain liberties and a freedom of interpretation allowed on minor issues but not on the major ones. One example is the treatment of infants. Both infant baptism and infant blessing were practiced. The Covenant Church does not have a distinct creed but embraces the Apostles Creed in its service.
Those church pioneers had a singleness of focus rarely seen. They believed that their work for the kingdom of God was their primary purpose in life and that their jobs were only a means to sustain physical life. At the hour of worship services they discouraged all other meetings or distractions. They frowned on membership in any other organization because that would diminish the efforts for the church. They had a reverence for Gods House. They ordained that church business be relegated to weekdays, in order to concentrate on the spiritual exercises. They embraced the fourth commandment, to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. In their personal lives they did no house cleaning or home repairs on that day. They concentrated on being hospitable and outgoing to strangers, neighbors, friends and relatives. They desired to love everyone for Christ’s sake.
COMPELLING BELIEFS FOR LIVING
There were two compelling beliefs held by the pioneers of the Pasadena church that dominated their thinking. Those beliefs motivated them to walk the “straight and narrow” way. Those beliefs also gave them a sense of urgency to be about the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
The first compelling belief was that there would be a day at judgment for all people as noted in Romans 14:10-12. This was a very sobering thought, that all should have to account for their actions in this life. They were very conscious of the sins of commission as well as the sins of omission.
The other compelling belief was that Christ would return at any time; like a bridegroom coming for his bride as described in Matthew 25:13. This belief quickened their spiritual senses so that they desired to be as ready and pure as possible. Those believers prayed to God daily for forgiveness for their sins. They often quoted John1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Some of those church pioneers were concerned that they might be denied entry into heaven.
A number of taboos were observed. They didn’t drink alcoholic beverages. They didn’t go to movie theaters, pool halls, bowling alleys or dances. Women didn’t wear lipstick or earrings and most adult women had long hair which they wound into a bun on the back of the head. Most folk took a bath on Saturday night and wore their best clothing to church in reverence to God. All men wore coats and ties and shined their shoes. Most women wore hats to worship services. Modest dress was expected. Costs for special occasions were kept to a minimum that those who were poor could participate and not be embarrassed. Freewill offerings covered most of the expenses. Special interest was shown to guests and visitors.
Ludwig and Amy Brandt epitomized the very essence of hospitality in the Pasadena Church. They were the kindest, most gentle people. With their hearts filled with Christian love they extended a warm welcome to everyone, especially the new comer. A visitor who came to the church more than once was sure to receive an invitation for Sunday dinner with all the trimmings. When Ludwig Brandt prayed the blessing for the meal, with his thick Swedish accent, it was an experience the guest was not likely to forget. There were many folk who were silently persuaded to remain in the church because of the hospitality of the Brandt’s. There was another role that Ludwig Brandt played and it was that of peace maker. When there were contentious discussions in business meetings, it was Mr. Brandt that calmed the atmosphere with his Godly spirit and well chosen words.
Sunday dinner for visitors was a tradition in the church. There were many women who would place a roast in the oven and prepared extra food just in case it was needed. What better opportunity is there to get acquainted with people then to break bread together? Hospitality performs a very vital function in the growth of a church.
This practice of large Sunday dinners at home continued well into the 1970’s.
DELIGHT IN MUSIC
Music played a special part for the early pioneers of the Pasadena Covenant Church. They thoroughly enjoyed congregational singing. They were accompanied by either piano or foot peddled organ. Soon after the regular services were established the pastor organized a choir. Many in the group were self taught musicians. A string band was established which performed at some worship services, singing and playing with gusto. At family gatherings folks would regularly stand around the piano and sing. Even at special gatherings music was incorporated into the activities, as well as a religious devotional message.
To understand the development of the Pasadena Covenant Church it is necessary to explain the polity of the church. Under the umbrella of the national body, the Evangelical Covenant Church of America, each church is autonomous. Each church individually selects its own pastors and controls its own finances. The national body advises and guides in church affairs but has no power to dictate, except where contracts have been mutually drawn. The national body is a group of churches joined together for strength and for endeavors beyond the ability of any individual church to undertake. The offices of the churches are democratically elected and major polices of the church are voted on by the members of the congregation. In the early days the founders were aided and influenced by the Congregational Denomination.
III. DEVELOPMENT OF FACILITIES
In the year 2005 the campus of the Pasadena Covenant Church is comprised of eleven lots as specified on the original subdivision map. The initial parcel was acquired in 1923, the second lot was purchased in 1940, the third lot in 1961, and the rest much later. Each lot had at least one residential unit on it when acquired. It is interesting to note the following with regard to the construction and expansion of the church’s facilities. Over the years almost none of the facilities that the church has built have been demolished or replaced. However many additions and modifications have been made in response to changing conditions. The metamorphosis has been astounding.
From the very beginning, the founders of the Covenant church in Pasadena had a strong desire to have a meeting place of their own. They did not have the freedom or control of the facilities which they rented for their meetings. Six months after they signed the church charter in 1922 they purchased a small single lot on Villa St. It was on the North side of the street between Lake and Mentor. When the first pastor came early in 1923, he felt that the lot was a poor choice and advised that a better location be found. As a result, the property at 539 North Lake Avenue was secured and the Villa St. property sold. Rev. Sporrong even paid a deposit of $500 of his own money on the new property to hold it until the church could formally act upon it.
The new property consisted of a large two story house which was located in the middle of a plot composed of three subdivision lots. The plot measured 105 x 180 feet. Upon taking possession, the people of the church modified the interior of the downstairs to accommodate their meetings. They rented the upper story in order to secure some additional income.
As of the year 2005 the timbers of that original two-story house are still part of the churches facilities. When the church built its first chapel, the old house was moved to the western edge of the property. The building was transformed into a residential duplex facing Santa Barbara St. Each unit had a living room, dining room, kitchen and service porch on the first floor, and two bedrooms and a bath on the upper story. In the 1930s, 40s and 50s the custodian lived in the east side unit and the Pastor and his family in the west unit. Eventually the church built a parsonage for the pastor away from the church and the pastor’s unit was used for a preschool Sunday school class. Later still, the church built on the land that had been the front lawn of the duplex; they built a nursery and toddler’s facility on the ground floor and a church office upstairs. At that time the custodian moved elsewhere. Additional modifications were made in the entire unit to create office space on the second story but the original timbers from eighty years ago are still in the structure.
One of the major hurtles for a newly founded congregation is the acquisition of property for a church home. This is especially true if the church is self-supporting and without the sponsorship of another church or denomination. Because of limited resources, a new church often will purchase the most economical land or facilities available. This act often becomes a very limiting factor in the growth of the church. It can be a fatal flaw to the very existence of the church. The location of a church is a most important component. For successful growth it deserves the utmost attention and consideration. A church should be visible, accessible and attractive. God has blessed the Pasadena Covenant Church in this regard.
The development and expansion of the physical facilities of the Pasadena Covenant Church is a long and protracted story. Each parcel of land that was acquired has a unique and interesting story. The church initially settled on the property at the corner of Lake Ave. and Santa Barbara Street in Pasadena. In a directional sense the church then expanded its campus first to the south, then to the west and finally to the north of the initial purchase. The following is a description, in chronological order, of the acquisition and development of each lot.
Here is a description of the suitability of the original location. The Pasadena City authorities had designated Lake Avenue as a major artery for vehicular traffic. At the time the church purchased the property the city was in the process of widening the street from Colorado Street to Orange Grove and installing modern street lights. North of Orange Grove, Lake Avenue was still a rather narrow street. The Pacific Electric Railway ran red colored electric street cars up and down the Avenue on a regular schedule. The tracks ran all the way to the base of the San Gabriel Mountains where an incline cable railway was located.
The area around the church was entirely residential. From the church site one could see not one business establishment. However, there were small businesses on Lake Avenue at the major intersections of Colorado, Orange Grove and Washington, plus a few more locations. To the south of the church on the west side of Lake Avenue there were two residences in succession, followed by vacant land all the way to Villa Street. In the 1930s used cars were sold from the front lawn of the house next to the church site and a miniature golf course was built on the vacant land just north of Villa Street. The golf course didn’t last long. It folded as an unsuccessful venture.
After World War II a gas station was established on the corner at Villa. Later when the church was in need of parking space, the owner H.D. Leroy and Sons allowed the use of their property on Sundays. The business was always closed on that day. There were other local businesses that extended that same courtesy to the Covenant Congregation. In the year of 2005, the Hat restaurant and Pasadena Fire Department occupy what had once been vacant land.
Under Rev. Axel Sporrong’s dynamic leadership, the church built a new sanctuary in 1924. The entrance faced, Santa Barbara Street. The church was designed in the Spanish architectural style popular in that day. The sanctuary had a high ceiling, two stories in height. There was an overhanging balcony and two side rooms adjacent to the sanctuary which, were partitioned from it with wooden folding doors. In the year 2005 the original walls now remain and the room is called the Gathering Place. All told, the sanctuary, the balcony and the side rooms could seat about 200 people. The undeveloped space on the plot to the east of the original church, between it and Lake Avenue, was used as an automobile parking lot. The driveway to it was from Lake Avenue at the south end of the property.
At a much later date, one side room became part of the churches music room and the other side room became part of the east west hallway. The two story height of the sanctuary was modified to one story, with classrooms built on the second story. Two remnants of the original church are still very visible. One is the pair of double doors at the entrance to the Gathering Place. The other is the western stairway that leads to the present Church balcony. It is the very same stairway that went to the balcony in the original church.
The little church had a small courtyard immediately in front of the main church steps, between the church and the sidewalk. Some twenty five years later when the new sanctuary was built that space was utilized to add men’s and ladies restrooms and a bride’s room. That construction sealed off the main entrance to the old church, hiding it from street view.
In the Sanctuary of the original church building there were three framed paintings gracing the walls above the platform. On each one was a biblical inscription which identified the meaning of the painting. The verses indicate the theological focus of the founding members of the Pasadena church. As viewed from the balcony, the pictures were in the following order: On the left was a picture of Jacob’s ladder with this verse: “Surely the Lord is in this place. This is none other but the house of God and this is the gate of heaven.” Genesis 28: 16-17. The middle picture was a representation of the cross with this inscription: “We preach Christ crucified,”
1 Corinthians 1:23. The right hand picture represented the second coming of Christ. The verse displayed was: “Behold he cometh with the clouds,” Revelation 1:7. Any one entering the sanctuary could not miss the impact of those pictures.
In order to comprehend the finances of the church at its beginning one must know what the wages were at that time in the 1920’s. The average worker in America earned about $30.00 per week for 50 hours of work. A gallon of milk cost 25 cents and a postage stamp for a letter was 3 cents. The ordinary worker operated on a cash basis. He received his pay tucked in an envelope in dollars and cents. He had no deductions! The ordinary worker paid no income tax, social security or disability tax. Many people didn’t know how to write a check. Ordinary people paid their bills out of their pocket book to a cashier in a main office. The bulk of church giving was received in cash and not by check. Many covenanters purposely kept their standard of living at a low level in order to give more to the church.
It was a Herculean task for the small band that founded the church to raise the money required for a new church facility. They did it with great effort and sacrifice. By comparison to today’s values the amounts involved seem so very small. They paid $9,500 for the original plot with the two story house on it. They paid a little over $13,000 for the new church building, not including volunteer labor. They spent some $6,500 to remodel the original house. When they dedicated the new church, they owed only about $7000 of the $29,000 total. that was the entire cost o the original land and buildings.
Eight years after the initial unit of the church was built, the church felt the need for more space. It was in the depths of the reat economic depression of the 1930s. A number of the men in the church were without work and available to volunteer their services. It was decided to build a basement under the church to inlcude an assembly hall and a kitchen. The men shored up the building and dug the basement by hand, using shovels and buckets and wheel barrows. No mechanical equipment was used. Amazingly enough, the building did not tumble into the hole. They carefully built the walls and supports to sustain the building above and kept if from tipping or shifting. A kitchen was located at the south end to the basement. It had serving windows above a counter that opened up into the assembly hall.
Some twenty years later the church again wanted more space yet in the basement so they excavated again and enlared the assembly hall by including what had been the original kitchen area and built a new kitchen to the south of it. The new kitchen was a more efficient facility compared to the old one but it didn't have an automatic dishwasher. All of the dishes for church dinners, which occurred frequently, were washed by hand.
In 1940, the property immediately to the south of the church building was offered for sale. The church was growing under the ministry of Rev. Melvin Dahlstrom. There were discussions about building another, larger church building. The church membership voted to purchase the property at 533 North Lake Avenue. This was the very first parcel to be acquired after the original plot.
The propert was abou 50 feet by 180 feet. On it was a modest bungalow encompassing about 800 sq. ft. total space. After possession, the building was clenaed up and slightly modified to accommodate primarty age children. The building was called Sunshine hall. The rest of the land was used for parking cars. Today tha plot of land is called Magnolia Court.
After World War II a two story educational unit was built on the back of the property. The old Sunshine Hall was raised.s The new educational unit was erected in one day by voluteer help. There were perhaps thrity five men of th echrch that labored that Saturday. William B. Erickson was the building superintendent. Plans and preparations had been previously made. Concrete foudnations had been poured and the lumber had been pre cut by Everett Swardstrom, a carpenter during the prvious week. There was great excitement and enthuiasm as crews competed against each other to create the wall, of the building. By night fall even the roof was in place. It was an inspiring sight.
The church became serious about building a new sanctuary during the last years of World War II. They had plans drawn and started to raise the funds needed. An impediment was the restrictions cased by the War effort. Many materials were in short supply and rationing limited the availability of many items. One example is that ordinary citizens were limited to four gallons of gasoline per week. The plan was to build on the vacant land between the original sanctuary and Lake Ave. The plans called for a seating capapcity of 500. It wasn't until 1947 that plns for a new sanctuary came to fruition. Rev. Arvid Carson had come as pastor the previous year, with all of his energy and drive. A number of service men who had passed through the church during the war years came back and became involved in the church. The new church building with its towere increased the visibility of the church to the citizens of Pasadena. New people appeared to fill the increased seating capacity of the sanctuary. At that time there was no fire station in close proximity to the church.
The many programs of the church swung into high gear. An interesting feature was implemented to increase the available seating. Two sliding windows were installed into the common wall between the old sanctuary and the new sanctuary. This enabled the placement of chairs in the old sanctuary so that people could be a part of the worship service in the new sanctuary. A speacker system was also installed.
A remodel of the Sanctuary was made in 1971. There were two major problems to be addressed. One was noise. The city had built a fire station next to the church property. The church did not have air-conditioning so that in warm weather the windows would be open for ventilation. When the fire trucks blew their sires, it toally disrupted the worship service. In addition the traffice on Lake Avenue had greatly incrased with an attendant incerease in noise. The other problem was sunlight streaming through the windows during the morning services. Certain seating positions were uncomforable at times. the architec's solution to these problems was to cover over or elimate the windows and add air-conditioning. Control of the lighting made visual projections much mor satisfactory. A negative factor was that the aeshetic appear of the stained glass windows was lost.
Another negative result was precipitated by the change and that had to do with seating. The church decided to have padded pews instead of individual opara type seats. They also changed the arrangment of the aislies diving the seating into three sections. The rationale was that the best seats were located in the middle where the center aisle had been located. The result was that many young brides preferred to be married in a church with the traditional arrangement of a center aisle, so they went elswhere. Their attachment to the Covenant church was diminished.
The year was 1961, approaching the fortieth year of the existence of the Pasadena Covenant Church. The membership had grown so that there were many children and youth in attendance. There was a pressing need for more Sunday school space. Additionally, the youth programs included sports teams and various active games. The church Trustees, responding to the needs, decided that the next property to the south on Lake Avenue would be a valuable asset to have. It was owned by two borthers named Faulk who were both single and lived there alone. The brothers had no connection to the church but their Swedish mother had attended before she died.
Milton Moberg a real estate agent and church memeber was deisgnated to approach the Faulk brothersa about sale of their property. They were receptive to the idea, but needed time to arrange their affairs before moning elsewhere. While the details were being settled the church was granted limited permission for the back half of the property so the land was cleared to allow cars to park there. Access was from lake Ave. then across the church property and finally out onto the unimporved dirt lot at the back of the Faulk property. It was a dusty proposition. Preliminary plans were drwan for a new facility. They included a basketball court which could double as a dining or assembly hall, a modern kitchen, educational class rooms and a room for the scout troop. Roy Johnston's engineering firm drew the plans for the building. Construction occured in the year 1962. Financing for the new facility came in a miraculous way. Dr. Doehring, a physician in the membership, had treated a Mrs. Smith in the hospital some years previously. In the course of events, Rev. Arvid Carlson had paid a call to Mrs. Smith and she was greatly impressed with him and the work of the church. as a result of their contact the church was included in the woman's will. She had designated specific amounts to her heirs with any remains to be left to the church. Befoe the estate was settled years later, the nebulus amount had grown to a sizeable sum, in the end it amounted to about $100,000. In the meantime two of the charter member, Miss Anna Johnson and Miss Hanna Newberg had died, leaving their individual estates to the church. The contribution in all these bequests amounted to approximately $200,000, which overed the construction of the new facilities. The David Ridbom family donated the installation of the roof, while others gave for the furnishings. Some years later the faiclity was disignated Arvid F. Carlson Hall, honoring the former pastor.
An interesting spectacle occured during construction. The building was built with masonry walls and a cement floor in the gym party. These contained a lot of moistrue when first constructed. When the workmen installed the hardwood floor they laid it flush with the walls. The next day or so, the wood absored the moisture and it swelled. The result was the floor had a shape liek the waves on the ocean. To solve the problem a workman had to use a ciruclar saw to cut all around the perimeter of the floor away from the walls. Then they could push the floor back into place.
IV. CAMPUS EXPANSION
In the 1960s space for parking was a big problem and the church leadership was looking for soluntions. When a property on Villa Street was offered for sale the church decided to buy it. That didn't seem like a very wise move. It was a two story house owned by a family name Chalmers. The land was remote from the church, with no access to it from the church campus. Worse yet, the house was reached only by going around the block to the next street. The escrow closed and the church became a landlord with tenants.
Some time later a house on Santa Barbara, owned by a family named Hollywood, became avaialbe. Their lot shared the same back property line with the former Chalmers own property. Possession of the Hollywood property would give access to the Villa street property from Santa Barbara St. This purchase seemed like a very good move on the Churh's part. When the church bought the Hollywood property they decided to turn the Villa Street property into a parking lot by demolishing the house and paving the lot.
Around this time a new complication arose. The City of Pasadena passed a law that nay house fifty or more years old could nt be razed without city approval. When the church applied for approval to tear down the Hollywood house the city would not grant approval. This prevented its use for parking. At that point in time an alternate plan was implemented. The church again became a landlor, renting the house to a family named Erickson. They had no connection to the church. There was an understanding with the Erickson's that the church people could use the driveway of the house for access to the newly built parking lot on Villa Street. It was a very strange circumstance. Cars would roll down the driveway, meander around the garage in the back and then park on the Villa lot. On a pleasant Sunday morning the family would be outside reading the paper while church goers walked past them. At a later date the church applied for permission and the cit granted it. The house was demolished and the lot paved.
The next acquisitionof the church was the house to the west of the former Hollywood property. I due course the church obtained possession in order to add to the church's parking lot. The year was 1972. This time the city of Pasadena would not grant permission to destroy the house under any circumstances. Several applications were made over a period of time to no avail. The city was supporting a policy designed to maintain existing low rent housing. Finally a compormise was reached. The church could remove the house if it were moved intact to another location. The church incurred minimum expense in passing ownership to a new owner who moved it to a lcoation in North Pasadena.
THE MARTIN PROPERTY
The property at 834 Santa Barbara Street is very key piece of property to the Pasadena Covenant Church. In the year 2005 it is located between the main church campus and the parking lot. Posession of that property prevents any other party from using it in a manner detrimental to the interest of the church. Ownership gives opportunity and flexibility for any possible expansion of the church facilities or for possible redevelopment of them. In the meantime the rental units contribute to the income of the church and to its outreach in the community.
The property was purchased from the Martin family around 1970. When it was bought it was fully developed lot contained a two story main house on the front of lot and three ground level retnal units located to the rear. The Martin family had owned the property for many years. Alice Anderson, the church's custodian's wife, had enjoyed a very good relationship with the martin family. From time to time Alice would bring freshly baked pies and other goodies to the family. This generosity was exttended even more frequently after Mrs. Martin died and Mr Martin lived there alone in the big house. No doubt this gave the church an advantage when it came time to buy the property.
Use of the Martin property has been of benefit to the church. Soon after its acquisition the Rev. Robert E. Verme Jr. family occupied the main house. That family was jsut here from Japan where they had been missionaries. Bob Verme served as associated minister to the church for a short period of time. After the Vermes left, Roland and Betty Tabell lived in the house for about twenty years. Roland was the Ministry of Music in the Pasadena church for a toral of thirty-seven years. Living next door to the church cut his travel time to zero. When the Tabell's vacated the big house and became owners of their own home the residence was thoroughly renovated by Victor and Monica James. It was a real labor of love. the 1910 era house was restored to its original appeal.
At one point during the ministry of Rev. Michael Halleen there was consideration to change the traffic pattern of the church. The thought was to construct a walk across the Martin property for access from the parking lot to the main church property. Entrance to the church would be changed and use of magnolia courty would be a part of the traffic pattern to a new entrance to the church.
THE JUNVIK PROPERTY
Extension of the campus of the Pasadena Covenant Church to the north, across Santa Barbara Street did not occur until after 1980. Once again the church had forward looking leadership in the person of Bengt Junvik. He had emigrated from Sweden as a young adult. He was sponsored by his machinist brother Philip Johnson and Phil's wife Elsie. Mr. Junvik became a skilled tood and die maker under the tutelage of his brother. Bengt Junvik had tremendous energy and drive that propelled him into a very successful manufacturing business. He became owner of a firm which made parts for the aerospace business.
The Junviks were very devoted Christinas with a warm heart for missionary work. They were morst generous with their time and their resources toward many Christian orgainzations, as well as fo rthe Covenant Church. Mr. Junvik served as chairman of the Board of Trustee of the Pasadena Church in the 1970's.
Across from the church on Santa Barbara Street there was a rental house on the corner owned by a private owner. Adjacent to it on the two sides were other houses that belonged to another owner. The two properties when viewed on a property map formed the capital letter "L" and surrounded the corner property. One house faced Lake Ave. and the other faced Santa Barbara Street. When the properties came up for sale Bengt and Betty Junvik seized the opportunity, purchasing the two properties for their wnaccount. It did not include the corner property. Their rasing was that the church needed that property and they would own it until the Church decided it needed those parcels. They felt that the corner property was too small to be developed commercially, so that their move would protect the church's interest.
The Junviks made their newly acquired properties available to the church. The lake Avenue property became a facility for ministry called "Operation Help" The purpose was to distribute food and clothing to those in need. It was conducted on a volunteer basis and was headed by Edith ( Mrs. Knute) Johnson. She was the mother of Glen Lindell, a Covenant pastor. The property on Santa Barbara Street was used to house missionary families' home on furlough and later as a residence for the custodian and his family. Bengt Junvik died in 1979 of a sudden heart attach. His wife sold the property to the church several years after Bengt's death.
The work of "Operation Help" continued for several years until Mrs. Johnson died. There was no one who felt constrained to assume leadership and donate the required time of the work. After the yuth programs had a need for more space. The house on the Lake Avenue propert was demolished to make room for a new facility to be used by the Jr. High and Sr. High programs.
Up to and including the year 2005 the last property to be acquired by the Pasadena Covenat Church ws the "Corner House" at the northwest location of Lake Avenue and Santa Barbara Street. Over the years many people in the church were of the opinion that the church should own that property. Several times overtures were made to the owners to purchase the house, but to no avail. Again it was individual initiative which beneficted the church.
Scott and Karen Garland who were members of the church had been looking to purchase vacation property. They had considered far away places from Pasadena. At the same time they had strong interest in the improvements of the facilities of the church and had given of themselves in various ways. Scott had designed the handicap ramps and access to church buildings. Karen had made landscaping plans and executed them in 2002. The Garlands decided that rather than buy a vacation property they would purchase the Corner House property if they could. They as private investors negotiated withthe owner and successfully arrived at a contract of sale. After the escrow slosed the Garlands donated the property to the church, what a generous act that was.
The Corner House had a commanding view of the main church building and of the street activity, but as houses go, it wasn't much of a house. It had been built in about 1910 with low grade materials and design. It had been rental property for many ears with a minimum of maintenance. It had a tiny garage that was half burrowed into the hill. Some people were of the opinion that the house wasn't worth the effort to rehabilitate it. Others felt that the unique crafsman style was worth preserving. The latter opinion prevailed. In the end the Corner HOuse became an architectural gen when restored and re-landscpted.
There were four individuals that made maajore contribuiotns to that effort. Jim Tyberg, Church Chairperson, managed the project and gave of his resources. Scott Garland focused on usable design. Roy Johnston planned to structural elements in the design and James Steinmeier was the builder who lovingl constructed the new facility. The outside of the house was preserved so that the form of it did not change. However, the interior was gutted and entirely new arrangement was implemented. There were two considerations included in the new arrangement. One ws that the house could be used as a family residence. The other was to have an open plan that would be suitable for group meetings. There was an immediate demand by various church groups to use the Corner House.
MAINTENACE OF FACILITIES
Volunteer labor played a large role in the maintenance of the church. To those early pioneers it was unthinkable to hire outside help for any task that could be done by church members on a volunteer basis. As the church membership grew there were many men who worked in the construction trades. There were carpenters, electricians, plumbers, gardeners and handymen. Of the men that worked in offices, most had mechanical skills. A great number of the men at one time had worked in the country on a farm. Most of them were accustomed to hard work and had callusses on their hands.
Several years afterconstruction of the first church building it became evident that a more permannent arrangmement was needed. Albert and Alice Anderson were hired to be part time care takers of the property. They oved into the adjacent duplex unit. mr. Anderson typified th eimage of a Swede. He said very little but did a lot. He was a carpenter by trade and a lover of an dcollector of tools. Mrs. Anderson was a jovial person. Together, they were the perfect ocuple of that position. They had no children so that they were fully available for whatever task neded to be done. They did the work lovingly as to the Lord.
To suppliment the work of the Andersons, there were regular church work days. Both men and women were expected t participate if they possibly could. The women would do most of the inside jobs such as sweeping, dusting, polishin, kitchn organizing and the liek. The men would do minor construction projects, painting, gardening and any heavy labor jobs. Depending on the needs, the work days were scheduled for once a month or a quartre. Working together shoulder to shoulder, the church members built comradeship and lasting friendships.
V. DEDICATED SERVICE
Since the second decade of its existence, The Covenant Church has been a regional fellowship, attracting families from some distance. They faithfully attended the services and shared n the work. For example, John D. Lund and his daughter Elsa came from Azusa in the days before there were freeways. Mr. Lund was a Real Estate agent and used his finanical skills on the Trustee Board. Elsa was active in the woman's ministry and in the Sunday school.
Going to church was an all-day affair for some families; they came for the Sunday school at 9:45am and remained in Pasadena until after the evening service. In good weather they brought picnic lunches and enjoyed the afternoon in Tournament Park. During inclement weather they made use of the facilities in the church basement. Often some of them would be invited to private homes for the afternoon. The Emanuel Petersons came from Burbank; The William Erickson's from Glendale, The Karl Johnston's from Alhambra, and the Swanson's from Arcadia.
the Senior Pastors that served the Covenant Church have been effective orators and forceful presenters of the Gospel. As a group, over the years they have attracted considerable attention both locally and nationally. Their effectiveness is shown in part by the growth of the church. Here is a history of their names and the period they served.
Axel G. Sorrong 1923-1930 7 years
Reuben C. Dahl 1931-1935 4 years
Charles L. Ledin 1935-1938 3 years
Melvin Dahlstrom 1938-1944 6 years
Carl G. Westerdahl 1944-1946 2 years
Arvid F. Carlson 1946-1963 17 years
Paul E. Larsen 1964-1971 7 years
Robert W. Neiman 1972 1 year
J. Melville White 1974-1984 10 years
John S. Bray 1977-1984 7 years
Michael A. Halleen 1985-1990 5 years
Charles W. Barker 1991-present 14 years
One of the pastors, Paul E. Larsen became president of the denomination, The Evangelical Covenant Church in America. When he came to the Pasadena Covenant Church he was a single man. It caused quite a stir when it was announced that he was engaged to be married to Elizabeth Taylor. Miss Taylor was not the movie star, but a very fine Bible teacher having the same name.
Over many years the church has been very careful in the areas of financial matters. Individual giving has been a strictly private affair. Members have never been pressured or assessed monetary dues. However, church leaders have encouraged systematic and regular giving to the church. They have emphasized that there is a strong relationship between spiritual blessings and financial responsibility. As a group, members have been exceedingly generous. They have felt that each and every member should share in the financial load.
To illustrate the point in the previous paragraph here is an example. The collection plate always was passed in the mid-week prayer and Bible study. Most people felt obligated to contribute each time. At a meeting of the board of trustees one member said he felt that the offerings detracted from the spirit of the mid-week meeting and that the amount of money received didn't amount to much. The average offering at that time amounted to something like $18.00 per meeting. Another member spoke of the accumulated benefit that accrued. He stated that there were fifty meetings each year. Multiplying the $18.00 by 50 yielded $900.00 annually, which was not small change. In terms of today's dollars this amount could probably be multiplied by ten. As a result, the board passed a motion to continue the practice of passing the plate in the med-week service.
The members of the Pasadena Covenant Church through the decades have loved music, especially as it has been an express of their faith and spiritual journey. All forms of religious music have been used in the services including hymns of faith. Simple choruses, praise songs, cantatas and negro spirtiuals. The early pioneers sang from Sions Basun, words of faith sung to the notes of folk songs from their native country. Often times, in their everyday life they would hum or softly sing as they labored at arduous tasks. Musica was to them a comfort and a joy.
The Covenant Church has been blessed with wonderful leaders in music. The first pastor, Revered Sporrong was a fine musician and singer. He played the piano and orga. To raise money for a new church, he even toured in other parts of the country, singing and preaching. His talents were well received and appreciated.
In the arly 1930s Alfred Bridston came from North Dakota looking for occupational opportunity in secular work. As soon as the church discovered his talent he was immediately invited to lead the church choir. As it often happens the spouse of a musician will have skills that complement those of the other. Gadys Bridston was a fine soprano soloist with a repertoire of her own. Her favorite song was "I heard the voice of one crying in the wilderness". Alfred Bridson led the music ministry to and through the years of World War II. He developed fine male choirs.
Richard Gerig was a soldier in the U.S. Army from Indiana who was stationed in Southern California during the war. Somehow he found his way to the Covenant Church and that changed his life. He married Wilma Erickson, a daughter from one of the church families. While in the service, and after he developed several male quartets in addition to leading the choir in Pasadena. He took advantage of the G.I. Bill to attend Wheaton College. There the Gerigs remained and raised a family. Richard Gerig became the minister of music of the Wheaton Bible Church, a very large congregation.
Prior to the coming of Roland Tabell, the music at the church was led by Milton Moberg, Les Hedman and Norman Johnson. Roland Tabell came to the church in 1962 as a single young man from the study of music at USC. He was on the staff of the church for the next 37 years.
Roland Tabell's contribution to the ministry of the Covenant Church has been marvelous. He greatly expanded the scope and depth of the musical program with sensitivity to the needs and desires of the congregation. He was very successful in obtaining new talent from outside the church. Even in retirement, he and his wife, Betty, continue to sing in the Sancutary Choir and support the work in the areas of music and worship.
Joan Reeve Owens succeeded Roland Tabell. She and her family had worshped in the Covenant Church for years before she was chosed to be pastor of Worship and Music. She was trained voal soloist and came with much experience as a leader of chirs, Her ability to develop and lead youth choir has been greatly appreciated. She has challenged the Sanctuary Choir in the areas of vocal expression and excellence.
The close proximity of Fuller Seminary has been of mutual benefit to both Pasadena Covenant Church and that institution. Fuller Seminary was started by Charles E. Fuller, a renowned radio evangelist in the days before the advent of television. A prominent leader in the church worked in the Fuller business office of the radio program, in Pasadena. The seminary began in 1950 with classes in the Lake Avenue Congregational Church, two blocks south of the Covenant Church. Later on, the Seminary carved out a sizable campus in the heart of Pasadena, still walking distance to the church.
Through out the years many Fuller professors and students have been part of the ministry of the Covenant Church. Many professors have inspired and added to the theological knowledge of the congregation. They filled the pulpit from time to time, or taught Sunday school classes. Fuller students have served the church as pastoral interns and youth leaders. They have used their musical skills in the services. This association with students has lead many young people into Christian service in the Covenant Denomination. The national leadership is very cognizant of the importance of this opportunity to recruit clergy from this source. Fuller people have had an influence within the church in many other ways. Mrs. Helga Henry, wife of the noted theologians Carl F.H. Henry, organized the Christian Education program in the Pasadena Church.
Coffee is the favorite beverage for many. Coffee is also a social medium. To the Swedes and early Covenants it was that, and much more. It was an institution. In the formative days of the Pasadena Covenant Church, the drinking of coffee played and important function. Most of the people in the congregation used cream and sugar in their drink. While gathered around the counter or table the process gave people an opportunity to visit with old friends and a chance to make new acquaintances. In the Covenant Church coffee was served at every opportunity and always at church dinners. That was a requirement.
The Swede also loved their sweets. They enjoyed a cookie or pastry to go along with their coffee. In those days there was an interesting custom that some drinkers observed. They would place a sugar cube into their mouths and sort of strain the coffee through the cube as they drank it. They savored the taste.
For many years the church had a most official position, that of chief coffee maker. It was held by Alice Anderson, the wife of the church custodian. She had a special way to brew coffee. Mrs. Anderson would fill huge pots with water, and then start them heating. In the meantime she would measure out the right amount of coffee grounds into a bowl, take a raw egg, break it, drop the contents into the coffee and stir the mixture. The next step was to pour the mixture into the water including the two halves of the egg shell. What that did to the drink nobody seems to know, the final step after the coffee was brewed was to pour a small amount of cold water into the pot to settle any floating coffee grounds. People said nobody made better coffee then Alice Anderson.