by Carolyn Van Loh
A Danish family, the J.A. Jensens, who had been members of Westbrook’s Immanuel Baptist, moved northeast of Tyler in 1880. Three years later, N.L. Christiansen, appointed state Danish missionary, started his work in Tyler.
Several Danish Baptist families and two Danish pastors moved to the community in 1890. H.P. Andersen, residing with the Jensen family, accepted the ministering offer for the area.
On July 31, 1899, nine people organized a Baptist church; a building was completed in Tyler on September 24, 1899; and the congregation grew to sixteen the first year. Membership increased to twenty-five after families moved into the community the following year. J.P. Nielsen from Union Grove, Wisconsin, became the pastor, but terminated his ministry in 1904 because of illness. His daughter Marion later married Ray Lindstrom from Westbrook.
J.R. Brygger, a young student from Des Moines College, visited the church during Christmas vacation in 1917. The church extended a call, and he began July 12, 1918. Unknown to him that he would be facing a job much more strenuous than the pastorate. A destructive tornado hit Tyler on August 21,1918, and demolished the Danish-Norwegian church building. People shared a chapel built onto another building with the Congregational and English Lutheran churches for more than a year.
The November 1919 Tyler Journal announced dedication of the new Baptist Church building: “This is the first one rebuilt after the tornado and a good substantial building has been erected, which will long stand as credit to the local congregation as well as to their active pastor, J.R. Brygger.”
Pastor Brygger served as pastor 1918-1926 and 1930-1949. He and his wife were hired as caretakers/cooks at the newly organized Shetek Baptist Camp. He lived in Tyler and continued attending First Baptist Church several years. He also conducted camp meetings in country schools of the area.
Several seminary men ministered to the church, but with the arrival of the 21st Century, a handful of adult members faithfully continued as members. Several people had moved and/or no longer attended. One of the members, Roland Johnson, was a third-generation attendee of First Baptist; his grandfather, Andrew Johnson, attended in the early days of the church. Money earned after selling the church building and parsonage, given to Lake Benton’s Baptist Church contributed to the new church building, and helped finance the building funds. Upon the dissolution of the church, Tyler members transferred their membership to First Baptist Church of Lake Benton.
Carolyn Van Loh has published a questionnaire to help share your story of God’s grace in your church family’s history. Submit your questionnaire and read more accounts of Exalting Christ Among the Churches here.
Calvary Baptist Church was established June 23, 1970, and gathers for worship in Sleepy Eye, MN, at 220 4th Avenue SW. During the early months of existence, several men served as interim pastors. The list includes Don Odens (9/70-2/71), Dennis Campbell and Gerald Mart (2/71-5/71), and Doug McLachlan (Wed. nights 12/70-6/71).
During its 50+ years of existence, three men have led Calvary Baptist in the position of pastor. Virgil Fitch from June 1971 to July 1977; Ron Brewer from May 1978 to June 1985; Randy Miller served as interim pastor until Phil Siefkes was called as pastor in December 1985. He has continued in that capacity to the present day.
The importance of each believer serving God and others in their sphere of influence is emphasized. Sometimes these spheres overlap with other members of the congregation. Marlon Mielke, a pastor in Milltown, WI, was a member of Calvary. Jana (and Dan) Eads, currently between mission fields, was also a congregation member.
Like others, Calvary encountered the cultural Covid pandemic, but they quickly learned that the virus is not the main issue. Congregation members have diligently fought hard to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3) The virus is simply yet another matter over which they could become divided or become more closely united. The church has chosen, by God’s grace, to work diligently at being of one mind. Therefore, whether it is the color of the carpet or the new hymnal or the type of mask you do or don’t wear, they refuse to succumb to the worldly and fleshly mindset of disunity. Worldliness and fleshliness can rear their heads and appear in many different shapes and sizes. “We must continue to be on guard. God’s glory is displayed to the world when a congregation walks together in Godward harmony.”
God has graciously and gradually grown the congregation through a variety of means. Individual and corporate maturity continues to increase by His grace, for which they are grateful.
Calvary Baptist purchased its first building from Grace Lutheran Church in 1970. They continued meeting in that building until early 1985 when it was sold to be used as the Senior Citizens Center. The congregation then moved to the 4th Avenue SW site. The present building was purchased from the Evangelical Church of North America.
The congregation purchased its first parsonage in April 1971. This house was sold in 1987 when the current parsonage was purchased.
Calvary looks to the future with great anticipation of the grace of their sovereign God. They know that apart from Him, they can do nothing. If they can reach into the lives of individuals and families throughout the Brown County area, and by God’s grace direct their hearts to delight in God, then they will be pleased to have been used by the Master.
It is by the grace of God and for the glory of God that this assembly exists. The assembly believes that people will genuinely benefit spiritually only when God is genuinely treasured.
Written by Pastor Phil Siefkes
On Sunday, October 17, 2021, Bryant Ave. Baptist Church held a celebration of the 30th Anniversary of Ministry for our dear Pastor W. David and Marilyn White. The morning service included special music by Ernalee Appenzeller, Clary Larson, Jim Prichard, and Brother Ray Pope. A special video was shown including highlights of Pastor White’s ministry over these many years. Special gifts, flowers, and a plaque engraved with our deep love and appreciation were presented by Pastor Rusty Roesch.
A wonderful catered luncheon followed the service with fellowship for all. A special time of sharing of memories and testimonies followed the meal. Our church family is praising the Lord for our kind Pastor, and his faithfulness to the Word of God these 30 years.
Bryant Avenue Baptist Church is located at:
5601 Bryant Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55419
Dear MBA Pastors:
What is your church history?
Bellow is a set of questions to stimulate your memory about the history of your church. You are not required to answer every question. Email your answers as an attachment to Carolyn Van Loh (firstname.lastname@example.org). Using your information, I will create a document of your church to publish in a future issue of the North Star.
1.Name of church
3.Date the church was established
4.Number of pastors serving your church over the years.
5.Describe continued development of the church
6.How does the congregation reach out to the community, missions, etc.
7.Did you church produce Christian leaders who are serving in Minnesota, across the USA, and as foreign missionaries?
8.Were there any challenges, such as the recent Covid Pandemic, that the church faced? How did God help you overcome the challenge?
You may send a document already written about the history of your church.
The North Star may carry MBA church stories based on the information I received. See the current issue that will carry the story I wrote for the Minnesota Historical website MNopedia.
I have started writing about First Baptist of Tyler, where I was grounded in the faith as a child. The decreasing congregation merged with Lake Benton’s Baptist church a number of years ago.
In His service,
Carolyn Van Loh, member of Westbrook’s Immanuel Baptist Church
Grace Baptist Church, Stillwater
By Pastor Shad Vork
Not long ago, a small Twin Cities’ church made the headlines of the Pioneer Press. It was an assembly of about 30 members, the vast majority being senior citizens. The leadership overseeing the church, which happened to be from a different congregation, decided this first church needed a restart. Essentially, they told all the older people to find other places to worship for at least a year or so while the church restarted targeting young people. As you can imagine, the congregation was not happy with the leadership’s decision.
This particular article reminded me of Grace Baptist Church of Stillwater when the Lord led our family here in 2008. At that time, we also had about 30 attending on Sunday morning. Most of our congregation was made up of seniors, a couple families with young children, and some young adults. I remember praying and brainstorming about ways to grow this church.
A little background might help. Grace Baptist was planted in 1978 by Lenard Huebscher who happens to be my father-in-law. Most MBA churches are small, and this one fits the mold. Our auditorium could fit about 100 tightly. Over its history, the church had a number of ups and downs, even reaching a high attendance of 100 at one point. When we arrived, it was at a low point. I do not see that as a reflection on the leadership so much as just a part of the ebb and flow of ministry. In reality, I would have to say that I followed a faithful and loving shepherd who built a solid foundation of gospel work in our community. To this day, I still run into people who were at some point touched by Pastor Huebscher or Grace Baptist.
So coming back to 2008, I found myself at first attempting to create ministry to appeal to young families who were not in our church. Somewhere along the way, the Lord changed my thinking such that we tried to focus ministry upon those whom the Lord had already given us. We were doing evangelism, but we needed to do better at discipleship. Our ministry in those first years here was strong on young adults and on seniors, and I believe the Lord used that over time and by His grace to rebuild us into a much healthier church. I have been bi-vocational for my entire tenure in Stillwater, and I see that as a mostly good thing. Thankfully, the church now supports me nearly full-time, but I see the bi-vocational model more and more in churches like ours. Working in the community has given me many opportunities for outreach. Our early financial needs prompted a couple MBA churches to step up and help. One gave a significant financial donation when the budget was tight. The other paid for my family’s health insurance for the first year, and over the next several years sent two work groups to help with facility improvements. Both churches were a tremendous help and encouragement to our entire church family.
I am glad we did not kick the older people out or write them off. They have been a vital part of our ministry. I hope we keep loving all the saints for as long as the Lord has us here. We are still small, but I’m convinced God is pleased with small churches and is accomplishing so much of His work through multitudes of them throughout the world. In closing, I am reminded of Psalm 127:1, “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain…”
Immanuel Baptist Church, Westbrook
Immanuel Baptist Church traces its origin to the grasshopper plagues of the 1870s. The Danish Baptist Church of Clarks Grove, a few miles north of Albert Lea, gathered provisions for people in Cottonwood County who were struggling with the grasshopper disaster.
The Danish Baptist Church commissioned two men to deliver the supplies to settler-colonists living in the future Storden area. On July 12, 1879, a group of local Baptists organized First Scandinavian Baptist Church and called J.M. Nelson, one of the men who had come from Clarks Grove, to be their pastor.
The arrival of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis, & Omaha Railway motivated the congregation to dismantle their place of worship around 1899 and rebuild closer to the Currie Line Railroad. Settler-colonists living closer to the newly incorporated village of Westbrook, five miles west of Storden, preferred to worship in Westbrook.
In 1901 the village of Westbrook donated a plot of land and erected a church building. Mr. Hubbell, a farmer living south of the village, donated $500 to build the structure. A group of Baptists used the money to build Calvary Baptist Church at the corner of Sixth Street and Ash Avenue. About five years later the congregation disbanded when several families moved from the area.
The Baptists east of Westbrook held services in homes until September 6, 1908, when they called a meeting to organize a congregation. Two months later the group met at the former Calvary Baptist Church with the intent of purchasing the building. On November 17, 1908, twenty-two charter members (eighteen from the Storden church and four from Calvary) celebrated the founding of Immanuel Baptist Church.
Settling on a meaningful name for the new Baptist church posed a major challenge to the small group of worshipers. They chose Immanuel because the word means “God with us.” Rev. N.H. Byers answered the unanimous call to be the church’s first pastor. He served in that capacity until 1915, when he moved to a new ministry. Ten men served as pastors of Immanuel Baptist from 1908 until 2004, when Rev. Robert Adams began his ministry.
Many changes implemented over the years enhanced the 1901 building. In 1913 the first addition involved digging a basement, adding a bell tower, and installing a furnace and a baptistry. A thirty-two-by-twenty-six-foot addition, including a new kitchen, was added in 1948. The building grew with the addition of an educational wing in 1969.
In 2001 a major building project added facilities for Westbrook Christian Day school, which had opened its doors to ten students on September 5, 1978. The large classroom on the first floor and activity center in the basement of the new addition met the needs of the growing school. Enrollment reached a peak of forty students, but the school closed in 2006 because of falling enrollment.
Immanuel Baptist Church continues to minister in the Westbrook area while supporting ministries around the world. People whose lives have been impacted by the church’s ministry are scattered from coast to coast in the United States as well as on the continents of South America and Asia.
— Carolyn Van Loh
Edited from a January 2018 copy written by C. Van Loh andposted on the MN Historical Society site at mnopedia.org