During a period of growth in Beverly during the early 1900s and 1920s (a period of heavy immigration in the United States), a number of Swedish churches emerged. Who originally founded these churches? Where were they? What happened to them?
The growth of Swedish churches in Beverly during the early 1900s and 1920s coincided with a period of heavy immigration in the United States. While immigrants were coming into a new country, they were also entering a land with new surroundings and people that were not as welcoming as they may have hoped. These immigrants had left their homes, families, and everything known to them as “life” in order to settle in this new country of freedom and opportunity. Despite all the opportunities and appealing aspects of America, it was still a strange place that immigrants were now forced to consider “home”. At this point in time, immigrants were no longer able to rely on familiarities such as homes, friends, families and jobs. With nothing recognizable to depend on, many immigrants turned to religion as a form of security. “Individuals who had adapted to commercial agriculture of Europe (and Sweden), seized unskilled jobs in American factories, or identified openings for entrepreneurial ventures, but when it came to religion many scholars found those same individuals huddled together, as their ancestors before them- seeking solace in a strange, new land.” The building and organization of churches at this time gave immigrants a place of belonging as well as somewhere to share their faith and seemingly deserted cultures.
Swedes did not begin to arrive in the United States until the nineteenth century. Between 1869 and 1920 more than one million Swedes came to America, and at the peak of immigration in the 1880s, an average of 37,000 Swedes came to the United States each year”. Swedish immigrants settled in every part of the country except the southeastern states bordering on the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Due to poor local economic conditions in Sweden as well as the luring availability of cheap land in the American west, the United States was seen as a prosperous place for all. Reasons for immigration also included religious unrest and the lack of freedom of expression and beliefs in Sweden at this time. An example of the oppression and rejection of many Swedish immigrants is the opposition that the State church of Sweden had against the emigration of Lutheran Swedes. The State church paid no attention to the spiritual needs of the emigrants coming in, and left them with no support in their struggles to successfully settle. With this rejection, all the new religious groups from Sweden adopted a general American pattern including the formations of Sunday schools and other social engineering institutions. They made their churches the center for social and educational activities as well as for worship. Author and historian Percie Hillbrand noted that in some instances even the liturgy was changed within some of the rejected churches. This struggle for independence and freedom seemed to inspire the Swedish immigrants rather than discourage them.
There were Swedish churches and organizations formed as immigration into America continued. The churches included the Swedish Lutheran, Baptist, Episcopal, Methodist and Congregational churches. In Beverly we had Swedish founded groups such as churches, bible readings, and societies. While there was definitely a reliance on religious structures during times of heavy immigration and settlement, there is still just limited information on these associations and where they went as time progressed.
Between the years 1900 and 1920, Beverly’s Newspapers and the Beverly City Directories contained listings of Swedish founded organizations. Some did not have their own building locations, and the location or dates these organizations appeared differed between the newspapers and the directories. When going through the microfilm, I viewed all the religious sections of the Beverly News papers: Beverly’s Morning Citizen from 1900-1918, and the Beverly Times from 1919-1920. The beginning years did not list any Swedish churches or Swedish organizations and the first mention of any Swedish correlated group was on December 3, 1904 when the “Swedish Mission” appeared in the Morning Citizen . The Swedish Mission held services every Sunday evening at a building called Burham Hall. It was not yet an independent church, and although it only met once a week, the Swedish Mission still earned recognition in the newspaper. This was very notable considering the lack of Swedish establishment at this point in time. Churches and religious organizations had their own section and at first were found under the title “Church and Vestry”. These listings also gave sub-titles for the different religious organizations, which showed their locations, pastor names and the times of the different services and meetings. On Friday August 30, 1901, the title “Church and Vestry” was changed to “Church and Chapel”, yet the churches and their names remained the same. On Saturday December 21, 1907, Swedish Lutheran Bethany Church at 7 Hale Street was added to the religious listings, as well as the Swedish Congregational Church, which held services at the Washington Street Chapel rather than owning their own building to worship in . Under the church listings there are little notes about the different organizations, but there is never any mention about any of the Swedish groups. These notes are titled “City Notes”, and I was unable to find one that was written on the subject of any Swedish organization. The notes that did appear weren’t always of valuable subject matter either. One example is a write-up in the Citizen on January 4, 1908, for the purpose of bringing attention to a Piano recital being held at the Baptist Chapel, and nothing more. On September 20, 1913, the Swedish Congregational Church that had formerly held sermons at the Washington Street Chapel appeared in the newspaper as it’s own church ; at the corner of Charnock Street and Pierce Avenue .
By 1909 the religious sections became harder to find, but they were now separated by small lines between all of the different groups, even under “Other Services”. These insignificant lines actually gave the organizations a better sense of identity and authority. This way they appeared more like independent establishments . Also, the City Notes under these listings were discontinued. On May 15, 1909 there was an article called Renewed Interest published about the Churches. Although it was only a small paragraph that was not very noticeable, it showed some the churches’ importance that were neglected of publicity as a regularity:
“The local churches are showing a great awakening; never before was a greater interest manifested in religion. The evening meetings at several of the churches are unusually well attended. During the past year large gains have been made by all the churches, and increasing interest is manifested. Not for many years has Beverly had such a number of workers in the cause.” 
There was only one article that I found associated with Swedish organizations. It is about the success of the new Bible schools being held titled Swedish Vacation Bible School Successful Season on September 8, 1932 . These were the only two write-ups about Swedish religious matters in Beverly that I saw while looking through the microfilm.
Within the Beverly City Directories, the first listing of a Swedish church was in the 1906 addition: the Swedish Congregational Church on Cabot Street. The directories list when the churches were originally organized in Beverly, the different times for services and meetings, and limited members or involved faculty. In all of the listings, the pastor, treasurer, the clerk of the church, and several other officials are listed. The Swedish churches just listed the pastors.  After the Swedish Congregational church at 10 Charnock Street appeared in the 1913 directory, the following years list new Swedish organizations such as the Swedish Lutheran church, the Ladies Aid society, and the Swedish founded VASA lodge society. There are many differences in the newspaper’s listings and the directory’s listing, including address changes, title differences, and even missing organizations.
Although none of the church buildings subsist any longer for the same purpose, or in the same location, the congregations and services may still exist and can be found at different locations. The Swedish Congregational Church of Beverly is the only church that I could find remaining information on as well as a continuing faith. Now located in West Peabody as the Covenant Congregational Church, you can find old church records of the Church that was once located on the corner of Charnock and Pierce avenue in the achieves of it’s new location, and from members still associated with the church today. Beverly’s Swedish Congregational Church was founded in 1905 with the help of the Lynn Johnson Street Covenant Church, which was founded in 1888. The Johnson street church was founded by “Swedish Immigrants who felt the need for fellowship, worship and prayer in their own language.”
After the construction of Beverly’s Swedish Congregational Church, the main problem that remained for the congregation was the payments it now faced. The records of the Church Secretary are filled with long and involved discussions regarding mortgages and loans that were considered in order to pay for the Church. Difficulties were encountered even before completing the Church, like the plumbing strike in 1915, which prevented the installation of plumbing. In April 1916, the treasures report noted that the church had paid $4,277.87, and that there was still a 5,755.12 debt to be paid. Also, in another church document there’s note of a lack of funds to pay for the church basement , as well as a period in time, from June 1935 to November 1936 when the church was without a regular pastor and was forced to unite with the church in Pigeon Cove, which was 20 miles away. Beverly’s church had financial problems from the beginning, and it was these problems that would later come back to haunt them in the end.
As time went on and the growth of the church subsided, Beverly’s church progressively became smaller, therefore losing more and more money. With a Swedish name, people thought that you had to be Swedish in order to join the church, so fewer people were joining. In 1928, one member suggested a series of meetings to be held in discussing use of the English language within the church, but the congregation decided against it the use of this “foreign” language. The members argued about the use of the English language in the church: one side arguing that as a Swedish congregation the church “ought to determine to use the native tongue as much as possible”, and the other group argued that “it is jut a question of time, and that we are far behind the congregations in the West in this matter”. By February 1934, English was being used in all morning services. Unfortunately, the churches’ slow attempt to convert to the English language still affected the number of new members coming in. For the purpose of emphasizing that one did not have to be Swedish in order to gain membership into the church, Beverly legally changed the name of their church from The Swedish Congregational Church of Beverly to the Covenant Congregational Church of Beverly on June 2, 1944.
While fewer people were joining, the church was progressively losing more members at the same time. The parents and grandparents that had once founded and built the church were dying, and their children were either moving or converting due to different interests. In short, members were leaving but none were joining. For the same reasons Lynn was gradually losing members and funds as well, and with the church located in the inner city as Lynn became larger, more and more people were moving away from the church towards the suburbs. In 1968 the two churches met to discuss the possibility of forming a joined church . On November 20, 1968 they voted to consolidate. The two churches were now searching for a new location between Beverly and Lynn where there were new homes being built as well. Members of both churches would walk for miles in search for the “perfect” location. Finally an old farmhouse with sufficient land was found in West Peabody. The land was owned by a schoolteacher who was at first unwilling to sell the property her parents and grandparents had formerly owned. Luckily, after discovering that the land was being purchased for the purpose of building a new, much needed church, the ‘nice” women agreed to sell.
The Community Covenant Church was founded on August 11, 1969. The first service was held in the new building on Easter Sunday, April 11, 1971, and the membership of the church, Sunday school enrollment and weekly attendance grew without a problem. Organizations such as the Retired Friends group, the Daily Vacation Bible School, and new fellowship programs were being formed and the church also began to publish a monthly newsletter: The Caller. The Community Covenant church is a very successful Evangelical church to this day, and still exists in West Peabody at 33 Lake Street .
The influence of the church on Swedish immigrants in America is great both spiritually and culturally. To the immigrants it became a social institution, which helped them adjust to a new and difficult environment. Through the church, contacts were made with men and women who spoke the Swedish language and who had a similar background of experience. This helped them to succeed in their new way of life. Through the churches, colleges, Sunday schools, and church publications, the children of the immigrants were taught the languages, customs, traditions, and culture of Sweden, meanwhile adapting to a new way of life. It is the churches, colleges, seminaries, hospitals, and homes for the aged that are the lasting monuments to the faithful and dedicated pioneer laymen and preachers of the Swedish society. The 1970 census listed the total of first and second generation Swedes living in the United States as 806, 138 people, and the Swedish traditions are still held high as they continue to influence our daily lives within the society and culture of today.
 John Bodnar. The Transplanted: A History of Immigrants in Urban America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985),
 Percie V. Hillbrand. The Swedes in America. (Minnesota: Lerner Publications Company, 1966), 79.
 Ibid., 77.
 Morning Citizen. 3 December 1904
 Ibid., 30 August 1901
 Morning Citizen. 21 December 1907
 Morning Citizen. 15 May 1909
 Beverly Evening Times. 8 September 1932
 Beverly City Directory 1906
 Beverly City Directories 1900- 1920
 “Church History and Family Tree”. (Covenant Congregational Church Archives, West Peabody, MA, Photocopy).,1.
 Edgar Jacobson, ed. “The History of the Beverly Congregational Church” (Booklet printed for the Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration, Beverly, 1955), 3.
 “Church Documents, 1949”. (Covenant Congregational Church Archives, West Peabody, MA. Photocopy), 1.
 Edgar Jacobson, ed. “The History of the Beverly Congregational Church” (Booklet printed for the Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration, Beverly, 1955), 4-5.
 Joan Durkee, “Special Business Meeting” (record of meeting discussing the consolidation of Johnson Street Covenant Church of Lynn and the Covenant Congregational Church of Beverly, Beverly, MA., November 1969), 1.
 Joan Durkee, interviewed by author, 16 January 2001.
 “Church History and Family Tree” (Covenant Congregational Church Archives, West Peabody, Ma. Photocopy)., 2.
 Percie V. Hillbrand. The Swedes in America. (Minnesota: Lerner Publications Company, 1966), 79.
Beverly City Directory, 1906.
Beverly City Directories 1900- 1920.
Beverly Evening Times. 1932. 8 September.
Beverly Inside Out: The League of Women Voters of Beverly. Beverly MA: Wilkscraft Creative Printing, 1986.
Bodnar, John. The Transplanted: A History of Immigrants in Urban America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979.
Brief History of New Sweden in America<www.colonialswedes.org/History/History.html > (accessed 24 December 2001).
“Church Documents, 1949”. (Covenant Congregational Church Achieves, West Peabody, MA. Photocopy).
“Church History and Family Tree”. (Covenant Congregational Church Achieves, West Peabody, Ma. Photocopy).,1-2.
Diane Forsstrom, letter to author, 12 January 2001.
Durkee, Joan. “Special Business Meeting.” Record of meeting discussing the consolidation of Johnson Street Covenant Church of Lynn and the Covenant Congregational Church of Beverly, Beverly, MA., November 1969.
Durkee Joan. Telephone conversation with author, 16 January 2001.
Edgar Jacobson, ed. “The History of the Beverly Congregational Church”. Booklet printed for the Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration, Beverly Massachusetts, 1955., 3.
Fuchs, Lawrence H. The American Kaleidoscope: Race, Ethnicity, and the Civic Culture. New England: Wesleyan University Press, 1990.
Hillbrand, Percie V. The Swedes in America. Minnesota: Lerner Publications Company, 1966.
Morning Citizen. 1904. 3 December
Morning Citizen. 1901. 30 August
Morning Citizen. 1909. 15 May
Ostergren, Robert C. A Community Transplanted. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1988.
Stephenson, George M. The Religious Aspects of Swedish Immigration. New York: Arno Press and The New York Times, 1969.
Thernstrom, Stephan. ed. Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. Cambridge, MA/ London England: Harvard University Press, 1980.