Grace Baptist celebrates 50-year anniversary

The hopes and dreams of a small group of devout Swedish immigrants came to fruition when Grace Baptist Church of Cloquet first opened its doors in 1958. This weekend, the church will celebrate another significant milestone - its 50th anniversary.

The hopes and dreams of a small group of devout Swedish immigrants came to fruition when Grace Baptist Church of Cloquet first opened its doors in 1958. This weekend, the church will celebrate another significant milestone - its 50th anniversary.

According to the church's informal history, the roots of the church go back to the early 1900s, when the group of newly arrived Swedish youths formed a Baptist Young People's Society in Cloquet.

They started the first Swedish Baptist Church at 21 14th Street and selected the Rev. Harold Nielson as their spiritual leader.

Just as the neophyte church was getting off the ground, however, the Fire of 1918 came along and at that point, the early history of the church was obliterated. The church's records were destroyed in the fire, so nothing more was recorded about the Swedish Baptists, how many of them survived the fire, or just what happened to Pastor Nielson.

At least one of the church's faithful emerged from the devastation of the terrible conflagration, however, in the person of Mrs. E. Hoglund who, according to the church's history, "never gave up hope of having a Swedish Baptist Church in Cloquet."


Hoglund's son, the Rev. Gunnar Hoglund, later went on to become the youth director for the Baptist General Conference.

The Hoglunds planted a seed that fell on fertile ground. Several others like themselves met to pray in homes with the hope of having a church once again some day.

Sherman and Hannah Johnson hosted the first such meeting on Nov. 7, 1957, in their home. Helping lead the charge was the Rev. William Horn, pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Duluth, who had been asked to come to Cloquet to visit homes and lead weekly prayer meetings.

Six months later, the emerging local congregation was able to extend a call to a pastor of their own, the Rev. David Clark, who led Sunday services in the Masonic Temple on Arch Street at a weekly rental price of $5 per week!

The congregation started to get serious about establishing permanency, and its members were at last able to purchase their own land with a house at 601 14th Street, where today's church still stands.

The house was remodeled into a sanctuary, according to church archives, with Sunday school rooms and a parsonage on the second floor.

As the church grew, many changes continued to take place. In 1965, a new addition was built and connected to the original building. Later, in 1979, the old house-turned-church was torn down and replaced by the current structure, which was completed in 1983.

With the increased growth of its congregation, today's Grace Baptist Church continues to contemplate new ways to expand, both physically and spiritually.


"In 1958, when our present church was organized," said Pastor Doug Green, "several of our members spoke Swedish, but now we are a 'melting pot' of various church backgrounds and nationalities."

Today the church still maintains strong ties to Bethany Baptist in Duluth and is part of the South Arrowhead Baptist Association of the Minnesota Baptist Conference as well as the Baptist General Conference.

Grace Baptist also has a strong, ongoing relationship with Camp Green Hill on Chub Lake, started 48 years ago after Max and Violet Lampson gifted the land to the South Arrowhead Baptist Churches in memory of their son, Glen.

Since that time, Baptist youngsters from throughout the area have enjoyed vacation Bible school at the camp, in addition to numerous church members who have been baptized there.

"Since the beginning, however," said Green, "Grace Baptist has always been more about people and ministry than about buildings or programs."

The church's outreach has included the popular local Awana ministry for youth, adult fellowship groups, and missions initiatives to Mexico, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Delaware and Belize. Last summer, a team of youth from the church traveled to Mississippi to partner with YouthWorks and BGC in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

And little can be written about the history of Grace Baptist without including mention of the church's popular Saturday Night Gospel Fest, which invited people from the area to come and enjoy their favorite hymns and songs under the leadership of Ted and Marge Hall of the Gospel Five.

Though the gospel fest ended with the death of Ted Hall in 2007, it still weaves a strong thread through the history of the thriving congregation.


Grace Baptist will celebrate its 50th anniversary during the week of July 26-Aug. 3. On Saturday, July 26, there will be a celebration at 6:30 p.m. featuring music by past and present members as well as greetings from former pastors. The event will culminate with an ice cream social.

A special anniversary worship service is planned for 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, July 27, with a heritage choir, a video review of the church's history, and a message from Rev. Dan Carlson, executive minister of the Minnesota Baptist Conference.

The celebration will continue through Aug. 3 with a worship service and catered picnic at Camp Green Hill on Chub Lake, beginning at 10:30 a.m., followed by the meal at noon. Reservations should be made by July 27.

All services are open to the public. For more information, contact the church office at 218-879-5749.

In conjunction with the church's 50th anniversary, the members of the congregation have also put together a cookbook, "A Taste of Grace," featuring their favorite recipes. For more information, go to the church Web site at: .

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