Around Swedish America in 548 Days

Day 93 - First Covenant Church

First Covenant Church — 810 S. Seventh Street (612-332-8093; www.istcov.org).

Carved on the Seventh Street façade of the large red-brick building is the inscription, Svenska Missions Tabernaklet 1886 (Swedish Mission Tabernacle 1886). In December 1874, the congregation was officially organized with thirty-one charter members. After the dynamic Reverend E. August Skogsbergh, sometimes called “the Swedish Dwight L. Moody,” assumed his post here in 1884, a larger church building was needed. A lot was purchased at Seventh Street and Chicago Avenue, the foundation was laid in 1886, and the following year, a building seating 2,500 was completed. Svenska Tabernaklet was one of the liveliest places in Minneapolis, considering Skogsbergh’s forceful preaching and A. L. Skoog’s powerful singing. Skoog was called “the Swedish Ira Sankey” in reference to Moody’s organ-playing revival singer. For a time, it was the largest Covenant church in the United States.

The main sanctuary has been altered. The large impressive auditorium has a number of lovely stained-glass windows. Downstairs is an archival room where, among the items displayed, are the organ used by Skoog and the silk hat worn by Skogsbergh when he received the Order of Vasa from the Swedish king. In the small Skogsbergh-Skoog Chapel near the main sanctuary is a copy of Skogsbergh’s round pulpit. The original one is at the Covenant Archives at North Park University in Chicago, which began at First Covenant. The reception room in the church office has a Swedish folk décor.

In Minneapolis’s Lakewood Cemetery, at 3600 Hennepin Avenue, is a reddish granite marker on the Reverend Skogsbergh’s grave, which lies in lot 194, section 4, grave 4½, shaded by oaks at the base of a small hill. To the Värmland native, his church inscribed: “In memory of Erik August Skogsbergh (1850—1939). A faithful pastor, a zealous evangelist, and a courageous leader who fulfilled his ministry.”

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