A small group of Swedish immigrants began a new church as they gathered at John C. Nelson’s home on February 14, 1887.
This small group of dedicated believers became known as the Swedish Mission Covenant Church of Harris, Minnesota.
By the middle of summer a building lot had been purchased and plans were underway to build a church.
These Swedish immigrants of meager means built the church by doing the construction themselves, even cutting the timber for the wood structure.
This small group of stalwart Swedes began holding services as regularly as possible in their newly constructed building.
It was the first church in the village. Visiting pastors came to preach the Word – names like Skoglund, Nordstrom and Finnstrom came from Rush City to preach.
Messages from laymen named Olson, Ramberg and Swenson were well received when itinerant pastors were not available. Descendents of some of these pioneers are active members of the church today.
From the beginning, the church recognized the important ministry it had to the youth of Harris. Sunday School was begun on December 11, 1887, On Sunday each man took his own family to church.
The Young Peoples Society and the China Society were part of a broader movement at Covenant.
These societies provided social opportunities, religious training, and leadership opportunities within the immigrant church for the children of first generation immigrants.
The China society began in 1906 and was a way for the Sunday School children to support the denomination’s efforts in China as well as to give them a heart for missions.
The first project was supporting a Chinese girl. The first Daily Vacation Bible School began in 1931 and, with the exception of a few years, this work among the children has been carried on each summer.
These first years of ministry of the Harris Covenant Church laid a strong foundation for spiritual growth and service that would serve it well as it faced the challenge of transitioning from an immigrant church to an American church.
It would also face the Great Depression with its ramifications on the church members and also its own financial solvency.
The decade of 1930 to 1940 saw the change from all Swedish to the English language in the worship services.
Some of the pioneers were doubtful as to the wisdom of this step at first, “could the gospel really be the same in English?”
In 1938 the decision was made to allow the church board to decide whether or not to continue the Swedish services. Then in 1943 a new pastor suggested “having a Swedish service once in a while.”
The two World Wars affected most families within the church. Two of their boys did not come back; they were brothers and at their own request served on the same plane in the Air Corps. On a mission over Germany their plane was shot down.
In 1941 two more Sunday School rooms were added to the church, the interior remodeled and redecorated and other improvements made. In 1956 some improvements were made in the church basement.
In conjunction with the 85th anniversary of the church, the cornerstone was laid for the dedication of Expansion ’71.
Improvements in this project included a larger sanctuary and platform, foyer area, fireside room, nursery, additional classrooms, restrooms, larger fellowship area in the basement, a new heating plant, and new interior and exterior design. Total building cost was $30,000.
Revivals took place in 1982 through a Lay Witness Mission and again in 1985 through the ministry of a visiting Covenant pastor, Donald Peres. It was an unforgettably moving moment when many found themselves at the foot of the cross. Lives were changed and others were renewed or revived.
The Centennial Celebration in 1987 was a year long of events centering around the theme: “Serving a Changeless Christ in a Changing World.”
In 1989 the church evaluated its present ministry and its future potential and set about implementing its vision by raising funds to expand the educational space of the church and the sanctuary. This would be carried out in two phases.
Members and friends provided their financial support and hundreds of hours of sweat equity. Dedication Sunday was December 2, 2001 with a service and celebratory dinner.
The goal was to pay off the mortgage as quickly as possible, which happened in spring of 2011.
Church membership has never been large. Charter members have all passed on to their reward. This church has been a source of blessing and spiritual help to many who have come under its influence during its 125 years of existence.
A church doesn’t have to be big to transform lives. Would it be that we had more small town churches like Harris Covenant Church.
Join the congregation as they celebrate 125 years of God’s faithfulness and ministry to the community from the corner of Gates Avenue and County Road 10 in Harris.
Events begin Saturday morning, Aug. 18 followed by a lunch at noon. This is the time for remembering, recalling, and reminiscing. At 2 p.m., guests can play the “Minute-to-Win-It” game.
The church is hosting a Hymn Sing on Saturday evening, beginning at 7 p.m. with Gary Nyquist and Sonda Jacobson leading.
Sunday morning, Aug. 19, the Celebration Service will be held at 10:15 a.m. with guest speaker, Mark Stromberg, the Northwest Conference superintendent, followed by a catered Swedish dinner.
This is a ticketed event. A short celebration program at 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon will conclude the grand reunion for all friends and members.