Very Colorful 120 Year History of Fairview Covenant Church:
Fairview Evangelical Covenant Church is located on the north shore of Jennings Bay of Lake Minnetonka in an area once known as “The Big Woods.” The plat division, is known as Fairview Park it includes all of Saga Hill. The original church was a quaint little white church founded by Eric Skogsbergh in May 1901. Yes, the church is 100 years old. The highest point in the Lake Minnetonka area is just to the east of the church. The word “Covenant” in our name originally meant a joining of hands, a fellowship, and a gathering. Fairview Covenant Church’s official title is “Swedish Evangelic Mission Covenant Church of Fairview Park.” Fairview Covenant Church was a direct outgrowth of Covenanters gathering at Skogsbergh’s Point to receive instruction from leading Covenant Pastors and guests.
Skogsbergh, an itinerant preacher from Sweden, came to the area to reach out to the growing Swedish population. In the late 1800s there were no churches in this part of the Lake Minnetonka area. Skogsbergh often held services at the end of what is now known as Rest Point, in a large area enclosed by a mulberry hedge. In inclement weather services were held in a barn just across the road from Skogsbergh’s home on Rest Point. Services were held outside or in the barn until the first structure was built in 1904.
Skogsberg was an organizer and a rebel. He founded a school which, against his wishes the denomination leadership moved to Chicago. It is now called North Park College and Seminary. He established the Swedish Covenant churches in Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Seattle. He established Minnehaha Academy, a local primary and secondary private school now with two campuses. He also established the Swedish Hospital, whose building still stands but whose function has been incorporated into the Hennepin County Medical Center. He was involved in establishing what is now called Northwestern College.
Skogsbergh was a charismatic leader who was sometimes considered to be a clown. Two members of the congregation remember him as a short, intense and at times unpleasant man. He modeled his evangelism after the work of Dwight Moody. The first pastor of Fairview Church, however, was Emil Larson, a man with no formal training. Ruth Skogsbergh recalls him conducting Sunday school and prayer meetings in his home. She also attended the ladies’ sewing circle that met in Emil’s home.
In October 1929 Fairview sent Dora Lindahl to China as a missionary. There she met Rev. Joel Nordlund. They were married in June 1931. Their son was born two years later. Dora died two months after her son was born; complications from childbirth were suspected.
Up until 1939 worship services were spoken/sang in Swedish. Fairview was closed for three years over the issue of whether to speak English or continue to worship in Swedish. The youth preferred English and they won out.
In 1966 when Fairview celebrated its 65th anniversary Ruth Skogsbergh spoke to the congregation, sharing her memories of the early days of the church and growing up on the lake. She spoke of the time 30 young girls came from Skogsbergh’s “Swedish Tabernacle” in Minneapolis (now First Covenant Church). They took the train to Spring Park. The first railroad to the Lake Minnetonka area was built in: 1867. In the early days of train travel to the lake area eighteen trains left Minneapolis for Wayzata each day. The ride took only 20 minutes. Captain Deering’s steamboat took them across the bay to the Skogsbergh’s home on Skogsbergh’s Point, now known as Rest Point. She told about their attempt to keep the mosquitoes out by building a smudge pot in a coffee can. It failed; mosquitoes are still part of the lake landscape!
Today Fairview is a congregation that unselfishly gives to the church and supports its mission and its leaders. We have healthy discussions of all matters; there is a wonderful spirit of cooperation, understanding and respect. Worship includes a combination of singing the traditional hymns of our roots combined with contemporary songs and media.