Wide, varied and far-reaching are the global ministries of the Philadelphia Church of Seattle, Washington, which have made an impact not just limited to the Ballard community or the metropolitan area of Seattle, but around the world. Such a ministry, as one well knows, does not transpire in a day or even a year, but rather over a period of many years of praying, preaching, and giving.
Our story started over one hundred and fifteen years ago [from 2016] when, in 1901, a Norwegian lay-minister and his family who had recently migrated to Ballard, Washington, from Wisconsin, invited some friends to their humble home to pray for the Gospel evangelization of the world. Little did these few folk realize that out of this obscure beginning would evolve a great missionary church which would touch the four corners of the world for Christ.
The late 1800’s saw much hardship come to the Scandinavian lands and to its people. The economic situation was bleak during those difficult days; but a bright ray of hope appeared on the horizon. America seemed to beckon those of other lands with promises of financial prosperity and fruitfulness—a new opportunity for success.
Tobias E. Tonnesen One young Norwegian man who answered the call to the new country was Tobias E. Tonnesen. Tobias Tonnesen boarded the little ship bound for America with the idea and ambition to make lots of money, but walked off the ship at his destination with another motive altogether.
During the voyage this ship on which Tobias Tonnesen was a passenger encountered a severe storm. Gigantic waves swept over the seacraft carrying all articles not securely fastened down into the sea. One of the turbulent waves lifted Tobias Tonnesen right off the deck of the ship into the tempestuous water. Struggling and sinking in his potentially watery grave, Tobias called out on God, his only hope, as the wayward prophet Jonah had centuries before, promising to give himself in service to the Lord if only his life would be spared.
This earnest cry was heard and answered as the merciful Lord caused another wave of the storm to relocate Tobias Tonnesen on the deck of the America-bound ship.
In April, 1901, Tobias Tonnesen, accompanied by his family, left the mid-western state of Wisconsin where they had been living and Tonnesen had been lay-ministering, and moved to the Pacific Northwest. The Tonnesen family settled on land located in the small city of Ballard, Washington in the area around Salmon Bay. They rented an upstairs apartment between 20th N.W. and 22nd N.W. which was then called “Crawford” street, and is now known as N.W. 59th street.
Tobias Tonnesen soon became acquainted with a number of other brethren who, like himself, did not feel at home in the established denominational churches. They longed for the founding of a free and independent work. This group began to have cottage prayer meetings in the Tonnesens’ upstairs apartment. Not many months later a lot was purchased and a house built by the Tonnesens on “Chestnut” street, (now known as N.W. 61st) near 17th N.W. Meetings were held there in addition to other homes. As the Lord blessed, the small group which met together grew to about twelve families. They were an open-minded assemblage of brethren and desired to possess all that God had for them. The group identified themselves with no specific denomination, but referred to themselves simply as “Free People.”
R.G. Rasmussen In the year 1902, R.G. Rasmussen, (a convert of a northern Minnesota revival meeting), left Superior, Wisconsin, for Ballard, and began to assist T.E. Tonnesen in leading the home Bible studies and services. Brother Rasmussen was closely associated with the church for more than sixty years until his death in 1964. He held the office of President of the Church Corporation for forty-one years and that of an elder for forty-four years. His daughter, Grace (Rasmussen) Hestekind, along with her husband Harold, became the church’s first fully supported foreign missionaries in 1948.
R.G. Rasmussen and T.E. Tonnesen were the two human instruments our Lord used in the establishment of the early pioneer work in Ballard which eventually became the Philadelphia Church. The Early days found the blessing of the Lord resting upon the group in a mighty way. The years from 1901 to 1905 found the small assembly of earnest believers meeting to read and study the Word, and further to pray that the Lord would thrust forth laborers into the whitened harvest fields of the world. This missions concern, which would be a hallmark of the church in years to come, began at the onset of its history.
The Jones Avenue Mission is Born With the increasing attendance of the cottage prayer meetings in the latter part of 1904, homes had become inadequate to accommodate the gatherings. For a short time the group rented a vacant school house on lower Sunset Hill to meet the need for more room. In 1905 a lot was purchased in the 6500 block on Jones Avenue and the men of the church banded together to construct a little church which became known as the Jones Avenue Mission. Even though “regular” denominational structure didn’t appeal to the people of the Mission, they desired some sort of organization within the body. Therefore, a business meeting was held, three trustees were elected and a constitution adopted, consisting of a portion of the Word of God which seemed most suitable to the congregation. The selection of this particular Scriptural passage seems to have proven prophetical in nature since the Jones Avenue Mission became possibly the first “Pentecostal” assembly as such in the Seattle area. That portion was I Corinthians 12, 13 and 14—word for word.
The Pentecostal Revival Comes to Ballard In the Fall of 1906, the Jones Avenue Mission received a letter from an evangelist named Strand who had previously held meetings at the young assembly. The content of that letter was to be the catalyst which would so change the Mission that it would never be the same again.
Brother Strand’s letter came from the Los Angeles area where he had been visiting for some time. He had been attending the Azuza Street Mission and had a glowing story to report. Brother Tonnesen read the letter to the congregation. It told of how the Mission was a place where a group of hungry souls began to pour out their hearts to God and to seek His face. Brother Strand went on to write about how the Lord had met the seeking folks with a blessed Holy Spirit outpouring, many were saved and people had been healed from various sicknesses. In the process of Brother Strand’s visits to the Azuza Street Mission, he became exceedingly hungry to be filled with the Holy Spirit as recorded in Acts 2:4. Then he told how after he sought the face of God, he had experienced the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Oh the joy that had become his portion…oh the deep assurance of the reality of God which filled his heart. The Holy Spirit had also given him such power to witness. He wrote that he wished there were some way that he could tell in words of the glory that was his, but all he could do was praise God for giving him that which Jesus Christ referred to as “the promise of the Father.”
When Brother Tonnesen finished reading the letter, the congregation sat in awe and wonder, and began to hunger for the fullness of the Holy Spirit. They all agreed that what Brother Strand had written about was what the Jones Avenue Mission needed. The people of the Mission began to seek God and the Holy Ghost revival ensued. This was in the month of October, 1906. Other believers in the city came running to the Mission after hearing the revival reports. The people realized their tiny Mission was not adequate for the crowds that were coming, so on Thanksgiving Day, 1906, the west wall of the church building was torn down and the building was enlarged to nearly twice its size. The story is told that three days later the enlarged building was used for services!
God continued to bless in a mighty way, and there were “hallelujah” prayer meetings many nights that lasted until the early morning hours. Things were not always easy and carefree however. With the revival came the accompanying persecution that was not unusual in the earlier days of the Pentecostal movement. Rocks were thrown through windows and vandalism around the building was a frequent occurrence. The church was undaunted and continued to pray while hungry people kept coming and God continued to pour out upon them His Holy Spirit.
“Not Slothful in Business” In 1907 the first two business meetings of record were held; one on January 14, and the other one on November 4. (The first actual business meeting was conducted in 1905 but had not been recorded, and no arrangements had been made to continue them.) Records of these business meetings in the Secretary’s book (which still exists) were written in the English language. However, in most of the years until 1937, the minutes were recorded in one of the Scandinavian languages.
“And They Continued Steadfastly…” The years 1908–1920 were years of progress for the Jones Avenue Mission. The Lord continued to bless as the people continued to pray and praise. Services were held three times on Sunday, and several times during the week as well. In 1915, modernization of the church facility took place with water being brought in and sewer connections made. In 1916, for the proper maintenance of the Mission, the first janitor was appointed with a salary of three dollars per month.
In the January 1920 assembly meeting, the congregation decided that the church should have a basement put in. Pledges were given to cover the cost and Brother J.N. Excell was appointed supervisor for the job. The same year another large investment was made—that of a piano. Pledges were again made to cover the $275 purchase price.
Due to the illness of Elder Tonnesen, the church was without a leader for a period of time. At the January 1920 assembly meeting, R.G. Rasmussen and K.G. Stolsen were elected as elders and proceeded to lead the services with Brother Stolsen ministering the Word.
In the Spring of 1920 the assembly was dealt a disheartening blow. The Jones Avenue Mission burned to the ground! The church building, all of the furnishings, all their hard work (plus the funds that went into it) went up in flames. The actual cause of the blaze remains a mystery although arson has been suspected.
The Scandinavian Pentecostal Mission Following the fire, the assembly was without a church building so an old Baptist church on West 56th street was rented. Because the congregation was no longer located on Jones Avenue, the Mission was renamed the Scandinavian Pentecostal Mission.
In late 1920, Einar J. Holm, an evangelist from Canada, came to minister for a time. He remained on as “acting pastor” during 1921. In 1922, the assembly, hitherto classified as a “volunteer organization,” decided it was time to officially incorporate themselves under the laws of the State of Washington. Therefore, the current membership roll of the Volunteer Scandinavian Pentecostal Mission of Ballard was adopted as the membership roll of the Scandinavian Pentecostal Mission, Inc.
A New Pastor—K.G. Stolsen The Spring of 1922 brought a new leader again. Elder K.G. Stolsen was requested by the church board to remain with the church and be their “Elder in Charge,” with Brother Rasmussen as Associate Elder. Brother Stolsen agreed to the proposition. The board agreed that since Brother Stolsen would not be working otherwise, the church should support him. Thus, Karl G. Stolsen became the first paid pastor of the church.
In September of 1922, because of the anxiousness of the people to worship in their own church edifice once again, the decision was made to build without further delay. The lowest estimated cost for the project was $1,800.60. This was based on costs for a building measuring 15 feet by 31 feet. A loan of $1,500.00 was secured to finance the program and they were under way.
For several years the congregation had discussed the value of having Bible Women or Deaconesses for the express purpose of visiting and ministering to the sick and needy as they were able. In 1923, three ladies were elected to this position: Sister Nels Eskeberg, Sister K.G. Stolsen, and Sister Ellen Beck.
Also in 1923 Sister Stolsen began weekly Ladies’ Meetings in homes.
At the October 6, 1925, assembly meeting the subject of official membership status for the church was introduced. Beginning with the earliest meetings in homes near the turn of the century, a list had been kept of those attending the meetings and this was considered the membership list. The concept of an official church membership list was carried overwhelmingly by the gathering. General rules for accepting new members were also formulated as well as withdrawal procedures for those wishing to transfer their membership to another church.
The Church With Pastor Ernest Nilsson When Pastor Stolsen gave notice of his desire to resign in early 1925, a Swedish brother by the name of Ernest Nilsson arrived with his family in the States in October, and assumed the pastorate the same month. The Stolsens then moved to Tacoma and assumed a pastorate there.
The church experienced sufficient growth to warrant an addition to the existing 15 by 31 foot structure. In 1926 an adjoining 75 foot lot was purchased and the addition was built. In 1927 a parsonage was constructed just south of the church building, and in 1929 a 30 foot lot north of the church was secured.
Under Pastor Nilsson, the first regular monthly support to foreign missionaries began. Since from the beginning a primary purpose of the assembled believers was to help support missionaries on the foreign field, the church had always been liberal to the various missionaries who stopped at the church from time to time for a service or two. At this time in the church’s history, however, many wanted to accept some regular responsibility for the partial support of one or two missionaries. Consequently, a promise of support of $35.00 a month each was extended to Otto Nilsson, a missionary to Brazil, and Edward Anderson, a missionary to China.
Steady growth occurred under Pastor Nilsson’s ministry. During 1928, 73 new members were added, and in 1929, 35 more were placed on the church’s membership roll, bringing total membership to nearly 200. In early 1929 Johannes Pearson was asked to serve as Assistant Pastor—a new position for the church. This proved to be a wise move since Brother Pearson along with the elders was able to provide leadership in facing the difficulties following Pastor Nilsson’s resignation in September, 1929.
A Steadying leader—Rev. Arthur F. Johnson Rev. Arthur F. Johnson, a pastor, missionary, evangelist, Bible teacher and singer agreed to come and “interim” at the church for six months in their time of real need. Brother Johnson, his wife Beatrice, and son Philip arrived in April of 1930 and faced definite problems. Years later in retrospect, Brother Johnson wrote about his early experiences there as pastor: “When I arrived here in the Spring of 1930, I found that the Assembly was having inner struggles and conflicts that at times threatened the very life of this work of God. Elder Rasmussen as well as other faithful brethren together with the church came to the conclusion that days of fasting and prayer would solve matters better than anything else. So for weeks we prayed and waited on God. In a comparatively short time we felt the spirit of revival moving in, and God began to work in hearts in a very unusual way. A number of new people came to our services, as well as some former discouraged members. It was heartening to see a number of young people seeking God for salvation and the infilling of the Holy Spirit. We did not try to keep an accurate count, but a good many did receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit during the next several months.”
After about three months of filling in as pastor, Brother A.F. Johnson was voted in by an almost unanimous vote as permanent pastor.
A New Name and More There was fundamental progress in various areas of the church under Pastor A.F. Johnson’s ministry. The name of the church was again changed, this time to the Scandinavian Pentecostal Tabernacle from Scandinavian Pentecostal Mission. Formal church by-laws were suggested, discussed and written during that first year of Pastor Johnson’s leadership. Also in 1930, at the Pastor’s suggestion, a weekly bulletin was printed and distributed to the congregation. And again, quoting a retrospective A.F. Johnson: “Up until the time of my coming, practically all of the services were conducted in the Scandinavian language, and we sensed that unless a change was made, our young people would be lost to us since very few could understand Norwegian or Swedish. My wife, who was now leading the choir, began to use the English songs more frequently. Within a few months a change was made and most of our services were conducted in English, and finally we found it to our advantage to have all meetings in English.”
(Because the Scandinavian languages in the services again became predominate in subsequent years, the language issue had to be dealt with later in the decade.)
Also during A.F. Johnson’s tenure as pastor a missionary outreach into the city’s slum area was established with which the young people were involved. During the winter months a group went each Saturday evening to conduct a service down in the slum area.
The Scandinavian Pentecostal Tabernacle continued as a foreign missions-minded congregation during this time period as well. In fact one of the members of the church, Harda Knutson, spent one term of service in the Congo in the early thirties and received support from her home church.
In January, 1933, feeling led to return to the midwest and go into evangelistic work, and sensing that the church was in good condition, the Johnsons submitted their resignation, effective in June. Their resignation was accepted with reluctance.
Arvid Ohrnell, Pastor, June 1933–March 1936 Arvid Ohrnell from Chicago accepted the pastorate and arrived to assume this new charge on June 27, 1933. The assembly entered into a number of outreaches to promote the Gospel of Christ during Pastor Ohrnell’s tenure. Regular services were conducted in the County jail and at the Zion Mission on Seattle’s skid row. Monthly fellowship meetings were held with the Tacoma assembly, and the location alternated each month. In 1936, the church began regular radio broadcasts of station KVL. The response, both financially and spiritually was so favorable that the assembly continued the broadcasts even after Pastor Ohrnell was no longer with the church.
The membership remained steady at a little over 200 members, with the assembly requiring that their members lead lives separated from sin. Occasionally there were those who slipped and allowed the things of the world to creep in. When this became apparent, the person was visited by an elder or deacon and counselled and encouraged to return to a separated life for God and to the church. Some did return to the fold, and others did not and were subsequently dropped from the membership. Later however, some did return to repent and ask the assembly’s forgiveness. When this occurred, the penitent members were always graciously and thankfully welcomed back into the church.
Pastor Ohrnell surprised the church when at the assembly meeting of December 1935 he tendered his resignation, effective in March, 1936. The church was unhappy to see him leave, but assured him of their appreciation and confidence in him and his service to the church. Sensing the need for God’s guidance in the selection of a new shepherd of the Tabernacle flock, the assembly met for prayer each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings, seeking the wisdom of the Lord in their selection.
Interim Pastors During the interim before a new permanent pastor was chosen, Carl Anderson served as temporary pastor, and then B.M. Johnson was acting pastor for seven months. Arvid Ohrnell returned for a visit to the church in early 1937 and gave a report of his travels abroad. He expressed his desire to work full time in prison ministry. The assembly decided to take one offering each month for the former pastor’s ministry. Later Rev. Ohrnell was appointed to be chaplain at the Monroe Reformatory by Washington Governor Langley. He also labored for the Lord in a number of prisons throughout the country winning many inmates for the Lord.
In February, 1937, a five-night joint evangelistic crusade was held in the old Metropolitan Theater with the renowned Pentecostal pioneer Levi Petrus of Stockholm, Sweden, as the guest speaker. Two churches cooperated with the Scandinavian Pentecostal Tabernacle in this venture—Hollywood Temple and Fremont Pentecostal Tabernacle (now known as Calvary Temple and Westminster Assembly respectively.) This series of meetings was a real uplift to the members of the church being a spiritual as well as a financial success.
Rev. M.J. Hagli Assumes Pastorate The welcome service for the next permanent pastor of the assembly was held June 14, 1937. Rev. M.J. Hagli and his family were from Tacoma, Washington, and had been missionaries to China.
Name Change—Ballard Pentecostal Tabernacle One of the first orders of business was to again change the name of the church. On January 1, 1938, the assembly was officially incorporated as the Ballard Pentecostal Tabernacle. The church’s first checking account was opened as well. Other progress in the church included authority being given to the young people, the weekly prayer meeting, and the choir and orchestra to elect their own officers. The young people also were allowed to have their own meeting which began one hour before the Sunday evening services. Special services during 1937 included meetings with converted opera tenor Einar Waermo, and with the Fox Evangelistic party.
The Language Question Resurfaces The transition from a Scandinavian-speaking church to an English-speaking assembly made some slow but difficult progress during Pastor Hagli’s tenure. Would the church, which was founded by Scandinavian-speaking people in a predominantly Scandinavian community, now begin to further reach out and envelope those who were not proficient in the Scandinavian languages? Would the church decide that the spouses of some of their members should feel free to go and take their spouses who belonged to the Tabernacle with them back to their English-speaking churches? Would the Tabernacle continue to be a strict ethnically-oriented assembly where mainly those who were just like themselves would be comfortable? These and other concerns would someday need to be settled after careful consideration and prayer. However, in 1937 only the mid-week Thursday evening services were changed to English-speaking, and the Assembly Meeting minutes were permanently changed to being recorded in the English Language. The crucial vote of March 7, 1938, to have all the services in the English language was split with 71 voting to continue the services in the language in which they were presently being conducted, while 54 voted to have all of the services in English.
During the summer of 1938 a joint tent meeting effort for the evangelization of Ballard was conducted with the Fremont Pentecostal Tabernacle. Because of the visitors coming in to the church during this time period, the Sunday morning services at the Ballard Pentecostal Tabernacle were conducted in the English language.
In the January, 1939 annual assembly meeting, Pastor Hagli announced that he was resigning.
A New Shepherd for the flock—Rev. C. Albert Moseid During the seven months that followed, the church struggled along with guest speakers and various members of the church taking part. In the August, 1939, assembly meeting, Rev. C. Albert Moseid of Superior, Wisconsin, was chosen as pastor by an almost unanimous vote. In November welcome services were held for the new pastor and family. Pastor Moseid had the “true heart of a shepherd” and led the church down an avenue of badly needed healing, restoration and new life.
Church Missionary—Agnes E. Anderson Under Pastor Moseid’s leadership, a full-time church missionary was chosen in the April, 1940, assembly meeting. This person would assist the pastor in visitation work for the Sunday School and church, assist in the Sunday School, begin Junior Church services, help in the young people’s work, and to conduct services should the pastor be absent or unable to officiate for any reason. The person chosen for this position was a dedicated little lady of big spiritual vision: Rev. Agnes E. Anderson. Miss Anderson was graduated from Glad Tidings Bible Institute in San Francisco, and had pastored at Indian Valley, Idaho; Enumclaw, Fox Island, Tacoma and Gig Harbor, Washington. Her appointment proved to be one of the wisest and most profitable ones the church ever made. She promoted good will all over Seattle as she visited in homes of unsaved parents of children attending the Sunday School and in homes of visitors to church services. “Sister Agnes”, as she was affectionately called, was elected Sunday School Superintendent in March, 1944. She was actively involved in the ministry of the church for over forty years, and was associated with the church to which she had made such an important contribution until the time of her death in February of 1986.
The First Branch Church—Cedarhome In 1943 a decision was made to purchase an old Methodist church and parsonage on an acre of land near East Stanwood. Brother Magne Norval was holding meetings with a group of people there and had requested financial assistance. An initial $25.00 downpayment was made by the Ballard Pentecostal Tabernacle and it was agreed to take offerings regularly until a required $650.00 payment was made. Brother Norval’s group felt that with some initial help, they would be able to carry on with the payments. Thus, the Tabernacle took on the responsibility of its first branch work. This began a pattern of helping to start, providing spiritual and financial stability, or making sure that a struggling local church was allowed and encouraged to keep its lighthouse brightly beaming. In 1944, the title of the East Stanwood church property was transferred to the Cedarhome Gospel Tabernacle as they were able to carry on the financial obligations themselves and desired to be a free and independent local Pentecostal assembly.
Congregational Expansion and New Projects In August of 1944, lots directly to the rear of the Tabernacle and facing 24th Avenue Northwest were up for sale. Off-street parking was desperately needed at the church, so these lots were purchased for a total of approximately $1,200.00.
The fiscal year of 1944 brought a first for the church. It was the first year that the average monthly income of the assembly exceeded $1,000.00. A fund was also started in 1944 for an “Old Folks Home,” as well as for a bus for church transportation.
Early in 1945 a branch Sunday School was initiated. It was called the Crown Hill Sunday School because of the district in which it was located. It was first opened in a store building at Northwest 83rd and 15th Northwest, and later relocated at the Crown Hill Community Club House at Northwest 92nd and 11th Northwest. Brother Lowell Hedman was the superintendent of the branch Sunday School during its entire time of operation. This branch Sunday School was disbanded in 1949 to become a part of the Philadelphia Church Sunday School. Eventually, the Community Club House building was converted into a church. Today a lovely edifice accommodates the congregation of Crown Hill Wesleyan Church.
In the Fall of 1946, the National Convention of the Independent Assemblies of God was held in Seattle. To accommodate the large meetings being held, a nearby large church building was rented.
In February of 1947, Pastor Moseid announced his resignation which was to be effective June 15, 1947. Noteworthy progress was experienced by the church during Pastor Moseid’s more than seven year tenure as shepherd of the Tabernacle flock. During this time the church’s membership had more than doubled, and the financial situation was sound.
New Horizons of Ministry With Rev. Roy C. Johnson The members were anxious that a new pastor be decided upon and called very shortly so that the new pastor could be welcomed as soon as possible following Brother Moseid’s departure.
The call to pastor the Ballard Pentecostal Tabernacle was extended to Rev. Roy C. Johnson. Brother Johnson, who had pastored in Michigan, “interimed” at Immanuel Christian Assembly in Los Angeles, and was doing evangelistic work, was a good friend of Rev. E.C. Erickson of the Duluth Gospel Tabernacle, with whom he had also worked. Pastor Erickson had also been called to serve as pastor of the Ballard church in the 1930’s, but had declined. Brother Johnson accepted the call and was welcomed along with his wife, Viola and daughter Donna, on Sunday, June 25, 1947. According to Pastor Johnson, who some thirty years later looked back in retrospect, there were about fifty people present that first Sunday evening.
Almost immediately upon Rev. Johnson’s assumption of the pastorate, the church began to branch out into new fields of service.
First, a one-year contract with a Seattle radio station, KOL, was secured for a half-hour program originating every Sunday afternoon from the church auditorium, as soon as the required electronic equipment could be obtained and installed.
Secondly, Harold and Grace Hestekind were sent as the church’s representatives to the land of China—the church’s first fully supported foreign missionaries, leaving March 21, 1948.
Thirdly, a fund was established and a committee created to undertake the planning and building of a new church sanctuary.
Philadelphia Church Name Assumed Fourth, another name change was necessary. While the assembly was called the Ballard Pentecostal Tabernacle, another church in the area was known as the Ballard Gospel Tabernacle. Confusion as to the two churches affected people in general and the post office in particular. Two names were presented to the church for their vote. The first name suggested was the “Philadelphia Church” after the church of Philadelphia referred to in the Book of Revelation. The other name optioned was “Beulah Temple.” A standing vote was taken on the name “Philadelphia Church,” and it was unanimously accepted. The church was officially incorporated under this name on January 8, 1948.
During 1948, the total yearly income of the church had reached an all time high of over $2,000.00 on a monthly average. The membership increased to 228, but while the building fund slowly crept upward most services reportedly had many more than that in attendance.
Further missionary endeavor ensued when Philadelphia Church joined with Bethel Pentecostal Church in Tacoma, in sending two of their own members, Roger and Louise Anderson, to Liberia, West Africa, in 1949.
Exciting New Church Building Preparations In 1949 the building site for the new church was selected. The site was at the corner of 24th Avenue Northwest and Northwest 77th Street. The church made a bid of $11,000 with $1,000 down which was accepted. By August of the same year, the $11,000 balance was paid off. The proposed new building carried an approximate cost of $100,000.
The year 1950 was a busy year of having building plans drawn, and striving to meet the goal of obtaining necessary permits, raising one third of the estimated $100,000 necessary for the building. The radio broadcasts were continuing to go out every Sunday; missionary obligations were being met, with a total of $8,000 designated and given for foreign missions during that year.
On January 21, 1951, the ground-breaking ceremony took place on the building site. Brother Albert Erickson was the builder in charge of construction, and much of the labor was donated by members and friends of the assembly.
Excavation was held up by heavy February rains, but by February 22 the excavation process was complete and a number of men from the church celebrated the Washington’s Birthday holiday by working on the new building. By the end of June the walls were up, the main floor partitions in, and the roof was on. In September the plastering was finished, the windows and doors were in, the floors were being laid, and the front of the church building bricked. By mid-November the new building was finished enough so that the congregation could move out of the old Jones Avenue building into the new one four blocks to the north on the corner of Northwest 77th and 24th Avenue Northwest.
First Services in New Building On November 17th the first service was held—a Saturday night prayer meeting (significant in that it was “cottage” prayer meetings initiated fifty years earlier that formed the foundation for what later became known as the Philadelphia Church). The first Sunday services were held the following day. That first Sunday morning service found every chair taken with a few people having left because they were unable to find a vacant seat.
New Church Building on 24th N.W. Dedicated The official dedication of the new church building was held on Sunday, January 13, 1952. Rev. Harry Stemme of Los Angeles was the guest speaker, and Hilding Halvarson and Sven Bjork were the guest soloists. The new church was packed; chairs were placed everywhere possible including the foyer and the lower auditorium where loudspeakers enabled the people to hear even though they could not actually see the service in progress. Many came but left because of the lack of room. Two former pastors, Rev. Arthur F. Johnson and Rev. Arvid Ohrnell, were present to rejoice with the current leadership and congregation in that which God had wrought. The platform was filled with other visiting ministers. The service was happy and blessed of God; a time of rejoicing for the members and friends of Philadelphia Church.
Down through the years of Pastor Roy Johnson’s ministry, a number of what would be termed today as “ministerial staff” assisted him in the work of the church, in addition to previously mentioned Sister Agnes Anderson, and those who were called primarily to serve at the Bible College. (These are mentioned in the appendix.)
Expansion of Church Facilities Through Annexes and Additions Since the time of the dedication service nearly thirty-five years ago, the assembly has entered into several distinct building programs to provide accommodations for the growth and needs of the congregation. There was the addition of a Sunday School annex which also served as classrooms for the beginnings of the Seattle Bible Training School (now Seattle Bible College); there was the extension of the annex and then the addition of a third story to the original annex building. In 1964 and 1965 there was the enlargement of the main auditorium and the lower auditorium of the church building.
What some might call the “Philadelphia Church corner” on Northwest 77th Street and 24th Avenue Northwest consists of the main church building on the northeast corner; a parking lot (formerly a gas station) on the southeast corner; the Loyal Heights Manor, a HUD financed 54-unit apartment building for Senior citizens and handicapped persons built on property the church owned; and the Youth Building on the northwest comer (formerly a frozen food locker) which the church bought in 1969, remodeled, and formally dedicated to the Lord in 1970. Just north of the Youth Building is a ten-unit apartment building which was completed in April 1960 for Bible College student housing. To the north one block on the southeast corner of Northwest 80th Street and 24th Avenue Northwest is the remodeled Safeway building. This large store building was purchased in 1967 and remodeled into a two-story facility with a chapel, a library (just recently expanded), offices, and classrooms. The conversion process transformed this house of commercial enterprise into a facility dedicated to the King’s business. The formal dedication ceremony was held in October of 1968, coupled with an ordination service, with Rev. E.C. Erickson of Duluth, Minnesota, as the guest speaker. This facility currently serves as the main building for the Seattle Bible College and also is used weekly for some of the Christian Education needs of the church. Also, the church owns several apartment buildings used by Senior Citizens and/or Bible College students. One of these, the Seattle Bible College men’s dorm on Northwest 73rd and 24th Northwest underwent a very extensive remodeling and modernization process in 1985. This was a major undertaking for the church and resulted in a very lovely, modern dormitory to help serve the needs of the Bible College.
Pastors of Phildadelphia Church Tobias E. Tonnesen (Elder in Charge) 1901–1919 Einar J. Holm (Interim) 1920–1921 Karl G. Stolsen 1922–1925 E.W. Olson (Interim) 1925 Ernest Nilsson 1925–1929 John Pearson (Interim) 1929–1930 Arthur F. Johnson 1930–1933 Arvid Ohrnell 1933–1936 Carl Anderson (Interim) 1936 B.M. Johnson (Interim) 1936–1937 Martin J. Hagli 1937–1939 C. Albert Moseid 1939–1947 Roy C. Johnson 1947–1977 Paul B. Zettersten 1977–1996 Robert Anderson (Interim) 1996 David J. Ogren 1996–2007 Derek W. Forseth 2007–Present
This is one of the first business meeting notes of the then Jones Avenue Mission, now Philadelphia Church, dated January 14, 1907
This is the expense account dated January 1915. Electricity was cheap then!
For years the issue of whether to conduct Sunday services in English or Scandinavian was debated. It was finally brought for a vote in a business meeting from 1938. The note reads, "The Church then proceeded with the vote on the language question and 71 voted for Scandinavian as at present, and 54 voted for English."