Remembering our history

Preserving Our Norwegian Roots

The EFCA has a rich Scandinavian history.

How’s your Swedish? Can you read Norwegian? What about Danish?

Many of our pastors and church members have a vague awareness that the EFCA has some Scandinavian roots, but in most of our churches, it would be hard to find a single person who can speak any of those languages.

The EFCA was founded by immigrants from Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and both the first and second generations worshipped in their mother tongues. By the third generation, many of the young people were totally fluent in English and relatively few knew the Scandinavian languages, so worship services in the churches were increasingly done in English by the 1930s.

Ivar Odegaard working on the history project
Ivar Odegaard working on the history project

After some earlier names, the Norwegian and Danish Free Churches united as what was called the Evangelical Free Church Association (EFCA) while the Swedish churches were known as the Evangelical Free Church of America (conveniently also the EFCA). When they merged together in 1950, they assumed the official name from the Swedish group and we have been the Evangelical Free Church of America ever since.

Lloyd Hansen working on the history project
Lloyd Hansen working on the history project

From about 2007 until 2010, a task force was formed to collect the history of the Norwegian Free Churches in order to preserve materials for future generations. Leaders like Ivar Odegaard, Milo Lundell and Lloyd Hansen visited many of the Norwegian churches and researched their histories.

Ultimately a sizable collection emerged which is preserved in the EFCA Archives. But they also developed a media presentation called “God at Work: A Collection of Stories of the Missional Work of the Early Evangelical Free Church Among Norwegian Immigrants.” This half-hour video is available at https://vimeo.com/20231426.

Tom Cairns

Tom Cairns is the archivist for the EFCA. A physician who worked for 19 years in Congo, Tom later served as director of international ministries for the EFCA mission, now known as ReachGlobal. Since retirement, Tom enjoys sharing stories about the history of the EFCA, answering questions from our churches and helping the churches with their own stories. He also uploads our historical books, photos and documents to our archive website. Tom’s great desire is to bring glory to God as we celebrate the history we have in the EFCA.

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