This congregation began as Arlington Hills Swedish Episcopal Church was founded in 1885 in the home of August Oberg. The original congregation was a group of Swedish immigrants who started meeting in homes. A Sunday school class of seven was organized in 1885 when the congregation began meeting in Berg’s tailor shop, at 658 Jenks Street, for the first preaching services on Sunday afternoons.
The congregation incorporated in 1889 at the Annual Conference of Swedish Methodist Episcopal Churches headquartered in Chicago. The first “real” church building at Wells and Weide was built in 1885 and dedicated that next summer, July 11, 1886.
A new combined church and parsonage at the corner of Cook Avenue and Greenbrier Street in East Saint Paul, incorporated as Arlington Hills Swedish Methodist Episcopal Church, was built in 1890 and dedicated on December 14, 1890. Swedish was spoken at all services until 1914 when evening service began in English. In 1919, the church joined the English Conference and all services were held in English. Swedish pastors served the Church until 1937.
In 1940, renovation of the interior of the sanctuary took place. The inside seating was changed from a half round circle where the balcony went all the way around to two straight rows with the balcony in the back and the steeple was removed.
In 1970, the current church was built on eight beautiful acres in Maplewood. It included a two level education wing. Some of the stained glass windows from the 1940 building were brought to the new building and have been restored so they could be displayed in the new building. In 1995, renovation of the sanctuary, narthex and additional rooms including the fellowship hall and Sunshine Preschool classrooms were added. In 2008, we burned the mortgage for the 1995 addition.
From 21 members on September 20, 1885 to about 400 members in 2010, our church family has steadily grown. The strength and heart of Arlington Hills is its pastor and people – the continuum of worshippers from the first families down through the last 125 years. Charter members are still represented among us by the fifth and sixth generations. Many of our members have been with us fifty, sixty, seventy years or more and surprising numbers of their descendants have remained in our church. This is very unusual in these days of a very mobile society.
We come together now as one family, not only Swedish-Americans but Americans enriched by many nationalities. So, in our diversity there is unity in the body of Christ. In our present church home is a prevailing symbol that exemplified this – the flame – reminding us of God’s eternal spirit and love which should consume and continue to unite us all through further decades of greatness.