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7-05-11 First Adventist Foreign-Language Church in the World to Celebrate 150th
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Norwegian-American Church Began in Oakland, Wisconsin
 
    
  The original church building, which is still in use today. It has undergone alterations and additions, and now houses an English-speaking congregation.  
”If you want to follow the Bible literally, you ought to keep Saturday instead of Sunday,” said the Lutheran minister to a small group of people meeting in Ole Sern’s home in Norway. Little did that Lutheran minister realize that years later his words would result in rising up the first foreign-language Seventh-day Adventist® (SDA) church in the world, and that many influential ministers, missionaries and leaders would come from that church. On September 2 and 3, 2011, that first foreign-language church, Oakland Seventh-day Adventist church will be hosting their 150th anniversary celebration.

Weary of the formality of their Lutheran church, and looking for improved economic conditions, Ole Serns and several other Norwegian families migrated to the United States, eventually settling in the township of Oakland, Wisconsin. The idea that Saturday was the true Bible Sabbath, suggested by that Lutheran minister back in Norway was not forgotten. In the fall of 1854, Ole and his friends decided to study the subject deeper.

By the spring of 1855, four families in Oakland were keeping the seventh day Sabbath with Ole. Within two years, the number had doubled. For all they knew, they were the only Sabbath-keepers in the world. Later they learned that there was a group of Sabbath-keeping Adventists in a nearby settlement. In April of 1858, an Adventist pastor, Elder Phelps visited the Oakland group and shared the "three angels’ messages" with them. One month later, the first baptism was held.

In December 1861, the Oakland Adventist church was organized, making it the first Norwegian-American Adventist church in the world. Three years later they erected a church building which is still in use today. It has undergone alterations and additions, and now houses an English-speaking congregation.

 
   
  Photo taken possibly in 1951 with group at north entrance of the church  
Over the past 150 years, a large number of church leaders have received their early training in the Oakland SDA Church. One, Elder O. A. Olsen, became president of the Wisconsin Conference and later president of the General Conference in 1888. Elder O. A. Johnson became president of the Dakota Conference, and four years later president of the Wisconsin Conference. Elder John Mattson was from Oakland became known as the Adventist apostle to the Scandinavians. He conducted the first Scandinavian mission school in America, traveled throughout the Midwestern states establishing Scandinavian churches, and labored many years in Denmark.  Before returning to the United States Mattson helped convert over 700 Scandinavian Adventist in Denmark, and organized the first conference organization outside the United States. These are only a few of the numerous ministers, teachers, and missionaries Oakland SDA church has sent to share God’s truth to the world.

On September 2 and 3, 2011, Oakland SDA church will be hosting their 150th anniversary celebration. Dr. Bjorgvin Snorrason, a native Norwegian doctoral graduate from Andrews University will be the guest speaker for the weekend. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the history of the Norwegian Adventist church from the 1840’s to 1887. Currently he serves as Sabbath school and personal ministries director for the Iceland Conference in Reykjavik, Iceland. The weekend begins with a vespers Friday night at 7:00 p.m., and ends with a evening of music to the held Saturday evening at 7:00 p.m. For more information contact Lois Elmer at loiselmer@yahoo.com.
North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904-6600 USA
Telephone: 301-680-6400
Fax: 301-680-6464
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