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This Week in AG History -- Nov. 29, 1930

Topeka and Azusa Street are well-known for the origins of the Pentecostal movement, but they weren't the only places where the Holy Spirit was evident.
Few Assemblies of God congregations in 1930 could boast an attendance of 1,000 people in a service. Yet when Fargo Gospel Tabernacle dedicated its new building on Oct. 8, 1930, over 1,000 people attended the services. The Nov. 29, 1930, issue of The Pentecostal Evangel reported on the event held in North Dakota’s largest city, then with a population of 28,619. British-born, Oxford-educated evangelist Charles S. Price was the dedication speaker, and long-time local pastor John Thompson also delivered a sermon in the Swedish language.

Fargo Gospel Tabernacle (now Northview Church) was organized in 1926 and by 1933 claimed approximately 500 members. How did this congregation grow so quickly in this northern city known for its large Scandinavian immigrant population? At least two factors played a part in the church’s rapid development.

First, Fargo Gospel Tabernacle was built upon the foundation of earlier Pentecostal revivals and churches in the region. The congregation’s most significant Pentecostal predecessor was the Swedish Free Mission, which was located in neighboring Moorhead, Minnesota.

John Thompson previously served as pastor of the Swedish Free Mission before becoming a member of Fargo Gospel Tabernacle in his later years. The Swedish Free Mission was a leading congregation in a network of Scandinavian congregations in Minnesota and the Dakotas in which speaking in tongues and healing commonly occurred as early as the 1890s. Many early members of Fargo Gospel Tabernacle had been previously involved in this indigenous Scandinavian-American Pentecostal revival.

Second, Fargo Gospel Tabernacle was organized by a Norwegian immigrant, Henry H. Ness, who proved particularly adept at unifying existing Pentecostals and engaging the local community in high-profile activities.

Ness was a gifted orator and organizer, he held a number of successful evangelistic events, and he also produced two weekly radio programs, the Sunshine Hour and the Back Home Hour, broadcast over local radio station WDAY. Ness left Fargo in 1933 and moved to Seattle, Washington, where he pastored an Assemblies of God congregation, Hollywood Temple, and also founded Northwest University.

Today, Northview Church is the second largest Assemblies of God congregation in North Dakota, with Sunday morning attendance of about 1,000 people.

The history of early Pentecostalism in Fargo demonstrates that the Pentecostal movement did not originate solely among English-speakers in revivals at Topeka, Kansas (1901) or Azusa Street, Los Angeles, California (1906-1909). Rather, people from various national and denominational backgrounds, all of whom had experienced a common touch of the Holy Spirit, coalesced to form what we know today as the Pentecostal movement. While revivals at Topeka and Los Angeles were among the most prominent points of Pentecostal origin, early Scandinavian Pentecostal revivals in Minnesota and the Dakotas remind us of the movement’s diverse origins.

Read the report of the dedication of Fargo Gospel Tabernacle on page 21 of the Nov. 29, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• "The Three Phases of Sanctification," by Donald Gee

• "Is it Possible to be Happy?" by J. Narver Gortner

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

For additional information about the Pentecostal revival among Scandinavian-Americans in the 1890s and early 1900s, read “Rediscovering Pentecostalism’s Diverse Roots: Pentecostal Origins in Scandinavian Pietism in Minnesota and the Dakotas,” by Darrin Rodgers. The article was published in a Norwegian journal, Refleks, and is accessible by clicking here.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Darrin J. Rodgers

Darrin J. Rodgers has served as director of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC) since 2005. He earned a master's degree in theological studies from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and a juris doctorate from the University of North Dakota School of Law. He previously served at the David du Plessis Archive and the McAlister Library at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the author of Northern Harvest , a history of Pentecostalism in North Dakota. His FPHC portfolio includes acquisitions, editing Assemblies of God Heritage magazine, and conducting oral history interviews. His wife, Desiree, is an ordained AG minister.