The Hedstroms and the Bethel Ship Saga: Methodist Influence on Swedish Religious Life

The Hedstroms and the Bethel Ship Saga: Methodist Influence on Swedish Religious Life

The Hedstroms and the Bethel Ship Saga: Methodist Influence on Swedish Religious Life

The Hedstroms and the Bethel Ship Saga: Methodist Influence on Swedish Religious Life

Synopsis

In this informative new volume, Henry C. Whyman presents the first biographical treatment of the brothers Olof Gustaf and Jonas Hedstrom, documenting their work in spreading Methodism among Swedish immigrants to America. Whyman discusses the Bethel Ship saga, a ministry notable and unique in American immigrant history. He also touches upon early Methodism in Sweden itself and examines the larger picture of American immigration, especially the role played by religion in nineteenth-century European immigration to the United States. The Bethel Ship, a floating chapel in New York Harbor, was the vehicle and headquarters for an effective and legendary ministry to immigrants arriving in America. The ship was purchased by a Methodist mission agency to provide a facility for a small congregation of Swedish seamen and immigrant nationals. Olof Hedstrom, a Methodist minister serving in the Catskill Mountain area, was called to New York to organize and lead this endeavor. Through Hedstrom's own efforts, theaid of his,brother Jonas, and the supportive assistance of the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, denominational Methodism was established among Scandinavians in communities throughout the United States. In addition, returning seamen and emigrant re-migration established Methodism in all Scandinavian countries. At its height, more than sixty thousand Scandinavians were on the rolls of Methodist churches on either side of the Atlantic. Whyman also examines pietism as a strong religious force in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He cites John and Charles Wesley, from whom Methodism traces its origins, as examples of early pietists, noting that the movement isreflected in the lasare (readers) of Sweden, many of whom immigrated to America. In writing this book, Whyman utilized periodicals, private papers, autobiographies, diaries, and the indispensable annual reports of the Missionary S

Excerpt

"The story of the peopling of America has not yet been written. We do not understand ourselves," complained Frederick Jackson Turner in 1891. Subsequent immigration history contributed to national self-understanding. a century later, historians of the Church, as well as of the nation, have turned their attention to a second chapter in the half-told tale of the peopling of America. They have begun to concentrate on the story of the regrouping of citizens along racial, ethnic, and religious lines. the cultural explosion of ethnicity in the 1960s and 1970s called on historians to attend to the long- neglected history of African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans. At the same time, late twentieth-century historians began to reassess their treatment of "older ethnics," the Germans, the Irish, the Italians, and the Swedes, to name only a few. Though these groups have been more or less assimilated in the mainstream of American culture and religion, the full story of their role was often untold in midcentury texts, which stressed white, Protestant, mainline churches as normative. Henry C. Whyman's study of the Hedstroms and the Bethel Ship saga contributes to the rediscovery of the rich diversity of American religious history.

Although the first Swedes settled in Delaware in 1638 shortly after the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts, they did not come to North America in great numbers until two hundred years later. Between 1840 and 1940 about 1.25 million Swedes emigrated. Although most of the newcomers settled in the Midwest and kept their Lutheran faith, a New York-based Methodist pastor played a crucial role in Swedish . . .

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