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

By Henry C. Whyman; Kenneth E. Rowe | Go to book overview

5
Peter Bergner, Pioneer Missionary

The Bethel Ship, a floating chapel in New York Harbor, and its pastor, the Reverend Olof Gustaf Hedstrom, are well known to students of nineteenth-century immigration. Not so well known is Peter Bergner. In all probability there would never have been a Bethel Ship were it not for Bergner. The catalyst for the entire project, he inaugurated the first Swedish-language service ever to be held in the city of New York, and quite likely the first in America outside of the old Swedish colonies on the Delaware. He played a crucial role in persuading a reluctant Olof Hedstrom to come to New York as a missionary pastor to Swedish seamen and to the early beginnings of a burgeoning Swedish immigrant population. However, to historians spanning several decades of accomplishment, Peter Bergner has been eclipsed by the towering figure of Olof Hedstrom. Contemporary observers were inclined to speak appreciatively of Bergner's significant contribution. Typical of the articles appearing in religious periodicals of the time was a concluding comment by a correspondent to the Missionary Advocate in its May 1846 issue, describing Bergner's conversion: "You have here the conversion of a sailor, to whom perhaps more than to any other man, the present services of the 'Bethel Ship' owe their origin."1

The long-term consequences of the Bethel Ship program are beyond calculation, considering the religious and humanitarian services rendered to thousands of immigrants -- travel-weary, apprehensive, often lonely and homesick, confused in a new environment amid unfamiliar customs, frustrated by their inability to communicate, sometimes destitute.2 Coming from a land astir with a religious ferment characterized by

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Foreword ix
  • Preface xv
  • 1 - The Unintentional Immigrant 1
  • 2 - Steps Toward the Methodist Ministry 11
  • 3 - The Circuit Rider 27
  • 4 - Hedstrom's Relation to the Läsare 40
  • 5 - Peter Bergner, Pioneer Missionary 58
  • 6 - The Bethel Ship John Wesley 77
  • 7 - From North River to Swedish Bethel 87
  • 8 - Jenny Lind 104
  • 9 - Jonas Hedstrom Migrates West 114
  • 10 - Bishop Hill and Victor Witting 126
  • 11 - From Ship to Scandinavian Shores 138
  • 12 - An Accomplished Mission 153
  • Notes 159
  • Index 179
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