The History of Edgewood Church of Joy

Edgewood Church of Joy (ECOJ) was established in 1946 as a Children’s Sunday School by Central Baptist Church in Tacoma. That Sunday school turned into a church plant as Jovita Baptist Church on March 31, 1955. Many of the original charter members still attend the church regularly. As the church began to grow in the Jovita area of Edgewood, there arose a need for a new church building. In 1974, Jovita Baptist Church built at its current location. Through the years, Jovita Baptist Church has served the community by making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to be obedient to God’s Word. There have been hundreds of people saved, baptized, and taught about Jesus.
As time passed along, so did the philosophy of various pastors that have served this church. In 2005, the church added a children’s wing and preschool. Today, Joy Christian Preschool and Kindergarten teaches over 70 children. In 2015, as the community began to change, the congregation decided to change its name to Edgewood Church of Joy for a variety of reasons.

Many pastors have stewarded the church’s leadership responsibilities to include:

Gil Anderson, Founding Pastor, 1955-1960
Paul Palutke, Senior Pastor, 1960-1965
Bob Wagner, Senior Pastor, 1965-1970
Carl Linden, Senior Pastor, 1970-2001
Larry Gray, Associate Pastor, 1986-2007
Chun Won, Associate Pastor, 2008-2022
Gordon Hanstad, Interim Pastor, 2001-2002
Fred Prinzing, Interim Pastor, 2002
David Martinez, Senior Pastor, 2002-2007
Mark vonEnhrenkrook, Senior Pastor, 2007-2020
Vic Varkonyi, Interim Pastor, 2020-2023
Scott Beardsley, Senior Pastor, 2023-Present

The Baptists

Baptists can only trace a direct historical line back to the early seventeenth century. However, there have been reactionary groups in early periods of the history of the church which have expounded several of the basic principles historically maintained by the Baptists. Baptist history is not based upon any historical succession but upon the free church principle patterned after the simple form of the New Testament church.
The name Baptist as applied to one of the largest Christian denominations of this day is of more recent date, first used as far as is known in English literature in the year 1654. Apart from English Baptists there was in Germany in the sixteenth century a sect known as Anabaptists (re-baptizers) because they rejected infant baptism and practiced “believer’s baptism by immersion.” Those who personally trusted in Christ for salvation were baptized again, hence the term, Anabaptist. The official state church of Germany opposed the practice of rebaptism and many of those who followed this practice were persecuted and many were even put to death.
Baptists hold to the following foundational truths:
  1. Salvation is through faith alone in the completed work of Christ.
  2. Baptism by immersion is only for the believer.
  3. Every believer stands before God alone.
  4. The local church is autonomous and self-governing.
  5. The rule of government in a local church is congregational.
Today, Baptists and Baptist churches can be found in every part of the world. The modern missionary movement was started by William Carey, a Baptist in England who went to Burma to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Since then, Baptists have been aggressively evangelizing and planting churches throughout the world.

The Converge Conference

On September 21, 1848, the first Baptist Church in Sweden was organized with six charter members. Five of these members had been baptized earlier in the day at Vallersvik, a bay on the southwest coast, and their leader, F.O. Nilsson, had followed the Lord in baptism on August 1, 1847. The great Baptist pioneer of Germany, Johann Gerhard Onchen, had baptized Nilsson, and the Danish pastor, A.P. Forster, officiated at the baptism and the organization of the church at Borekulla, near Vallersvik. That early Baptist church in Sweden was scattered through persecution, and F.O. Nilsson was banished from the country until, after 10 years, he was given clemency by the king and could return to his homeland.
Because of the religious oppression in Sweden, several people emigrated from northern Sweden to America in search of religious freedom. These people were called “Lutherlasare” and were noted for their strict observance of Biblical teachings. Before leaving Sweden, one group invited a young schoolteacher from Stockholm, Gustaf Palmquist, to become their spiritual leader in the New World. Unable to leave with the group, Palmquist made the journey to America several months after his flock had arrived. Upon his arrival in 1852, he found his group scattered throughout the upper Midwest. This meant that he had to travel from village to village to minister to his flock, which he did, preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible. In that same year, 1852, Palmquist became acquainted with some Baptist and determined that he too should be baptized. On August 13, 1852, Gustaf Palmquist was baptized in the river at Rock Island, Illinois.
Soon, little Swedish Baptist churches began to spring up throughout the states of Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. As more and more emigrants continued to arrive in the United States, the little villages grew and with them the Swedish Baptist churches. Pastors were needed to shepherd the little flocks of believers and soon John Alexis Edgren started a school for the training of pastors in Chicago in 1871.
As people began moving west, the Swedish Baptist pioneers took with them a vital faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and a strong adherence to the teachings of the Bible. Small Swedish Baptist churches were formed across North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Montana, Washington, Oregon, and California. At the same time, churches with Swedish roots were being formed in the northeastern part of the United States and through the middle states.

The Converge Northwest Conference

The Columbia Baptist Conference (now Converge Northwest) and its member churches were organized in the decade of 1881-1890. It was the decade when immigration to the United States had reached its flood stage; more than five million entered the country during those 10 years, many from northern European countries, including Sweden. Because of this, it became necessary to establish Swedish speaking churches to minister to those coming to the new world and those coming all the way to the Pacific Northwest.

 In mid-January 1881, Olaus Okerson, a roving pioneer missionary, arrived in Portland, Oregon by ship from San Francisco. Okerson had been serving as a missionary under the American Baptist Home Mission Society in Minnesota for fifteen years prior to his coming to the north Pacific area. Shortly after arriving in Portland, he started out on a tour by horseback, to explore the areas of Oregon and Washington where he expected to find the largest number of Scandinavians.

 From 1881-1889, Okerson went from community to community, preaching and teaching God’s Word, while at the same time organizing the believers into churches. Soon Swedish Baptist churches could be found in Seattle, Portland, Tacoma, Dogfish Bay (Pearson), and Dakota Creek (Sunrise). On December 27, 1889, six churches met at the first Swedish Baptist Church of Seattle to form the Swedish Baptist Conference of the North Pacific Coast. The purpose to the organization was for mutual edification and the pursuance of missionary activity, according to condition and ability.

Over the years, the Swedish Baptist churches have reached out to the Northwest region and planted churches throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia, and Alaska. In addition, two camps have been developed: Lake Retreat Camp near Ravensdale, Washington, and Camp Big Horn in western Montana. In the 1970’s the churches of British Columbia became part of the Canadian Baptist Conference and were no longer members of the CBC.