August 12, 2018 we celebrated Augustana’s 90th anniversary.
Augustana has been extending a welcome to anyone regardless of race or ethnicity since the 50’s.
Segregation was defiantly the norm in May of 1948, when Pastor Paul Seastrand arrived. He wrote that the church was on the “edge of negro area” He asked his congregation, “Are we going to ignore them or respect them? Let us conduct ourselves in a way that is positively Christian… as the Lord Jesus Christ himself would do. To follow the principles of Christ is to ensure the most beneficial results… To deny anyone the privilege of coming to church to worship the Lord is a gross violation of our faith… Let us submit ourselves to the persuasion of the Holy Spirit. We are called upon to demonstrate the universality of the gospel.
1955 two African American women attended worship. Then in June 1956 Augustana held the first interracial VBS with 37 African American children.
The pattern of segregation was not quickly erased. Some families left the church over the prospect of integration. Gradually Augustana was identified as a church whose doors were open to all people. The following 75 African American children attended Vacation Bible school.
What strikes me about this is the necessity of faithful, courageous leadership. The pastor and council acted on conscience and stood their ground, even when people left the church. I give thanks for such strong, prophetic leadership.