Biography of Rev. Edward M. Stensrud
San Francisco, CA Biographies

A notable figure among the clergy of San Francisco is the Rev. Edward Martinis Stensrud, founder and pastor of Trinity English Evangelical Lutheran Church, which is situated at 2222 Howard street. We quote from "California and Californians," published in 1926: "In the spring of 1924 was celebrated the silver jubilee of the Trinity English Evangelical Lutheran Church of San Francisco. It was an occasion of much historic interest, reflecting the growth and progress of a very important religious movement on the Pacific coast. The central figure of the celebration was Rev. Dr. Stensrud, who in 1897 came to the Pacific coast to be the first all English Lutheran missionary of the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America, and who since its organization has been the pastor of Trinity Church. Prior to his coming practically all church work done by the Norwegian group of the Lutherans of America had been bilingual. There remained only a few congregations making exclusive use of the Norwegian as a medium of speech. It was with a view to preserving children and young folks in San Francisco for the Lutheran Church that Rev. Stensrud was sent out, and thus San Francisco became the first experiment of all English missionary work among Norwegian Lutherans of America. Dr. Stensrud has organized three all English Lutheran congregations, the oldest being St. Paul's, now Central of Oakland, organized November 3, 1897; the second being Trinity of San Francisco, organized April 24, 1899; and the third, the Grace Church of San Francisco, organized September 17, 1908.

"The history of Trinity congregation is a record of early poverty, sacrifices and labor on the part of the pastor and the people. The congregation finally realized its ambition of erecting an edifice that would properly represent the needs of the church, but three days after it was occupied came the earthquake and fire of 1906. After that disaster, which was a test for the courage and persistence of the people, Trinity rebuilt and for a number of years has enjoyed one of the handsome church edifices of San Francisco, at 2222 Howard street. In 1926 a very elegant parsonage was erected and a pipe organ installed in the church. The congregation has property conservatively valued at one hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

"Edward M. Stensrud was born August 25, 1868, on a farm near Northfield in Goodhue county, Minnesota, son of Knut and Ingeborg (Boe) Stensrucl. His parents were born in Norway, and were married in the old country. Coming to Minnesota in 1866, they engaged in farming, and Knut Stensrud died on his farm in Renville county, Minnesota, in 1872. His widow survived him until 1914. Of their six children three are still living.

"Edward M. Stensrud acquired a thorough education, beginning in the public schools, and continuing at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, where he graduated with the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1893. His preparation for the ministry was at Luther Seminary, Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he received the degree Bachelor of Divinity. On the 14th of June, 1926, Carthage College, Carthage, Illinois, conferred upon Dr. Stensrud the degree of D. D. Honoris Causa.

"In February, 1897, Dr. Stensrud married, and in the closing days of April he arrived in San Francisco to begin his duties as an associate pastor of Our Savior's Scandinavian Lutheran Church to take charge of the English speaking element of that church community. Dr. Stensrud married at Decorah, Iowa, February 24, 1897, Miss Julia Louise Brorby. She was born in Iowa, daughter of Jacob and Oline Brorby. Her father was a farmer and stock raiser. Mrs. Stensrud is an accomplished musician, playing both the piano and pipe organ. Church music is her specialty. Of her many compositions, 'Arise, Shine,' and `Hark, the Herald Angels Sing' are lately published. She has been the organist and choir director of Trinity Church for more than twenty five years. Dr. and Mrs. Stensrud have one child, a daughter, Ingeborg Oline, now the wife of Arthur M. Holter, for many years an employe of the Standard Oil Company, and in June, 1926, admitted to the bar as practicing attorney. Mr. and Mrs. Holter have a son, Arthur Morten, Jr.

"Ever since coming to California, Dr. Stensrud has exercised all his efforts and influence towards making the Lutheran Church and the Norwegian people of America better known with the California public. He has also been deeply impressed with the value of Norwegian culture and in many ways has used his influence to make that culture expressed, not only in religion but in literature and art, a more vital factor in the life and progress of the west.

"When in 1914 Norway declined to participate in the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, to be held at San Francisco, the directors of the exposition turned to Dr. Stensrud to secure his interposition, and he succeeded in interesting the governing heads of the three Norwegian Lutheran synods of America, and in that way overcoming Norway's original refusal to participate. A condition, however, was made that Norwegian Americans should erect the pavilion for the exhibits, and towards this end Dr. Stensrud organized the Norwegian-American Auxiliary of the exposition, embracing all the Norwegian churches and societies, religious and secular, in the Bay Cities. He was elected president of the Auxiliary, wired a guarantee for the money necessary to erect the pavilion, sent a representative from San Francisco to the Norwegian authorities, and after a tour through the middle western states, organized thirty finance committees to gather money for the exposition building. It was also through his influence that the city of San Francisco invited the Norwegian Synod of America to hold its annual convention in the year 1915, and he also secured the Sangerbund of the Norwegian Singing Society of the Pacific Coast to meet during the same festive week. The celebration came to its climax in Norway Day at the fair when fifteen thousand of the Norwegians entered the gates. Through his influence one of the notable features of the musical program of the exposition was the ten days' engagement by the Luther College Concert Band.

"In 1916 Dr. Stensrud published a book entitled 'The Lutheran Church and California.' He had undertaken this work as a means of enlightening the public not only as to the status of the Lutheran Church in California, but also to provide reliable scientific information for Lutheran people elsewhere. The book contains a complete scientific description of the state's resources, and three thousand copies of the volume were distributed throughout California and the middle western states. The book accomplished the purpose of the author, and has proved an invaluable guide to thousands of colonists of the Lutheran faith who have come to California and made settlement throughout the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys.

"During the World war the Lutheran churches of America had not only the extra routine of war duties, but also had to combat the ignorant prejudices and passions aroused by war times and conditions. Trinity congregation was the first in California to organize a chapter of the Lutheran Brotherhood of America, and through the efforts of Dr. Stensrud was organized `The Committee of Thirty,' representing all the Lutheran synods in the Bay Cities for the purpose of welfare work for Lutheran soldiers and sailors in the army and navy. The committee consisted of five members, from each of the six synods, and Dr. Stensrud served as president of the committee throughout the entire war period, Trinity Church being the headquarters of the committee. This committee promoted a great Lutheran rally at the Civic Auditorium when a campaign for the Third Liberty Loan was launched, reaching three million, four hundred thousand dollars. And through the committee every phase of the patriotic program was advanced. In addition, the committee by appeal to the State Council of Defense forced the retraction of many unjust rumors and accusations which had been made against the Lutheran people, and through personal representation to the governor and the legislature the committee did much to prevent the passage of the King language bill.

"The Norwegian Lutheran Church of America has done charity work in San Francisco since 1872 in the form of the Seamen's Mission, City Mission, Slums, Poor Farms, Hospitals. About 1922 a Community Chest in San Francisco was organized. Dr. Stensrud was instrumental in presenting the cause of the Norwegian Lutheran charity work before the city authorities in a way to secure the inclusion of such work in the Chest, this work being now a recognized unit in the Chest program under the name of the Lutheran Welfare Agency. Dr. Stensrud is the executive head of the Agency with the title of executive secretary

"Dr. Stensrud has served his church and community in many capacities. Since 1898 he has been secretary of the Seamen's Mission; for eighteen years, secretary of the California Conference; vice president of the Pacific District, Norwegian Synod of America, for ten years; since 1917, president of the California Circuit, Norwegian Lutheran Church of America; in 1921 was elected executive secretary of the Elementary Christian Education, Pacific District, Norwegian Lutheran Church of America, and still holds that position; he has edited and published a book on Elementary Christian Education and was assistant editor of Menigheds Kalenderen' (Calendar of congregations), a history of the three thousand, three hundred congregations of the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America; for four years he was agent of the Transportation Bureau of the Norwegian Lutheran Church; was the chief force in starting the City Mission of San Francisco of the Norwegian Lutheran Church, of which committee he was president five years. Besides other services already noted he was during the late war appointed by the National Lutheran Commission for Soldiers' and Sailors' Welfare as civilian chaplain at Camp Fremont, and when General Pershing wanted one hundred middle aged chaplains to go to France, Dr. Stensrud was chosen as one of the candidates. His name had gone into Washington and he would have gone across but for the early signing of the armistice. In 1925 Rev. Stensrud caused the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America to establish a Commission on Soldiers' and Sailors' Welfare for the military posts of San Francisco Bay. The Doctor is chairman of the commission."

The History of San Francisco, California
Lewis Francis Byington, Supervising Editor
Oscar Lewis, Associate Editor
The S. J. Clark Publishing Company
Chicago-San Francisco 1931

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