Today my church celebrated its 90th anniversary and the 25th anniversary of our current pastor, Rob Harrell. There were videos of some men who had served as youth pastors under Pastor Rob’s tutelage and who are now pastors of churches in other cities. There were also photos of the original congregation and some later photographs of their church facilities, ground breakings, etc., on down to the present time. Of the most interest to me were the “interviews” of the few remaining members who were part of the original congregation as children. They have certainly experienced a lot of changes!
About 10,000 Swedish immigrants settled in Central Texas in the 1880’s and established what were called Evangelical Free Churches, two of which began in the surrounding Austin area. In 1923, these rural churches joined with other Swedish immigrants and formed the Swedish Evangelical Free Church of Austin. (They were called “free” because of the guarantee of free exercise of religion in this country.) Their first building opened its doors in 1925 and their services were conducted entirely in the Swedish language. In the late 1930’s they began holding their services in English and eventually changed their name to First Evangelical Free Church of Austin (FEFC).
On Palm Sunday, 2002, FEFC began worshiping in its new home on Monterey Oaks Boulevard in southwest Austin. In recent years political influence began tarnishing the term “evangelical.” The stigma became a stumbling block for the church’s outreach efforts and congregation. As a result, the members voted in August of 2014 to rename the church Austin Oaks Church.
During the time that the current facilities were under construction I was working for Unisys Corporation just across the parking lot from the church’s grounds. My desk was on the side of the building where I could watch its progress. I decided that I would start attending the church after it moved into these new facilities. I had visited it some time earlier at its downtown location and had had trouble finding a parking place, so I decided to attend elsewhere in the meantime. After my retirement, I was out of town on several long trips anyhow until the end of 2009.