Dwell Christian Church

over 100 years of History

The History of Willow Glen Baptist Church – 1898 to 2018

The planting of the church began in 1887 when some bible studies were held in homes near downtown San Jose, California.  The first pastor who came, Pastor August Olson, met with Swedish speaking locals to begin a new church plant.  When Pastor Olson had to leave, his efforts were continued by Pastor C. M. Nelson and Linda Hagstrom (missionaries to Oakland).  Those bible studies were the impetus to start a church in 1892 with five members (all women) who found Pastor J. O. Johnson to lead the new church.  As happens with many church plants they were unable to sustain the church even with the help of the California Baptist Association.

In 1897 the Swedish speaking bible study members and a new pastor (A. B. Ogren) from San Diego restarted the church effort.  Their efforts resulted in the Swedish Baptist Church being founded on October 9, 1898 with 14 Swedish speaking members.  During the next three years they bought a building at 92 East San Antonio St. in San Jose and officially incorporated the church with the state of California in 1900.
During the devastating earthquake and fires of 1906 in San Francisco, San Jose sustained some damage from the earthquake also.  The church building was damaged beyond use but the congregation managed to have it rebuilt by 1912.  When the rebuilt building was dedicated the church was renamed as the Swedish Baptist Temple.

From 1900 to 1940 the church was led by 10 succeeding pastors during the time when the congregation gradually became mostly English speakers, as children were raised in San Jose and some new members were already English speakers.  The name was changed in 1940 to the Bethany Baptist Church with all services then given in English.

The church envisioned moving from downtown San Jose to the suburb of Willow Glen to enable growth.  To begin the process they sold the building with an agreement from the new owners to use the second floor for services until they were able to build at the new location.
Thus began the building of the church campus still existing at 1292 Minnesota Avenue.  The first building was completed in 1948 with almost completely volunteer labor.  This building is now called “The Chapel” and is located at the east end of the main building.  Pictures are in a hallway and in the conference room showing that part of the building.  When the move from downtown San Jose to the new location was completed, the name was changed again to Willow Glen Baptist Church.  We can discern how much things have changed in San Jose when we find that the original construction completed in 1948 only cost $29, 521.69.

The church continued to grow and began building an addition to the first building, which is the current auditorium, in 1954 and was completed in 1956.  During that growth and building period, 15 members of Willow Glen Baptist began a new church during 1955 in Santa Clara called the Homestead Baptist Fellowship.

A new church plant was begun in east San Jose with members from Willow Glen Baptist called East Valley Baptist Church in 1962. San Jose continued to grow and so did the church.  When the membership approached 500 the building attached on the east side of the church building was designed and constructed.  That building was finished in 1966 and the church continued to grow under the leadership of Pastor Glen Anderson.

During the following years as the population of San Jose and area changed so did the church.  The gospel continued to be preached and taught, the church looked to the future and purchased adjoining houses along Hicks Avenue.  The 1434 Hicks Avenue property was purchased first during the 1960s, the 1438 Hicks Avenue property during the 1970s, and the 1430 Hicks Avenue property during the 1980s.  The three houses on these properties are currently rented on the open market.  Even though each purchase was a struggle financially the opportunities to purchase were presented by the owners to the church with favorable terms which encouraged the church governing boards to approve the purchases.  Following the purchase of 1430 Hicks Avenue property the rear part of those purchased lots were fenced off to create the current play field adjacent to the parking lot.

In 2010 the church called two young pastors, Jason Helveston and Chris Tenny, to co-pastor the church.  They were planting a church in Downtown San Jose, and agreed to lead both the church plant and Willow Glen Baptist Church.  The name of the combined churches was changed in 2012 from Willow Glen Baptist Church to Dwell Christian Church.  We became known as “Dwell”.

During 2017 the Dwell elders began to meet with the Pastors and elders of PBCWG and began considering the possibility of merging the two congregations.  In May 2018 the merger of the two congregations was completed as we began meeting as one church with the new name of Willow Glen Bible Church.

May God bless this church and lead us into growth and effective witness to San Jose and beyond.

Compiled and written by John Lunsford.