Minneapolis congregation deserves praise from Queen of Norway: NPR
MINNEAPOLIS — Before attending the crowded Sunday morning service, Queen Sonja of Norway praised the Mindekirken congregation for maintaining worship in Norwegian for the church’s 100-year history in Minneapolis.
“It is extraordinary to realize that, one hundred years later, Mindekirken still fulfills this objective” of building community and preserving culture and language, she told the nearly 500 people present. They had lined up for more than an hour in this modest neighborhood in crisp autumn weather in the 1940s – single digits in degrees Celsius, just like in Oslo – to participate in the service.
Queen Sonja received a special welcome from 4-year-old Eline Gro Knatterud, who presented the Queen with a bouquet of red roses almost as big as her. Queen Sonja stood at eye level with the awestruck maiden and told her, in English, that she had an identical traditional red bunad dress at home, before entering the large stone church.
The congregation was founded in 1922, at the end of a decades-long migration of hundreds of thousands of Norwegians to Minnesota that made the Twin Cities the “unofficial capital” of the Norwegian diaspora, said Amy Boxrud, director of the Norwegian-American Historical Association.
Lutheran churches were central to the lives of these immigrants, although some remained with the Church of Norway and others established various Lutheran synods.
The Norwegian Memorial Lutheran Church offered cultural continuity to immigrants
Den Norske Lutherske Mindekirke – the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church – has pledged to continue to hold services in Norwegian even as many other European churches switch to English as attacks on foreign language speakers spread across the United States during the First World War.
“The group said, ‘We’ll speak American English every day, but we need the language of our hearts when we worship God,'” said Reverend Gunnar Kristiansen, the current pastor of a flock of about 200 families.
Within a few years, Mindekirken was the only one of five dozen churches in Minnesota still worshiping in Norwegian, he added.
It made all the difference for Kirsti Grodahl, who was 11 when she emigrated to Minneapolis in 1962 from the fjord-side village of Frei in Norway with her parents and siblings. She started going to church in Mindekirken a week later, sometimes on foot.
“It was so comfortable,” she said. She made her first friend there, who had arrived two years earlier, and raised her two children to also speak Norwegian.
Grodahl still regularly attends Sunday services in Mindekirken and particularly enjoys the coffee hour following the two services, one in English and the other in Norwegian.
“Dad made a lot of bløtkake for this church,” she recalled, referring to the traditional soft cake her father had perfected as a baker in Norway. “It’s a place where you always feel like it’s your home.”
Standing in line Sunday morning with her two daughters and dozens of other worshipers before the start of the service, Karen Liv Mjlølhus Cardwell said her father started worshiping here in 1929, when he emigrated to Minnesota.
“It’s like coming home to family,” said Mjlølhus Cardwell.
And the fact that this continuity of culture and worship is celebrated today by Queen Sonja and the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Norway, the Most Reverend Olav Fykse Tveit, brought tears to the eyes of the President. of Mindekirken council, Jeannette Henrikssen, whose parents emigrated in the late 1960s.
“It’s very moving that we still hold the service in Norwegian,” she said. “It’s a testament to the determination and stubbornness of these Norwegians, and the love and connection they wanted to maintain.”