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Norway Evangelical Lutheran Church... A Unique Heritage

In the fall of 1843, sixty-nine men signed their names to a letter requesting that Claus Clausen be ordained as their pastor, setting in motion the birth of the oldest Norwegian Lutheran Church in America. This took place as an outbreak of malaria wiped out nearly one third of the settlement. Clausen was ordained on October 18, 1843 in Even Heg's home where the services were held.

The fledgling congregation lost no time in planning a church home atop Indian Hill. Construction began the following spring, and on Palm Sunday, 1845, the log church was dedicated. It was to serve the congregation for 25 years. Today it stands on the campus of Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN, a reminder of the little band of Norwegian immigrants who longed for a church home in the new land, and with God's help made it so. When one enters that humble sanctuary, it is with a sense of awe and respect. Members of Norway Lutheran Church have made three pilgrimages there in recent years to work on preservation efforts and also to worship and commune in the church of our founders.

The present church on the hill, dedicated in 1870, was the second church of a growing flock and was used until 1954 when the present educational unit was built. A museum in the basement of the church on the hill documents our history. Worship is held in the Church on the Hill every Saturday at 5:00 p.m. during the summer. The Norway Historical Society placed a monument along the driveway in memory of the pioneers who died in the early epidemics that were buried in the common unmarked graves. The Society also was instrumental in placing the historic church on the National Register of Historic Places and erected the marker on the corner. Upkeep of the church on the hill is paid from trust funds designated for that purpose only.

The new church was built in three separate building programs: 1954 - the educational unit, which was also used for services for several years; 1964 - the sanctuary was added; 1989 - the office, library, preschool room and Sunday School classrooms were added.  The property was also added to the sewer district and extensive decorating was completed. The parsonage was occupied by pastors until 1993. 

Norway Lutheran Church's year-long sesquicentennial celebration ended on Sept. 12, 1993 with an Ethnic Fest focusing on the diversity of the congregation today. The anniversary theme 'On our way rejoicing I Jesu navin' reflects our past, present, and future - serving in Jesus' name, joyfully. A history of the church 'In Jesus' name shall all our work be done' written by Pastor Karen Hanson, was published in 1992 and is available at the church or online for free here.

If you would like more information about history or ancestors please contact our historian Marilyn Canfield at majacanfield@gmail.com.