150th Anniversary Events

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Anniversary Celebration Worship with Open House

9-10am  Adult Forum- A brief history of OSLC
9:30am- Choir Rehearsal- Former members are invited to join in!
10:00am Hospitality Time
10:30am Anniversary Worship Service
12-3:00pm Open House , including displays from the church archives
12-1:30pm- Social Time with hearty appetizers and desserts
1:30-2:30pm 150th Anniversary Program



150th Anniversary Themes of the Month


Congregation Life



Neighborhood/ Mission/ Outreach



Women's Ministry/ Faith and Feminism






Pastor/ Staffing/ Buildings


June, July, August




Faith Formation/ Sunday School/ Confirmation









The Future (Babies!)















150th Anniversary


Called, Nurtured and Sent to Celebrate, Serve and Do Justice since 1869



Our Saviour’s At 150

Singing a YES on Our Way Forward


August 2019- What brought us here and moves us forward


We use the symbol of fire often in worship to signify the presence of the Holy Spirit. We light candles and offer our prayers and use the “light of Christ” as a call to service and hope.   Biblical references include the Refiner’s Fire, the pillar of fire, the burning bush…

Our Saviour’s has another history with fire.  We have been shaped by fire.  

In December of 1995 our gothic church building of 1912 burned.  As we prepared to celebrate the birth and new life of Christ that winter, we also acknowledged a death.  The fire destroyed a building and a way of thinking about our congregation.  Had the fire come a few years earlier, we may not have survived it as a worshiping community.  But something was happening within our congregation at that particular time that allowed this tragic event to become a turning point and a way forward.   Long time congregation members now often speak of “before the fire” and “after the fire” so, what was it about that fire that shaped us?

The congregation of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was aging and dwindling.  Worshiping attendance hovered around 100 and the Sunday school was in the 20’s.  After a heart-wrenching division within the congregation surrounding – is that the word you want here? Involving? neighborhood outreach and outreach to the GLBT community, there were a few younger families that committed to stay committed to neighborhood outreach and inclusivity while other chose to move away.  The building was aging and showing strains on its electrical, plumbing and heating systems.  When the roof beams turned up cracks, conversations that focused on “futures” began in earnest.  These were tough discussions that recognized our limited resources and limited capacity. There were elders in the congregation who were deeply committed to seeing Our Saviour’s remain here as their church home. But we needed to ask for support from the synod to cover our operating budget and began reaching out to strong suburban congregations to support our outreach efforts. 

The “90 by 90” campaign presented to our members was the first step to claiming a future on the corner.  Raising $90,000 from our small community (many on fixed incomes) was a bold request.  When the pledges did come in, our hopes rose.  These funds would allow us to make repairs to the structure to give it life ahead, but it also funded the beginnings of outreach and growth in the places where we trusted we could build our membership.  We looked to the children.  We funded a youth director position even though there were very few youth connected to the congregation; we sought to grow.

Through our connections to children and high school youth, many who were neighborhood children participating in our summer and afterschool programs, we found our way to connect to their parents and become a congregation more connected to the neighborhood. We offered music, education, sports, and arts.  We connected these young people to Wilderness Canoe Base and to our church camps. And they connected us to who we could be.

Within the neighborhood, cooperative efforts were a survival mechanism.  We were not the only small, struggling congregation.  Sharing resources and space allowed all of the congregations in Phillips to provide more programming and support than we would be able to do on our own.  Our nearest neighbor, Messiah, a block away, was a key partner in our efforts to reach children as we shared vacation bible school, afterschool and summer programming as well as confirmation programming.  But we also shared Lenten services, senior programming and congregational gatherings.  It felt like “cooperative ministry” could be another way for us to envision the future. 

The fire brought all of this into much clearer focus.  While we often complained about our building, it was indeed our space.  While it didn’t fit us very well, it was a beautiful space and it held our memories.  And though the congregation of the 1960’s didn’t foresee it, their efforts to create space to fit all of the burgeoning Sunday church school needs of their day was indeed what we needed for housing Shelter guests and English Language students.

We had a growing youth program, outreach programs that earned the respect of the synod and many partnering congregations.  We had the success of a capital campaign and new, younger families that calling Our Saviour’s home. that “started”? or “were calling…” We had the gift of pastoral leadership through Janet Tidemann, who held us gently in God’s arms.  And we had a deep calling to be the Spirit on the corner of 24th and Chicago.  We began to understand that we must rebuild, as a sign of hope to our neighbors and to our denomination of what urban ministry could be in Minneapolis.

And perhaps, as the biblical exiles in the wilderness learned, it is indeed the members of a community and how they learn to love and live with each other that is the true strength behind a congregation.  We learned to grieve together, to hope together, to make the compromises needed to be the whole body of Christ.   A burning bush and a pillar of fire led the Israelites.  For us, at Our Saviour’s it was a fire within the stone walls of our sanctuary the led us here, to this place, ready to move forward.



June /July 2019 Congregational Life

All congregations are at their heart a worshipping community.  We recognize this in our mission statement as we Celebrate together.   Surrounding this celebration is a congregation’s life together. Congregations that build community and develop deep bonds allow worship to be much more than a performance for an audience.  We have been blessed as a congregation that this spirit of community has also been at the heart of what it means to be Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church. 

Early on, the stories of our congregation’s life point out that volunteer effort to support children’s education, musical performance, and mission outreach led to frequent events and gatherings.  Concerts, banquets, and presentations for women, men, children, and young adults showed up in many combinations as well.  There are veiled references to gambling and dances that were frowned upon by the Norwegian elders but given some gratitude for the purposes they were able to serve.  Imagine the volunteer effort required to host and run a state fair food booth! Imagine the work to pull off events with their limited transportation and technology available.

This creative entrepreneurial community spirit never left the congregation, making it possible for auctions and fundraising dinners to continue to pop up for special projects, mission appeals, budget gaps, and just for socializing. 

In recent memory (for those elders still with us) – the Altar Guild’s “Bean and Weenie Feast” was a delightful ‘gourmet’ dinner of hot dogs, while pasta dinners for church leaders included hand-made pasta from the high school youth group.  Rummage sales took on the air of fashion shows and live auctions with our talented property committee chairperson, Marv Burman, became a beloved activity.  Pancake breakfasts sent many young members off to camps and mission trips like many other churches, but we might have been the only congregation to hold a scone raffle, and certainly only one of a few Lutheran congregations who served fufu and other Liberian dishes to raise money for mission work.  We can also note that this congregation’s musical fundraising has sent many a goat overseas through Judy Halverson’s children’s ministry.

The congregation’s latest version of this community building / fundraiser has taken the form of a silent auction (Marv’s spirit is still with us) while offering the assets of our bread oven’s pizza baking capacity and drawing on the creative talents of our members. 

Being connected to service-providing ministries (Our Saviour’s Community Services, Kaleidoscope, Daily Work, Isaiah, Cherish All Children) has meant that many congregational events are actually a way to support the mission of these programs, with concerts, films, performances, musicals, and fairs bringing another community building experience – connection to people beyond our congregation who share in our commitment to serve our neighbors.

Other mission events focusing on volunteer service have appeared over the years, including housing rehabilitation work through Habitat for Humanity and our own member led Nehemiah Days.  The longest ongoing form of this service work (35+ years) still happens each May as a group of congregation members make a six hour trek to Wilderness Canoe Base to help prepare it for summer programming. This ministry has its roots with two of our pastors and has included many of our young adults as guides and campers. 

Similar in length, though it had been a bit more intermittent, has been quilting efforts.  A bit of service work, education, and community building, the latest form has found a way to be available to students of the English Learning program, providing us with a new model for working with immigrants.  We can trust that the original immigrants who formed Our Saviour’s would be fully supportive of this ministry.




May 2019 -  Served by Pastors of Our Saviour’s


As was noted at the 100th Anniversary of the congregation, Our Saviour’s has been blessed with some truly amazing servant-leaders as pastors over the years.

Our first pastor (Niels Th. Ylvisaker) was actually a part-time missionary who was serving a parish in Red Wing at the same time. The first few were either Norwegian born or first-generation Norwegians, and nearly all of our following pastors have had some Norwegian heritage. Many have then gone on to be leaders for their synod (including Han Stub who became President of the Norwegian Lutheran Synod, and Don Rudrud as an assistant to our Bishop) as well as professors or leaders at Lutheran colleges (Thoralf Hoff, Raymond Olson). 

There were 11 pastors during the first 100 years (all male) and 9 associate pastors (all male).  During the last 50 years, of the 12 who have served in pastoral and associate roles, 7 have been male and 5 female (including Laurie Eaton, our first female senior pastor).   Over the years, Our Saviour’s has also included four visitation pastors on staff.  Our Saviour’s has also been served by 9 different interim pastors.  This includes one who will likely hold the record for longest interim (9 years), Janet Tidemann, until we were able to convince our Synod to drop a rule to allow us to call her as an associate pastor.

Of the 14 people who have served as our lead pastor, three were called directly from their ordination (Ole Vangness, Herman Preus), with one (Hans Stub) at 23 years old, the youngest as well.  Only once has an associate pastor risen to fill the role of senior pastor, that being Warren Sorteborg who followed David Quill.  Our oldest pastor to be called (Alf Kraabel) was 56 years old.  The range of years of service has been from 3 to 22 years (J.W. Preus).  The average years of service works out to around 10.   Notably there have been two periods of very lengthy pastorates – 20 and 22 years, as well as 17 years, and one transition time in the 1950’s in which there three calls during a 12-year span.  In what will be another “story” told in the months ahead, one of our associate pastoral staff on a three-year contract, lost a vote to be re-called by the narrowest of margins.  And also notably, not just our first pastor, but another (Hans Lee) was called to serve a congregation that had no physical building.

While our pastors have been historically praised for their preaching, teaching and worship leadership, we should also be aware of the other ways we have been blessed by these leaders.  During our 150 years, we have had excellent administrators, program leaders, supervisors and counselors, as well as social change agents and dynamic witnesses for social justice. 

The May anniversary display table includes photos of each of the pastors and interesting biographies for each, so I won’t go into further detail except for a listing of the 14 and their years of service here.

 -Daniel Swenson-Klatt


April  2019- Music as Ministry – We Sing!


It has already been acknowledged that music has been a vital part of our congregation’s story.  Whether that is our music directors, choirs, organ (or lack thereof), instruments, congregational singing or liturgy, there is something special about Our Saviour’s that is recognized by anyone who visits.  A reference to the music of Our Saviour’s often becomes part of what creates and sustains our members.

We were blessed to have strong musicians, Ole Vangsness and JW Preus, as two of our congregation’s earliest pastors.  Both were widely known for singing beautiful solos and encouraging high standards for musical expression.  JW Preus was a leader for the national choral union movement among Norwegian-American Lutherans.

A large pipe organ in the church’s second building on 7th Street was dedicated in 1903 with a concert that drew attention outside of the congregation.  Beginning in 1905, the congregation’s choral society performed Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Creation, and Mendelssohn’s Elijah over the course of three years, offering evidence that talented musicians were present at Our Saviour’s.

The church built at 24th and Chicago, meant to be a gothic – Norwegian – American cathedral, included an organ flanking the altar at the east wall and choir stalls facing the congregation, breaking from a traditional Norwegian church layout.  Within 10 years, the first renovation of the interior moved the altar forward and built a large organ chamber behind it with an array of pipes arranged on either side. In the 1970’s a new organ was built during a reorienting of the worship space that moved the altar forward.

During early church membership growth, options for choirs became numerous, including children, youth, women’s and men’s choirs from the 1940’s into the 1960’s.  The choir’s liturgical support and concerts built a reputation for Our Saviour’s that sustained a vibrant worship community.  An aging and declining membership in the 1970’s and 80’s meant not just the loss of choirs, but the need to rethink musical liturgy itself.  While the husband and wife team of the Sheldon and Ruth Fardig cared for standard adult choir and organ duties, a group of young adults began to stretch the musical boundaries.  It was this forward-looking group that in the 1970’s encouraged a young campus minister, Ray Makeever, to put his musical talents to work, first singing with, and then leading and writing liturgical songs for a group that became the New Voices.  Pastors Art Dale, Warren Sorteberg, and Don Rudrud found ways to encourage these contemporary musicians and in 1984, Ray published a liturgical songbook through our congregation, With All Your Heart.  Its support by the national Lutheran church meant it had far-ranging impact, encouraging our congregation to grow its music ministry in new directions.

A small, alternative worship service formed around Ray’s music.  Over the course of a few years, this found its way into the main worship setting, first as special music offerings, then as once-a-month worship services, and finally as a fully integrated part of a more diverse and musical worship service. Ray’s songs are found in the red Lutheran Hymnal and woven into our congregation’s current worship.

Focus on music in worship led to hiring Peter Moberg and then Mary Preus to serve as music directors with a scope much larger than just directing a choir or accompanying worship on the organ.  Then the fire of 1995 destroyed the organ, leading to long discussions about whether a rebuilt church sanctuary should include an organ at all.  A donation of a small organ arrived during the years of worship in Lutheran Social Service’s chapel, but the congregation’s comfort level began to shift toward piano and guitar as more reflective of the liturgy being used.  It’s no surprise that congregational singing grew through the choice of these instruments, but it was also assisted through the song-leadership of Mary Preus and the talented musicians she was connected to through the group Bread for the Journey.  This brought Tom Witt, Tony Machado, and Bret Hesla to Our Saviour’s as well, adding their own gifts to music ministry.

Children’s music ministry was reborn out of the fire as well, as the songs of the Kaleidoscope summer program brought children eager to sing with Amy Hartman, Judy Halvorson, and Mary Preus over the years. While sheer numbers have not been matched from the Amy Molstad years at the turn of the 20th century, the life and energy and ministry of these recent groups of children has had just as much impact on our congregation and the wider community.

-Daniel Swenson-Klatt



March 2019- Women's Ministry/ Faith and Feminism


What has been the role of women in Our Saviour’s history?

While it seems that traditional structures and systems meant that the earliest women were not amongst the decision makers, they were clearly active, mission-oriented and, although behind the scenes, clearly visible and influential.  I can almost imagine the conversation (in Norwegian) that led to the formation of Our Saviour’s:

She: Don’t you think it’s time to call a pastor and start a church here in our new country?

He: Well, yes, now that you mention it, I was thinking it might be a good time to do that.

She: Perhaps you could gather a few of the men at the mill and propose that?

He: Well, yes, I might as well do that.

She: I’ll be glad to set up our parlor and set out some coffee, you just let me know when they will be coming over.

Early records show mission funds, events and committees formed by women and for the women of Our Saviour’s.  Of course, music, arts, and hospitality were offered as options to be involved outside of the preaching and decision-making realms of the church, but it is obvious that leadership was forming amongst the women in ways that out-paced the men of the congregation.  It seems that at several points in the early years, while the deacons (men) sat in endless discussions, the women dealt with the practical needs and just made things happen.  Whether it was the purchase of land for the site of the present church (made in a trade for a site they purchased at Franklin and 10th Ave), or the purchase and construction of the pastor’s residence, raising funds for music leaders or supporting mission sites along the growing edge of the city, the Our Saviours’ Miss and Mrs’s were a driving force for the congregation.  In the early 1900’s the women even ran a refreshment booth at the Minnesota State Fair.

Also from early records it is clear the women of Our Saviour’s were keepers of their Norweigan heritage and language and culture, helping new immigrants adjust to being away from home.  It took many years for Norwegian to disappear from the meetings they held.  The last of the women’s organizations that served to bind them together lasted until 1983.

While the general history of Our Saviour’s is a list of the nineteen men who signed on to the letter of call for their first pastor and the many men who followed as pastors.  But women were active leaders as well. One of the early leadership roles was through music. The hiring of Ms. Amy Molstad as the women’s music director created a parallel path to the standard worship leadership led by the male pastors.  Over the course of many years, their formal concerts, benefits, and reunions provided a place for socializing and outreach.   Pearl Gorvin, Ruth Fardig, Karen Moberg, Rhonda Degelau, Amy Hartman, Judy Halverson and Mary Preus, Catherine Preus and many other talented women have continued to share this music leadership thread.

Church education efforts also drew women leaders through the years and Mabel Sihler, Lydia Borgendale, and Laura Nelson have become something of legends along the way.  And, of course the keeper of the kitchen keys (always a woman) always held as much power as the pastor.

Another position that offered a public lay leadership role was that of “pastor’s wife.” Phyllis Sorteberg brought her passion for arts into her prominent role and led the congregation’s efforts to create festivals, concerts, and events, beautiful vestments and banners.  Nancy Lee’s musical talents were at always work during her time alongside her husband Pastor Hans Lee.

With such a strong foundation, it’s no surprise that Our Saviour’s would become a place for one of the first women allowed into “called ministry”  with Lynn Ziese serving as an intern in 1973.  Marilyn Breckenridge, Mary Albing, and Marlene Helgemoe followed in her path.  Cathy Malotky joined her husband Dave Englestad in 1986 to become the first woman pastor to serve at Our Saviour’s.  When Cathy and Dave left to take a call at Buffalo Lake MN, the synod was encouraged to provide a woman interim pastor, and thus Janet Tidemann joined us in 1989. And although Pastor Janet didn’t fit the original call profile, after 10 years of serving as an interim (the longest in synod history) Our Saviour’s was able to convince the synod to adjust its rules and allow us to call Janet Tidemann as an associate pastor, where she served until 2009 and took on the role of visitation pastor and finally pastor emeritus as her Parkinson’s limited her physical ability but not her spirit to serve our congregation. 

Elaine Olson served alongside Pastor Hans Lee and then as the congregation considered moving to a solo position, a call was presented to Laurie Eaton to lead the congregation. With the call to Martha Schwehn Bardwell, to fill our growing congregation’s needs it is clear Our Saviour’s continues to be a place that nurtures women as pastoral leaders.  

During the most challenging point in Our Saviour’s history, the time of the 1995 fire, three women guided us in prominent leadership roles. Gayle Lamb as Council president (not the first as president, that was Rena Rustad in the 1970’s), Pastor Janet, and Shelby Andress (our strategic planning facilitator) nurtured and inspired a congregation that needed to heal, re-imagine itself, and rebuild. A number of theologically trained and rostered female members are currently active in our congregation and continue to shape our mission and ministry in ways that reflect those earliest years, only now we know their first names too: Elaine (Degelau), Amy (Hartman), Sandy (Aslasken), Amy (Bluemenshine), Suzanne (Burke), and Karen (Stevenson). Their prodding and wondering has brought us new ministries (Cherish All Children, The Coming Home Collaborative, Godly Play) and encourage us to keep alive and ready for more.

-Daniel Swenson-Klatt


February 2019- Neighborhood/ Mission/ Outreach


How have we expressed mission and outreach as a congregation to our neighborhood?

For most of us, Our Saviour’s identity has been tied to urban ministry through two well-established and long-lasting mission programs, The English Learning Center and Our Saviour’s Housing.  Now nearly forty years later, it is difficult to imagine a congregation that didn’t include them as part of how we talk about, provide service, or visualize our congregation’s mission.  But these were not the first mission programs that shaped Our Saviour’s and they most definitely would not have begun here without the long history of mission and outreach to our neighbors during our 150 years.

Leading up to the 80’s, two programs in the 1950’s and 60’s also started out of member passion, and then also grew beyond our congregation and eventually became progra