Themes of the Month

January- Congregation Life
February- Neighborhood/ Mission/ Outreach
March- Women's Ministry/ Faith and Feminism
April- Music
May- Pastor/ Staffing/ Buildings
June, July, August-  Events
September- Faith Formation/ Sunday School/ Confirmation
October- Worship
November- Saints
December- 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- Part 3

March 2019


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


Our Saviour’s at 150-   Singing a Yes on our Way Forward- Part 2

February 2019


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 programs outside of the congregation. Open Door Center provided services and spiritual opportunities for children with mental and developmental disabilities.  And Southside Family Nurturing Center grew out of an effort to provide support for young children who had experienced abuse.   As programs within the congregation, they were ways members could be actively involved in service and ministry, but they also were strengthening the identity of our congregation as accessible, open and welcoming, a place of hospitality and love.

That sense of ministry had deeper roots though, for this congregation had in the 1940’s seen itself as a place for those who had been displaced by World War 2.  Our Saviour’s women had been active since the beginning of the congregation in providing care for families in need. In the 1920’s a Benevolent Fund was in place helping people in need, it is now the Our Saviour’s Foundation and has been helping the congregation thrive for many years. While lots of energy was focused on construction projects in those first years outreach ministries were active.   And throughout the years, efforts to help start new congregations in a growing city also point to a very mission minded community of faith.

The Phillips Neighborhood underwent many changes during our 150 years. As one of the first neighborhoods outside of downtown, the area reflected Minneapolis’ early growth. There was vibrant commerce to the north along Franklin and south along Lake Street and up and down Chicago Avenue where the streetcars ran. The first major hospital, Abbot Northwestern, was founded here along with two influential corporations, Minnesota Moline and Honeywell.  The large railroad yards just to the east were a major employer for the area.  But vast differences in wealth from east to west were present throughout Phillips history for although it was always had a working-class feel, it also was home to many of the grandest mansions in the city along Portland and Park Avenues.    During the Great Depression years, Phillips was a home to immigrants and freed black population arriving from the south, but much of the neighborhood was considered slum housing.  The development of the interstates in the 1960’s isolated the neighborhood further and kept it from being able to change much since those difficult years.   In the early 1970’s Little Earth was created as the only American Indian preference rental assistance housing community in America.  Recent efforts to redevelop Franklin Avenue have brought some stability back, but “distressed”, “blighted”, and “poor” are the descriptors most often used for the Phillips Community.

At year 75, the congregation wrestled with one of its most important mission goals, to provide education to its children.  In 1946, the “parish” building was constructed, some 25 years after the congregation had moved into the worship building with a note that there had been forces beyond its control that had kept any investment from occurring during those years.  And grow they did.  This group of members was given a goal of $100,000 to construct a building for education that included the recreation space for young people as well.  They even envisioned a third floor and a chapel space to grow into once this part was completed.  It was clear at that time that Sunday school education was first and foremost in the decision process.  And when staffing was added the emphasis was always on youth and outreach, including efforts to minister to the American Indian population of Phillips. 

In the early years, it was from Scandinavia and eastern Europe, and in years to come, new Americans from southeast Asia, west Africa, central America and east Africa, have made Phillips their first home.  Our Saviour’s has, in many ways, found ways to welcome the stranger and keep its heart open to a changing neighborhood.  That seems as true now as it ever has.

-Daniel Swenson-Klatt


Our Saviour’s at 150-   Singing a Yes on our way forward- Part 1

January 2019


Who are we as a congregation these 150 years later?   It might just come down to the willingness to say yes.

Yes to questions of mission and ministry that at the time aren’t easy to say yes to.  That might not have a clear path ahead.  That might not even be practical.  That probably don’t have society’s blessing.  But when love gets into the heart of missionaries (in whatever form one might be found) questions of ministry gets asked.

And the congregation of Our Saviour’s is built on years of being willing to answer difficult questions with yes.

The initial request from a missionary from Red Wing, Minnesota to a small group of Norwegians living in downtown Minneapolis, was the first question that didn’t have a clear path ahead.  But the offer to gather for worship in the Norwegian language created a space where new immigrants to Minnesota could find comfort in a shared culture and hymns that could remind them of home.

The question to call strong pastoral leaders who were intent on building strong lay leadership brought yes answers that meant Our Saviour’s would have the ability to weather its changes.  We would ask this question many times over the years with similar results.

Answering questions of where to locate have also formed this congregation. The initial site in the seven corners area of Washington Avenue was near immigrant mill workers.  A second site sought to distance itself from commercial activity while staying downtown.  As congregation members moved out of the downtown area, the question was asked; do we want our church in our own neighborhood?  So the final site landed in a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. The neighborhood would soon grow into a solid middle class neighborhood with craftspeople, professionals and medical centers.  Saying yes to Phillips neighborhood may have been a way to acknowledge the hopes of immigrant families who wanted a place in the growing city of Minneapolis that would bring them security, community and a promising future as the 1920’s approached.

Ministry questions at Our Saviour’s seem to have a similar theme.  How do we open the door wider to allow God’s love to reach into new territory?  Early on the congregation said yes to support new ministries on the next outskirts of the city in Richfield and Bloomington.   We said yes to support members who wanted to participate in seminary training.  We said yes to create a worship space and educational program for people with mental disabilities.  We said yes to welcome in European families displaced by World War 2, and then to Black and Native American families in the 1950s.    You can hear the direction that love took during those discussions to keep answering yes.

Our Saviour’s needed to ask tough questions when the freeway system was built in the 1960’s.  Changes to the Phillips neighborhood came quickly, with loss of buildings, homes, roads, and access.  The congregation said yes to feed itself with music and art, with educational activities and worship.  It responded to questions about women’s leadership roles.  It responded to questions of need for neighborhood support.  It continued to say yes, again and again even as members moved out to the suburbs to begin new versions of Our Saviour’s.  Yes was the reason to stay in Phillips.

During the following years of the 70’s and 80’s many more questions would be asked about community involvement.  It included adding community outreach as a pastoral position, seeking new forms of worship and music, language and partnerships.  We said yes to Hmong refugees who wanted to worship in their own language of course.  We said yes to house homeless men in our basement gym.  We said yes, a bit too soon, to support people who were gay or lesbian in the church.  That became one time in our congregational life where the door was opening too quickly and too many changes were happening in and around the church.  Many chose to say no to the welcoming question being presented at that time but then left the congregation to be a place where those who stayed could keep being a church of yes.

In the 1990’s the church was asking the question of how to maintain an old aging building and an older aging membership.  It needed to say yes to its future.  The answer came through a question at an annual meeting to create a youth group of 15 where there had been none for many years. It was just a testament to the congregation’s willingness to be mission minded.  And when the church building burned in 1995, the ability to say YES to staying and rebuilding was coming from a very long history of answering the question with love.

Whether it be through the English Learning Center, welcoming Liberian refugees, hosting the Lutheran Volunteer Corps house, becoming Reconciling in Christ, offering Godly Play, building a bread oven, or so many more acts of ministry, we can be certain that the original Norwegian immigrants would have answered our questions with the same resounding yes.  And we can be assured that if we push the door open a bit wider, love will enter in.

-Daniel Swenson-Klatt