Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Worship in an ethnic mode: some Lutheran opportunities still exist

“It’s the Augustana genes within the ELCA,” according to the Rev. Michael Edwins. He’s describing the upcoming 11th annual Augustana Service of Worship with Holy Communion, to be held this fall. The hymn sing and worship, using the liturgy and hymns of the former Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church, is scheduled for 2:30 p.m., Sunday, October 15, at Normandale Lutheran Church, 6100 Nor-mandale Road, Edina.

Pastor Edwins will co-preside with the Rev. Shawn Mai. The preacher will be the Rev. Dr. Reuben Swanson, who was secretary of the old LCA, which became part of the ELCA. Organist will be Dr. John Swanson.

This annual tradition is aimed at “keeping the Aug-ustana tradition alive and relating its role in today’s ELCA.” Although the service is entirely in English, it seeks to follow as literally as possible the earliest hymnal used by Swedish immigrants to the U.S. That was based on the Church of Sweden hymnal which the immigrants brought with them.

Other ethnic groups also seek to keep their traditions alive in various ways.

* Those of Norwegian descent have Mindekirken, the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church, in Minneapolis, which has one of its two services in Norwegian each Sunday.

* Trinity First Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, has an annual German-language Christmas service. The United Church of Christ on Summit Ave. in St. Paul has a Good Friday service in German, as well as a German service the Sunday before Christmas.

* Those of Finnish descent have an annual song and word Advent celebration at St. Michael Lutheran Church, Roseville. Finnish language is used along with English, says Marianne War-gelin, honorary consul for the Republic of Finland. There is also a Finnish service as part of the annual Leiv Eriksson Festival at Mindekirken in Minneapolis.

* People of Danish descent have an annual hymn sing in Danish at 3:15 p.m. Christmas Eve day at St. Peder Lutheran Church, 4600 East 42nd St. Minn-eapolis. In addition to the singing, attendees dance around the Christmas tree.

Pastor Edwins observed that the Augustana liturgy has “more of a sense of awe about it than the more legalistic approach of some other Lutheran churches which trace their roots to the Scandinavian countries.” Of the October service, Pastor Edwins said, “It works — we’re keeping it historic. Both the older people and the younger people are tying into it pretty well. I assume that in some cases it’s the grandmas who are bringing their grandchildren along for the experience.”

Edwins credited Dr. John Swanson, a member of Nor-mandale Lutheran Church as being influential in starting the annual Augustana worship service. Dr. Swan-son relates that back in 1995 he was asked to do a hymn sing with Augustana hymns for a group at Normandale Lutheran. People seemed to enjoy it and a pastor said, “Why don’t we have an Augustana worship?” That was the inspiration for Dr. Swanson in what is now an annual tradition.

He explained, “The Augustana service has wonderful music and there’s a love for this service by many people.”

As he started down this road, he heard of two retired pastors who were planning to do a collection of Swedish hymns and encouraged them to expand their concept to include English language hymns that were favorites in the old Aug-ustana Synod. That evolved into a hymnal — now in its second (2004) edition — that includes 88 hymns.

Dr. Swanson has been organist at Normandale since 1984. He was a pathologist at the old Swedish Hospital and later served as medical director for Lutheran Brotherhood (which became Thrivent Financial for Lutherans), from which he retired in 2003.

Pastor Edwins is a retired pastor, having most recently served at Bethlehem Lu-theran Church in north Minneapolis, now called River of Life. His ordination was at Reformation Luther-an Church in St. Louis Park, which was a mission church with Swedish ties.

Pastor Mai is chaplain at Walker Methodist Care Cen-ter in Minneapolis; he traces his Swedish roots to Lindsborg, Kansas, a well-known Swedish settlement.

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For information on the Augustana hymnal contact Dr. Swanson at Normandale Lutheran Church, 952/929-1697. Call the same church office number for directions on how to get to Normandale Church for the Aug-ustana Service of Worship.