Archived Sections, Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Eras do sometimes come to an end

After years of building relationships, Twin Cities Single Lutheran Adults is about to call it quits

A Lutheran organization that has provided a big circle of friends — and in some cases an extended family — for its members for 55 years is going out of business. Twin Cities Single Lutheran Adults (TCSLA), which marks its beginning to a meeting at the old University YMCA on November 18, 1955, has voted to cease operations at the end of the year in 2010.
One of the earliest inter-synodical groups in the area, TCSLA offered an ambitious program of social, spiritual, educational, and recreational activities for hundreds of single adults over the years.

Members of Twin Cities Single Lutheran Adults crowd into a Minneapolis church for one of their annual fall banquets. Photo: Alton Peterson

Twin Cities Single Lutheran Adults began as a group for single persons in the 25-40 age range, and the name originally was Twin Cities Lutheran Young Adults.

“We’ve served our time,” said Elaine Degelau, one of the founders of the organization who is serving as its last president. With the number of members getting smaller and the average age climbing, it has become harder to find people for TCSLA’s many leadership positions, she noted. “And after 55 years, we’re getting tired,” the president said.
TCSLA began as a group for single persons in the 25-40 age range, and the name originally was Twin Cities Lutheran Young Adults. Membership boomed to over 500 in 1960. But in 1968, faced with the loss of some key members who were reaching the upper age limit and others who had found a marriage partner in the organization, the group voted to remove that limitation and opened its ranks to all single persons over 25.
With that change, it gradually became more difficult to attract young persons. Degelau thinks another reason for the decline was that younger persons were more affluent than their postwar predecessors and less inclined to pitch in and create activities for big groups.

In every season

Whatever the reason, an upward swing in the age of members has taken place very slowly over the years, and today TCSLA has 68 persons on its rolls and bills itself as an organization for single adults ages 40-70, some of whom are retired and some still working.

In the early years of TCSLA, theatrical presentations were common.

But the number of persons attending one of TCSLA’s premier annual events, the fall banquet, is expected to be anything but small this year. That’s because former members are always invited along with current ones, and, since many of these “alumni” met their spouses in TCSLA, they turn out in substantial numbers. Alumni couples often double the number of current members at the banquets, and they will have extra incentive to attend the organization’s final year. The banquet will be at 1 p.m. on November 13 at House of Prayer Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Richfield, Minnesota.
Much of the conversation at the banquet will probably turn to memories of TCSLA’s boom years in past decades. The group put heavy emphasis on outdoor recreation year-round, and Degelau and others recall the somewhat wild water-ski shows the group once put on, as well as canoe trips and winter skiing jaunts. And then there were the summer trips to other parts of the Midwest.
But Degelau stresses that the aim of the organization was always to provide Christian fellowship, not just socializing.

A change after 55 years

Clarice Johnson, a TCSLA  member since 1955, recalls the insights members got from the professors and pastors who spoke at TCSLA retreats and monthly programs. She was introduced to the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer by the speaker at the first TCSLA retreat. Norma Arneson, a key founder of the organization, recalls contacting philosophers and theologians like Paul Holmer and Jaroslav Pelikan as speakers for TCSLA programs.

Elaine Degelau, president, and Clarice Johnson, a member for 55 years, discuss plans for the final banquet of TCSLA on November 13. Metro Lutheran photo: Robert Ylvisaker

Whatever the reason, an upward swing in the age of members has taken place very slowly over the years.

The singles organization decided early in its existence that it needed to have a service project, and for more than 40 years it has awarded a scholarship annually to a student from the Twin Cities metro area attending a Lutheran college or university. Matthew Behmer, a junior at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minnesota, received the final TCSLA scholarship in 2010.
The idea for a Lutheran singles organization began percolating in lunchroom conversations among a half-dozen women employees of the old Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown Minneapolis in the early 1950s. Most of them had come from smaller communities to work in the Twin Cities, joined Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, but found themselves getting too old for the church’s Senior Luther League, which had an upper age limit of 25.
They decided to reach out across synod lines, formed a steering committee and contacted congregations and pastors throughout the metro area. They finally set the first meeting at the University YMCA in November 1955 with the Rev. Merton Strommen, a youth leader in the old Lutheran Free Church, as speaker. A regular schedule of activities was launched early in 1956.
Because many lifelong friendships were formed in TCSLA, Degelau is confident that members will find informal ways to gather in the years ahead. “We look forward to continuing our friendships even after the group no longer exists,” she said.

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