Centennial celebration continues at Mindekirken

A historical congregation welcomes the queen and the presiding bishop of Norway

The Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church in Minneapolis—Mindekirken—was filled to capacity for a special commemorative service with Queen Sonja on Oct. 16 to honor the church’s centennial.

The Norwegian American

Last January, The Norwegian American published a special edition to commemorate 100 years of Mindekirken, the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church in Minneapolis. That same month, on Jan. 9, the congregation celebrated with a banquet, kicking off a year of celebrations. Those celebrations culminated on Oct. 16 with a royal visit from Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway.

The queen is no stranger to Mindekirken. Her husband, King Harald, is the patron of the church. The queen has visited several times, first in fall 1978 as Crown Princess Sonja. In many respects, it must have felt like a homecoming for the queen, so beloved by the congregation there.

And that congregation came out in full force on the brisk Sunday morning for the special service with the queen, 450 in total, filling the church to capacity.

Queen Sonja’s address to the congregation, nostalgic and inspirational, was the highlight of the service.

Presiding Bishop Olav Fykse Tveit traveled from Norway to receive the queen and deliver the Sunday sermon.

Entering Mindekirken is always an awe-inspiring experience, with the church’s sweeping cathedral ceiling, the magnificent stained-glass windows, and illuminated altar painting. On this morning, the atmosphere was heightened by a musical prelude performed by regularly performing church musicians and a visiting vocal group from northern Norway, Vocal Art, with Simen Kiil Halvorsen on the trumpet. The folk sounds of “Bruremarsj from Sørfold” help set the mood for the arrival of Queen Sonja.

The congregation rose when the queen entered, and the regular service began. Presiding were the Rev. Gunnar Kristiansen of Mindekirken and the visiting archbishop of the Church of Norway, Olav Fykse Tveit. Younger members of the congregation also came forth to read Scripture passages in fluent Norwegian.

It was a moving moment when Queen Sonja rose to deliver her remarks. “I have indeed had some wonderful days here in Minnesota and ending my visit here at Min­dekirken is truly special,” she said.

Mindiekirken’s pastor, Gunnar Kristiansen, sat to the queen’s right, and Jeannette Henrikssen, president of the congregation, to her left, as the guests waited for a special celebratory luncheon to be served.

The queen read from the same scripture passage, Psalm 90:12, that she had read when she visited in 1978. It was a reminder of the royal family’s enduring commitment to the Min­dekirken community. “I’m certain that Mindekirken in this next century will continue to bring together people who are passionate about traditions,” Queen Sonja said.

Chef Francisco offered up smoked lake trout, turkey, wild rice, and roasted squash.

Presiding Bishop Tveit delivered the sermon, reminding the congregation that while Mindekirken was built as a “memorial church,” it is a living place that must look to the future.

Queen Sonja was escorted away to a private room to prepare for the gala luncheon. She found the church program from her 1978 visit placed on a table there. It was a reminder from the congregation that they had not forgotten her first visit, an expression of Min­de­kirken’s ongoing commitment and gratitude.

The church’s Fellowship Hall was filled to the brim as she entered with Jeannette Henrikssen, congregation president. The mood was festive in a Norwegian way, with tables decorated with accents of red, white, and blue.

Gracia Grindal, Mindekirken centennial committee chair, poses with grand niece Eline Gro Knatterud.

Just as festive was the food, prepared by Chef Francisco of ELMO Catering LLC and Stine Carillo-Aasland’s Nordic Waffles. The Norwegian table prayer was sung, and there were speeches and presentations, including a brief overview of the history of congregation by Gracia Grindal, Min­dekirken historian.

As the celebration came to a close, Joseph Grødahl, director of programs and events at Norway House and a good friend of Mindekirken and member of the planning committee, delivered a heartfelt Takk for maten” speech of thanks. Grøhdahl could not contain his emotion as he spoke for the congregation, expressing their thankfulness for the unwavering support of the Norwegian royal family for the Mindekirken congregation and Norwegian-American community.

This article originally appeared in the November 4, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.