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Tuesday Open House enriches the Norwegian-American experience

Photo: Kirsti Grødahl
Minderkirken congregants and friends gather for food, fellowship, and programs about Norwegian history and culture at the Tuesday Open House.

Leslee Lane Hoyum
Rockford, Minn.

Want to learn more about Norway, other cultures, your own country? You do not have to travel very far if you’re near Mindekirken on Norway Block in Minneapolis. Tuesday Open House (TOH) brings it all to you.


Photo: Kirsti Grødahl
At a recent Tuesday Open House, Mindekirken historian Gracia Grindal talked about the place of the church in the life of Norwegian immigrants.

In 1994, Ingrid Sorensen, the pastor’s wife, felt that Mindekirken congregants needed to become better acquainted with each other.  Why not, she wondered, hold an open house on Tuesdays to gather over Norwegian waffles and coffee, much like the custom at Norwegian Seamen’s Church around the world?

It was a success and TOH took root. The coffee evolved into full meals, including open-faced sandwiches, then soup was added to the menu—all dependent on the person in charge of the kitchen.

In 2002, newly appointed Pastor Jens Dale introduced the concept of continuing education as part of a luncheon gathering, and the mission of TOH advanced. He envisioned it as an outreach ministry, which could expand the knowledge of persons with Norwegian background and others interested in Norwegian history and culture.

The program has developed into reaching participants about Norwegian art (including folk art), history, music, literature, and contemporary Norwegian life. In turn, people learn about Mindekirken and all it has to offer, whether culturally or theologically.

Each TOH over the last 30 years has hosted 80 to 160 people, with attendees from more than 50 congregations representing nine denominations.

But as with any Mindekirken pastor, Dale’s stay came to an end. So, in 2005, the burning question was: Who would take over TOH programming? “Marilyn Sorensen!” shouted one attendee.

Now, nearly 20 years later, Sorensen is still making sure interesting presenters and delicious lunches continue to serve TOH guests.

Photo: Gunnar Kristiansen
When asked if she would ever run out of ideas, Marilyn Sorensen, first lady of the Tuesday Open House program, said “Never; impossible.”

When asked whether she would ever run out of program ideas, Sorensen stated matter-of-factly, “Never; impossible. I work with such a wonderful group of volunteers with endless ideas for presenters. People who attend offer wonderful ideas as well. And, in this world of virtual broadcasting, we can livestream speakers from all over the country—and the world.

“But we must keep in mind that the public ages, and with a ‘new’ older generation, comes a vast amount of new programming ideas,” she added.

Sorensen’s insight is absolutely correct. While the most successful programs at TOH have been those about World War II and the relationship between Norway and the United States, younger Norwegian Americans today are often concerned with more recent conflicts involving the transatlantic alliance. Some have parents and grandparents who immigrated from Norway during the last two decades, and their experiences are different from those who came before them. Yet, as the world picture changes and the focus shifts, the Norwegian-American foundation remains constant.

In light of the upcoming Norwegian Emigration Bicentennial in 2025, TOH will focus on emigration and the American experience at least once a month.

“We offer 37 programs during the year and one summer seminar,” said Sorensen. “Although celebration of the Norwegian-American immigrant story is usually focused around the first ‘organized’ emigration on the Restauration in 1825,” said Sorensen. “Norwegians appeared in the United States, specifically in New Amsterdam, earlier than that. This year, our summer seminar will fo cus on Norwegian immigration to North America and current immigration. It will be exciting.”

Photo: Kirsti Grødahl
Mindekirken Pastor Gunnar Kristiansen loves to play his guitar and lead the Tuesday Open House attendees in song, often in the Norwegian.

Mindekirken’s TOH serves as a shining example of volunteerism that provides a social atmosphere that educates and keeps Norwegian culture alive. It’s a model that may be duplicated across the United States and Canada to culturally educate the more than 5.5 million who claim Norwegian ancestry in North America.

According to Sorensen, “You just need an enthusiastic planning committee and willing volunteers. Where else can you find a satisfying lunch, an inspiring program, and enthusiastic participants!”

For more information about Mindekirken’s TOH, visit: mindekirken.org/index.php/393-Tuesday-open-house. Visitors are always welcome at Mindekirken.

This article originally appeared in the February 2024 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Leslee Lane Hoyum

Born and raised in Minnesota, Leslee Lane Hoyum attended the University of Minnesota and University of Oslo. Leslee is or has been involved with almost every Norwegian-American organization, including Sons of Norway, Sons of Norway Foundation, Ski For Light, NAHA, Leif Eriksson International Festival and Mindekirken. Leslee is a co-founder of Lakselaget and a founding member of Norway House, and has been decorated by His Majesty King Harald with the St. Olav Medal.