Trinity Lutheran Congregation

Getting By With a Little Help From Friends

How one congregation has made Cedar-Riverside a home for more than 100 years.

Trinity Lutheran Congregation is one of Cedar-Riverside's oldest institutions. It was left "homeless" in 1966 when its building was razed to make way for I-94, but its roots go back to 1868. The story begins when Norwegian and Danish immigrants left Minneapolis' first Scandinavian Lutheran church (considered by some to be "too Swedish") to form their own congregation. By 1902, Trinity was the largest Norwegian Lutheran church in Minneapolis with a sanctuary that could hold a 1,000 people. Today Trinity operates out of a small office on 20th and Riverside Avenues and the congregation worships in Augsburg College's Hoversten Chapel. Among its members are descendants of Norwegian immigrants as well as recent newcomers from Eritrea and Ethiopia. Trinity's history illustrates how a community institution has adapted to meet the changes in Cedar-Riverside.

Once part of the Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Congregation, Norwegian members began to conduct their own Sunday school classes and hold prayer meetings in members' houses. Their first church buildings were on the western boundary of the old Sixth Ward, where the new Vikings football stadium now stands.

Trinity's first permanent pastor was Ole Paulson, a Norwegian immigrant who had come to the United States on a sailboat and who encouraged Augsburg Seminary to relocate to Minneapolis. He saw the young city as a potential center for Scandinavian Americans and Trinity as a resource to help Norwegians embrace a new life in America. Trinity's congregation wanted to break from some traditions of the Norwegian State Church by, for instance, allowing lay preaching. The congregation also wanted to focus more on service to society.

In 1890, Trinity joined several Norwegian churches to form the United Norwegian Lutheran Church of America, but due to internal conflicts, Trinity split from the United Church and joined Augsburg (and other congregations) to form the Lutheran Free Church. Trinity became known as the "mother church" of this movement, which emphasized independent congregations, a personal religious experience and living Christian values through service. A few years later there were seven Lutheran Free Church congregations in the Twin Cities, and in 1902, Trinity opened its impressive 1,000-seat church building on 20th Avenue and 9th Street South.

In the 1920s fierce debates emerged within Trinity's congregation over an issue that immigrant groups continue to face-language of worship. Successive waves of Norwegian immigrants from the 1870s to the 1920s kept services largely in Norwegian, but second and third generations preferred English. It wasn't until the 1930s that Trinity's congregation switched to all English, and members began to see their church as an American institution.

In 1966, its building now demolished, the congregation faced another momentous decision: to move or not to move. In keeping with its Free Church tradition, the congregation decided to stay and serve the residents in Cedar-Riverside. It relied on neighboring institutions for shelter and support. Trinity held services at Riverside Presbyterian Church and later at the Czech Catholic Church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Since the 1980s Augsburg has provided Trinity with a permanent home and a place to hold worship services on their campus.

Trinity has continued to welcome newcomers from all over the world. Since the 1990s, Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians have joined the congregation. Trinity members and pastors have sought to build relationships with growing Muslim communities in Cedar-Riverside by offering institutional support and after-school homework help. In 2014, when a devastating, multi-building fire forced the Somali-led Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque on Cedar Avenue to close, Trinity offered resources and office space for mosque staff.

Images

Trinity Lutheran Congregation's First Building, 1868-1870

Trinity Lutheran Congregation's First Building, 1868-1870

Trinity started as a small group in a small building. Its first location was on the corner of 12th Avenue and 3rd Street South, a small wooden building not much bigger than a private home. The congregation grew quickly and a few years later purchased land and built a larger building. Image courtesy of Trinity Lutheran Congregation View File Details Page

Trinity Lutheran Congregation Expands

Trinity Lutheran Congregation Expands

Trinity's congregation grew rapidly and soon a larger church building was needed. Pastor Ole Paulson bought a lot on 10th Avenue and 4th Street South and construction of Trinity's second building soon commenced. Paulson recalled this building as a simple, wooden structure and inexpensive to build, but always "packed twice every Sunday." This building is long gone, but this area is still "packed" on Sundays--with fans in the new Vikings football stadium. Image courtesy of Trinity Lutheran Congregation | Source: "The last meeting held in the Old Trinity Church, Minneapolis," November 22, 1896 View File Details Page

The "New" Trinity Lutheran Church

The "New" Trinity Lutheran Church

In the 1880s, Trinity began raising funds and support for a permanent building on 20th Avenue and 9th Street South. Construction started in 1886 and the building was dedicated in 1902. This beautiful stone church offered seating for 1,000 and clearly showed that Trinity had become an established institution. It was destroyed in 1966 to make way for I-94. Trinity members stayed in the neighborhood as a "homeless" congregation until, in the 1980s, Augsburg College provided them a permanent home. Image courtesy of Trinity Lutheran Congregation | Source: "Trinity Lutheran Church," ca. 1950s View File Details Page

Reverend Ole Paulson, ca. 1870s

Reverend Ole Paulson, ca. 1870s

Trinity's congregation wanted to break from many of Norway's State Church practices, especially formal rituals and liturgical traditions. However, some traditions they wanted to keep. One was for the pastor to wear traditional ministerial garb, including a "long robe." Paulson resisted the congregation's desire to wear this robe, calling it "old-fashioned, inhuman and homely" and a "monstrosity." The congregation was not deterred. One day a local tailor called him into his shop and measured him for some new clothes. Paulson was delighted, only later to find out that the tailor was measuring him for a "proper" preacher robe. Paulson relented and accepted the gift. As he wrote in his memoir, "It is not easy to combat public opinion." Image courtesy of Trinity Lutheran Congregation | Source: James Hamre, From Immigrant Parish to Inner City Ministry, 1998 View File Details Page

English society Valentine's Dinner at Trinity Church, 1908

English society Valentine's Dinner at Trinity Church, 1908

Successive waves of Norwegians from the 1870s to the 1920s meant that Trinity's congregation had a steady supply of new arrivals who preferred Norwegian. Second and third generations, however, increasingly spoke English. Trinity switched to all English in the 1930s, long after most other immigrant religious groups. Young congregants of Trinity Lutheran Congregation were at the forefront of figuring out how to balance American and Norwegian languages and cultures, while their parents worried about preserving Norwegian culture. Image courtesy of Trinity Lutheran Congregation | Source: "English society Valentine's Dinner," 1908 View File Details Page

Pentecost Procession, May 29, 1966

Pentecost Procession, May 29, 1966

In 1966, Trinity's large stone church was demolished for Interstate 94. The final service was held on May 29, after which the congregation marched to Riverside Presbyterian Church on 20th and Riverside Avenues, which had agreed to host them. When the University of Minnesota took over that building, the Trinity Congregation was invited to worship at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a Czech Catholic Church near 19th and Riverside Avenues. After several years, the University of Minnesota took over that building too. Eventually Trinity struck a deal with Augsburg to have a permanent office on 20th and Riverside Avenues and to hold its services in Augsburg's Hoversten Chapel. Image courtesy of Trinity Lutheran Congregation View File Details Page

Trinity Lutheran Congregation, 2016

Trinity Lutheran Congregation, 2016

Trinity Lutheran Congregation, established in 1868 and once the largest Norwegian church in Minnesota, no longer has a church. It operates out of this small office building on 20th and Riverside Avenues. All that remains of the old church is the cornerstone, nestled near the side door. | Creator: Anduin (Andy) Wilhide View File Details Page

Trinity Mural, ca. 2015

Trinity Mural, ca. 2015

The colorful mural on the outside of Trinity's office building combines stories from the Old Testament and the New Testament. The mural was designed by Trinity member Larry Rostad and was completed in 2010. Rostad consulted with members of the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities to ensure that the mural included African imagery and stories that were appropriate to all the East African communities who lived in the neighborhood. The camel carrying Abraham was chosen because its importance for many East African communities. Next to the camel is the phrase "Abraham, father of nations" painted in English, Hebrew, Arabic, Amharic and Somali. Image courtesy of Trinity Lutheran Congregation | Source: "Abraham & His Children" http://www.trinitylutherancongregation.org/abraham-mural.html; "Wall of Faith" http://www.trinitylutherancongregation.org/faith-mural.html | Creator: Larry Rostad View File Details Page

Ethiopian and Eritrean Christmas Celebration, ca. 2015

Ethiopian and Eritrean Christmas Celebration, ca. 2015

Trinity continues to welcome newcomers to their congregation. Since the 1990s, several Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians who were part of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Makena Yesus, have joined Trinity's congregation. Image courtesy of Trinity Lutheran Congregation View File Details Page

Safe Place: Homework Help Program

Safe Place: Homework Help Program

In 2002, Trinity members and Pastor Jane Buckley-Farlee established the Safe Place: Homework Help program. Neighborhood youth had requested more help with homework and more safe places to hang out. Trinity opened its office building for neighborhood youth to use, many of whom are Muslims from East African communities. Over the last decade the program has grown and most weekdays you can both find Trinity members and Augsburg student volunteers helping neighborhood youth with their homework. Image courtesy of Trinity Lutheran Congregation View File Details Page

Iftar with Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque and Trinity Lutheran Congregation, 2014

Iftar with Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque and Trinity Lutheran Congregation, 2014

Through the kindness of other religious groups, Trinity was able to stay in Cedar-Riverside. Today, it draws from its immigrant history and commitment to service by offering resources for newcomers and residents of all faiths. In 2014, after a fire destroyed part of the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque on Cedar Avenue, Trinity invited the staff to operate out of its office building while they waited for reconstruction. Image courtesy of Trinity Lutheran Congregation View File Details Page

Street Address:

2001 Riverside Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55454
[map]

Official Website:

Trinity Lutheran Congregation, http://www.trinitylutherancongregation.org

Cite this Page:

Anduin (Andy) Wilhide, “Trinity Lutheran Congregation,” Augsburg Digi-Tours, accessed September 20, 2017, http://digitours.augsburg.edu/items/show/4.
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