HISTORY & CULTURE
Our Norwegian-heritage, landmark church says “Velkommen!”
The Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church, affectionately known as Minnekirken, is located on Logan Square in Chicago, Illinois. Our "landmark status" sanctuary has been a Logan Square icon since before our cornerstone’s date of 1908. We remain a uniquely poignant and spiritually-fresh expression of the Norwegian Lutheran tradition.
Our church is widely acclaimed for its architectural beauty, both inside and outside. It traces its origin to ten Norwegian immigrants who met on June 29, 1905, in a private home in the strongly Norwegian neighborhood of Logan Square. The meeting was the result of the initiative of Pastor Johan B. Meyer, a onetime deep-sea sailor, born in Helgeland, Norway. It was with an evangelical fervor that Pastor Meyer established congregations of Norwegians in Brooklyn, New York; San Francisco, California; and two in Chicago, of which Minnekirken is one.
The structure of Minnekirken is similar to that of Bragernes Kirke in Drammen, Norway, one of Oslo's modern suburbs. Minnekirken’s architect was Charles F. Sorensen; the mason was S.N. Nelson. The Gothic-revival structure is typical of Protestant adaptations of classic Gothic design. The cornerstone for the church was laid in 1908; the congregation worshipped in the Festsalen while the main sanctuary was being built overhead. The building was completed in 1912. Pastor Meyer is quoted in the church‘s inauguration booklet:
It has been seven hard years of hard work and difficulty. The task and work to build this expensive church, with our small and poor conditions, along with trying to gather people for worship has given us more than enough with which to contend. And at times it seemed that our courage and strength would completely fail, but then our belief in and love for the work was a persisting factor. God's word in the Bible verse "in quietness and trust is your strength" [Isaiah 30:15] has also been a source of grace and blessing where we often found solace and help.
The first Congregation used the name Kristuskirken, meaning Christ Church. That Congregation struggled during the 1920s, and was ultimately forced to close the church in 1928. The church became known as Minnekirken when the forebears of the present Congregation took over the Church building in 1932. Dismayed at the fate of the first Congregation, Pastor Meyer returned to the Congregation, determined to revitalize the church. Pastor Meyer reopened the church in 1934 under its new name: The Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church.
Since then Minnekirken has been the center of Norwegian culture in Greater Chicagoland. Though the annual Norwegian “Syttende Mai”—17th of May Norwegian Constitution Day—parade has moved from Logan Square to Park Ridge, the members of Minnekirken have taken the lead in these festivities through the efforts of the Norwegian National League of Chicago. Concerts commemorating the day are still hosted by Minnekirken, along with the annual Norwegian Christmas Concert which features our church choir, the “Grieg Ladies,” two male choruses – “Noremennenes” and the “Bjornson” singers – as well as numerous Scandinavian soloists and ensembles. A complete listing of Chicago area Norwegian singers, dancers, rosemalers and more can be found here.
Minnekirken is one of two congregations in the United States that regularly uses the Norwegian language, hymns, and liturgy. This being said, we provide written and electronic translations into English so that all can participate in worship. The church's beautiful sanctuary is known for its superb acoustics, and congregational singing is often accompanied by a grand piano and pipe organ. We gladly welcome you to our 11:00 a.m. Sunday service each and every week, as well as to our many seasonal, cultural, and community events.