Center City, Minnesota — Costumed musicians in folkdräkt graced the front of the church at Chisago Lake Lutheran Church during its 160th anniversary celebration on May 11, 2014. The Twin City Nickelharpalag performed a prelude and participated during the worship service, which included favorite Swedish hymns.
Songs in the service were Day by Day, Thy Holy Wings, Children of the Heavenly Father and The Numberless Gifts of God’s Mercies by Carolina Sandell Berg, 1832–1903, and How Great Thou Art by Carl C. Boberg 1859-1940. The nyckelharpalag performed the traditional Visa från Tystberga, Kärleksvalsen, a traditional tune efter Sahlstrom, Josefins Dorval’s by Roger Tallroth, and Trumpet prelude from Drottningholm—Musique 1744 by Johan Helmich Roman, 1694-1758.
Guest Pastor Charles Anderson opened his remarks with a Swedish greeting, “Käraste vänner.” While he has served as Bishop of the Southwestern Minnesota Synod, he is a native of nearby Lindstrom, and had many friends who were congregants at this church during his youth.

Begin in a barn
The church had its beginnings in Per Berg’s barn when Pastor Erland Carlsson followed a wooded trail from the Falls of St. Croix on May 12, 1854, and met a new congregation, seated on log benches. After the founding of this church, Carlsson trekked again through the woods to found the Elim Lutheran Church in Scandia.
The current church interior has a mixture of new, modern and old, with its tin ceiling and colorful butterflies hanging from iron candelabra. The flowers on the altar represented colors and varieties available to Swedish immigrants 160 years ago. Hanging near a folk-painted arch were more butterflies assembled in a mobile.
According to the bulletin, the edifice continues to need support from its people, and a notice seeking funding spelled out some specific needs: the bell and clock tower, the stained glass windows, brick and masonry repairs.


The church is the people
While the building is graceful and lovely, the church is the people. In his sermon the pastor predicted what the church of the future might look like. He suggested there would be more focus on diversity, “How about a lutfisk and taco dinner?” This implies acceptance and the ability to get along, and as an example mentioned a story from early in the church’s history. Eric Norelius, born in Hassela parish in 1833, was the young pastor who presided during the time of a 10-year fight over where to locate the parsonage and cemetery. Norelius suggested that the decision be tabled for five years, and at the end of that time no one could remember what the fight was about.
Following the service, the congregation adjourned for coffee and a Mother’s Day Cake. Music accompanied the visiting, at the nyckelharpalag performed a variety of tunes suitable for dancing. Several couples did just that.

Text & Photography: Valories Arrowsmith

The Chisago Lake Lutheran Church is located on Lindeke and Summit Avenues in Center City. It celebrated its 160th anniversary on May 11,