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Arland O. Fiske: The American church in Oslo

After World War II, Norwegian-Americans sent money to Norway to rebuild and repair churches that had been destroyed during the war. It was also decided to build a church for an English speaking congregation as a "living monument" to remember the bonds between the two nations.

"Look to the rock from which you were hewn" was the rallying cry in America as money was raised for the project. The words of Isaiah 51:1 were effective and on October 12, 1958, Pastor Oscar C. Hanson of Minneapolis held the first service in rented space. The following April 23, 1959, a group of 83 Americans and Norwegians formed a congregation called "The American Lutheran Church in Oslo." It has become a spiritual home for English speaking people all over the world. Church officials and dignitaries from both government and church in Norway attended.

The idea was first formulated in 1948 by Pastor Philip Dybvig, Director of Home Missions for the Evangelical Lutheran Church, a denomination with Norse roots. It took until 1956, however, before formal authorization was given at a national church convention in Minneapolis. Pastor Hanson remained until 1960. He was succeeded for two years (1960-1962) by Dr. George Aus, a native of the Norse community in Brooklyn and professor at Luther Seminary in St. Paul.

A stately new building was dedicated on October 11, 1964 at 17 Fritznersgate, near the entrance to Frogner Park, famous for its Vigeland sculptures. Edward Sovik, nationally renowned architect of worship spaces and a principal of the Sovik, Mathre and Mattson architectural firm of Northfield, Minnesota designed it. The King's Guard trumpeters participated in the service. The Norwegian State Church has always been cordial to the congregation. It's an easy walk from the City Hall to the church.

We had our first look at the church in June 1977, but had to wait until September 1985 for an opportunity to be there on a Sunday morning. Sunday School and an Adult Forum preceded the service. I sensed a great deal of excitement by members of their congregation. Following the service, almost everyone stays for fellowship.

The most striking feature on the outside of the building is a large statue of "Christ the King" mounted on the wall. Designed by Egon Weiner of the Chicago Art Institute, it was dedicated by His Majesty King Olav V on August 27, 1967. The windows also add much to the building's beauty.

Some church members are permanent residents of Oslo, but many are transitory people attached to NATO offices, embassies and business firms. Lois Rand, organist for the congregation, introduced the new Lutheran Book of Worship in 1980. Lois' husband, Dr. Sidney Rand, was the United States Ambassador to Norway and was formerly president of St. Olaf College

If you are in Oslo on a Sunday morning, by all means visit this friendly congregation and join them for worship and "remember the rock from which you were hewn."

A major renovation program has since taken place. Friends in America were invited to participate in raising funds for the project. If you would like information on this ongoing mission, contact the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America offices at 8765 Higgins Road, Chicago, IL 60631 (Phone 1-800-638-2700).

Next Week: Kaare of Gryting

ARLAND FISKE , a retired Lutheran minister who previously lived in Laporte and now lives in Texas, is the author of 10 books on Scandinavian themes.

ARLAND FISKE , a retired Lutheran minister who previously lived in Laporte and now lives in Texas, is the author of 10 books on Scandinavian themes.