Music of Immigrant Lutheran Congregations in the Twin Cities
by Dr. Allison Adrian
, with photographs by Wing Young Huie
An idea explored as one of the first projects conducted in this class became the topic of my dissertation: music in immigrant Lutheran congregations in the Twin Cities. Race, ethnicity and spirituality have become intertwined in the US Lutheran imagination since great waves of immigration from Scandinavia and Germany took hold in the nineteenth century. However, while the majority of US Lutherans may still be Euro-American, changes in global Christianity, US church attendance, and immigration patterns are altering the landscape of Twin Cities Lutheranism in the twenty-first century.
Recent trends in immigration and refugee resettlement complicate the historical homogeneity of Minnesota. The population of foreign-born residents in the Twin Cities increased by 130% from 1990-2000. Minnesota’s rate of refugees to residents is one of the highest in the nation. African migration is particularly strong. In 2006, it was estimated that Minnesota’s black population was growing five times faster than the nation’s black population as a whole.
This latest influx in immigration coincides with a period of declining membership in the North American Lutheran church and increasing membership globally. While North American Lutheran membership declined 2.2% in 2004, it increased 5.4% worldwide.
The differences among the twenty new Lutheran congregations I studied are striking. Some of them grew up Lutheran in their homelands, others converted to the religion after arriving in the US. Some of the congregations practice in their own sanctuaries, some worship in church basements, and still others have joined pre-existing Lutheran congregations. Despite their differences, one consistent factor across all of the immigrant congregations I studied was a longer service as a result of extensive participation in music.
Music is fundamental to Lutheranism, the church known for its congregational singing. While Lutheran immigrant congregations may wholeheartedly adopt parts of the worship service from their North American mother churches, the music among congregations remains distinctive to each. Music distinctively exhibits the struggles involved in the selective process of creating a tradition that expresses the particularities of Lutheran spirituality in Asian, African, Latin American, and Eastern European communities in the US. Music’s transportability and malleability makes it one of the most consumed cultural practices available in the diaspora. As such, it plays an important role in the creation of a new religious life for migrants as they venture far from their homeland(s), yet seek to maintain ties with it.
Mighty Fortress: Video Tour of Lutheran Church Music in the Twin Cities
(42.5 MB Quicktime Movie)
New Sounds from within the Mighty Fortress—MPR
Immigrant Lutheran Congregations in the Twin Cities
Addis Hewot Ministries at Trinity First Lutheran Church (LCMS)
Anuak Service (LCMS) at Christ Lutheran Church
Christ Lutheran Church on Capitol Hill (ELCA)
El Milagro/The Miracle Lutheran Church (ELCA)
Grace International Lutheran Church (LCMS)
Hmong Central Lutheran Church (ELCA)
Hmong Evangelical Lutheran Church (LCMS) at Jehovah Lutheran Church
Laos Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA) at Victory Lutheran Church
Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Minneapolis and St. Paul (Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (LELBA))
Lebanon Lutheran Church
Minnesota Faith Chinese Lutheran Church (ELCA)
Our Redeemer Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA)
St. Matthew Sudanese Lutheran Church (LCMS)
Swahili Service (partnership of ELCA & ELCT (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania)) at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church