At Home Far Away: Alumnus-Founded Norwegian Church to Host Augustana Homecoming Worship Service

By Keeley Meier '20 | May 22, 2024
ALC Norway

On the west side of Oslo, Norway, sits a uniquely-designed gray church with strong Augustana ties, both to the past and future. Started by an Augustana alumnus in 1958, the church will be the site of worship for the university’s spring celebration of 100 years of homecoming in Norway.

In September 2023, Augustana celebrated 100 years of homecoming on campus. At the end of May, Augustana will bring the celebration to Oslo. From Friday, May 31-Sunday, June 2, AU alumni, staff and friends will gather in Norway’s capital to celebrate community, alumni achievement and tradition — including a special worship service.

The American Lutheran Congregation (ALC) will welcome Augustana on June 2, for a worship service. The service will conclude a weekend of homecoming festivities, including a kickoff event, opportunities to explore Oslo and a banquet.

Rogness at ALC

After the visitors worship, they shouldn’t plan on leaving right away, said Rev. Peter Rogness ‘67, who served as ALC’s interim pastor in 2014-15.

“They (the group) should go downstairs to Hanson Hall because there is the very typical Norwegian coffee hour which is not doughnuts — it's waffles with a little jelly on them and coffee, and it's a wonderful social time,” Rogness said. “If they visit with folks there, it doesn't take very long to begin to discover connections and the degrees of separation.”

Hanson Hall is named for Rev. Dr. Oscar Hanson ‘29, who began the ALC in 1958, after being called by the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC) to start an English-speaking congregation in Oslo. The congregation’s beginning reflected a commitment to serve the growing number of tourists, Norwegian-American families, American embassy personnel and English-speaking students living in Oslo. The decision was also an expression of gratitude for the Norwegian ancestors who brought the Christian faith from the United States.

Starting the ALC was a family venture for Hanson, his wife, Myrtle (Lokken) ‘30, and their children, Mark, Mary (Trodahl) and Joanne (Negstad), who later served the Augustana Board of Regents (now Trustees) from 1974-82. After the family settled in Oslo in October 1958, the congregation that Hanson formed began worshiping in rented halls. The Hansons held weekly Bible study, choir practice, confirmation classes and council meetings in their home. The family also hosted many visitors from the U.S.

Rev. Dr. Oscar Hanson ‘29 and Myrtle (Lokken) '30Rogness, a third cousin to Hanson’s children, recalled a story that Mark tells about his time in Oslo.

“I think he was in middle school, and they used to go down to the boats when they'd be coming in with a bunch of fliers about the church,” Rogness said. “If they heard anybody speaking English, they'd go up to them and thrust a flier in their hands, or they’d go to hotel lobbies and listen for anybody speaking English. They were doing what you do when you're starting a new congregation.”

Hanson’s call in Oslo lasted two years, but before he and his family returned to the U.S., the congregation purchased property at Fritners Gate 15 — where the church is located today. Hanson raised funds for the new building while resuming his call to serve as an evangelist.

“(The ALC) was already a strong enough congregation that, by 1964, they built the church that (Augustana) will be worshiping in,” said Rogness.

When Rogness served as interim pastor in 2014, the ALC was celebrating its 50th anniversary. 

ALC Altar“There were still members that had been there all that time,” Rogness remembered. “And, a quite famous boys’ choir had started there right when the church was built and was nationally, even internationally known. They came back together for this event, so there were these 70- and 80-year-olds that sang, and it was just marvelous.”

The ALC identifies as an ecumenical congregation — one focused on greater Christian unity — but its teachings and ministry reflect a Lutheran foundation.

An Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) pastor always serves the congregation, maintaining a connection between the congregation and ELCA. The congregation, at times, has also served as an internship site for ELCA seminarians. The ALC supports the ELCA’s mission work around the world through outreach contributions, as well.

“Worship itself on a Sunday morning would feel pretty much at home to people who are coming from Lutheran churches in the U.S.,” said Rogness. “It's a Lutheran liturgy, and the organist is magnificent. So, (Augustana) will have a nice worship experience when they're there.”

Rogness, who served as bishop of the American Lutheran Church's Southern Wisconsin District, ELCA’s Greater Milwaukee Synod and St. Paul Area Synod, worked for the ALC after his retirement in 2014. Having served for more years as a bishop than a parish pastor, Rogness said the opportunity to simply serve a congregation again was very appealing. There was also the adventure that came with “serving an international congregation on foreign soil.”

What Rogness remembers most fondly, though, about his time at the ALC was the diversity of the congregation. The ALC, which began with mostly Lutheran Americans, now has members from more than 30 countries and almost as many faith traditions.

“It's a marvelous mix of people who have Lutheran connections and backgrounds and, in many cases, American backgrounds, but that was far more true at the beginning of the congregation than it is now,” Rogness said. “I used to tell people that the name, ‘American Lutheran Congregation,’ reflects its roots.”

As the Augustana community prepares to celebrate homecoming in Norway, Rogness and his wife, Gerry (Sheridan) ‘67 — who was by his side during his time at ALC — have just one piece of advice for worshiping at the Augustana-connected church.

“Be prepared to celebrate how international it is,” Gerry said.

“They aren't worshiping in a Norwegian church, per se,” added Peter. “They're worshiping in an international church with a Norwegian flavor to it.”

Learn more about 100 years of homecoming in Norway at

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