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Highview Christiania: 150 years of worship

Sometimes, the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.

That seems to be the case out at Highview Christiania Lutheran Church, where for 150 years the congregation has quietly, but faithfully, gathered and worshiped.

The original settlers came to the area from Oslo, Norway, which was widely know in the mid-1800s as Christiania. And with many of the settlers coming from Norway, they chose to name their new home Christiania, as well.

But, Rev. Chris Beckman explained, there was a little dissent at the time -- the first inclination of the settlers was to build a church, but they could not agree on what discipline to follow -- the Lutheran state church, or the free church. Eventually, the settlers separated into two separate groups.

"A good part of them came to this area because they wanted religious freedom," Beckman said.

At first, the congregation gathered in homes. A colporteur -- a lay person sent by a pastor -- was sent to the community to determine if there was the potential to begin a church. Before long, a traveling pastor came to the area.

In 1859, a young church was born. The congregation -- a handful of families -- voted to join a synod, the Swedish Minnesota Conference of the Synod of Northern Illinois.

Six years later, in 1865, the first church was built. It was a log-style church built near the current site. But it was not long before it became evident that a larger building would be needed.

The couch building that has been home to the congregation for generations was dedicated Nov. 11, 1878.

Over the years, there have been some modifications made to the church -- an addition brought classrooms to the site, another addition created a community room and gathering space for activities. And hitching posts have been added to the site, reminiscent of years gone by.

The congregation has ballooned compared to those early days, though. Now, the church boasts a congregation of 600 members, about 300-400 of whom are active.

And that group, Beckman said, is pretty excited about the upcoming anniversary party.

The anniversary will be held Aug. 1-2, with a series of events. Many former pastors will return to participate, and a few have even made early appearances to lead worship at the church.

For information on the upcoming anniversary events, call the church at 952-469-2722, or visit