To finish off our month-long exploration of the Northfield History Collaborative’s fascinating offerings, here is a blog post written by Caroline Priore, NHC transcription intern. It features two new additions to the Collaborative from our partner, the Christdala Church Preservation and Cemetery Association: minute books from Christdala’s Young People’s Society and Luther League.
In the early twentieth century, the Christdala Swedish Lutheran Church maintained a strong core of young people through the vibrant presence of its Young People’s Society. Fortunately for us, the society’s various secretaries took detailed and thorough notes of meetings from the end of 1916 through 1918, bound in a minutes book. The book records specific details like what hymns were sung, how many members attended, and how much money turned up in the collection basket. Meetings usually consisted of a prayer or sermon led by the president (the pastor), a collection of musical performances and scripture readings led by members of the congregation, and a few small business items.
The Society held its first meeting in December of 1916, under the guidance of the church’s current pastor, Reverend Norsen. At this particular meeting, members of the Y.P.S. elected their officers, including President, Vice President, Secretary, Cashier, Social Committee, Program Committee, Auditors, and Librarian. The secretary noted, “The Y.P.S. decided to have a meeting every month as before. The program to be in Swede [sic] every other month and English every other month.” And the young people also decided “that $10 be sent to the China mission.”
At another meeting, in November of 1918, members decided to purchase altar trimmings and coat hooks as essential additions to their community. Most meetings were enhanced by vocal, violin, and even accordion solos, and were often followed by a “social hour” characterized by home-cooked refreshments.
Notes from the meeting held in March of 1917 indicate that the Young People’s Society took a vote to officially join the Luther League and send a delegate to the Luther League Conference, but the motion was defeated.
The Luther League, formed in 1895, was a nationwide organization that strove to “quicken the consciousness of the Christian faith,” and to promote a “practical life” of pious living among young people. Although the minutes do not explain why the members of the Society were reluctant to join in 1917, we might speculate that they were unwilling to pay dues or take on other responsibilities attached to participation in the national group.
When Christdala did eventually claim membership in 1932, the secretaries continued recording events of the group newly reorganized under the auspices of the Luther League organization. As the minutes indicate, each meeting was an occasion for social mingling and displays of hospitality, and some were even hosted at parishioners’ homes. The secretary’s report for the Luther League meeting on July 24, 1932 chronicles the society’s rousing rendition of the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” closing with the observation that “everyone seemed to enjoy the program.” However, despite the presence of nearly sixty attendees at that meeting, a mere $4.51 was gathered in the collection plate.
Through the Young People’s Society and the Luther League, Christdala’s young people enjoyed Bible studies, fellowship events, and even trips to national youth events. It was a setting where young men and young women could meet and socialize. Who knows, perhaps a few courtships may have started at one of these meetings!