The History of Our Saviour's
On December 18, 1898, twenty Lutherans of Norwegian and Danish descent formed Zion Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church, the second Lutheran congregation to be organized on the Peninsula.
The founders came from immigrant settlements in the Midwest to the Toano area in response to advertisements to attract industrious people to settle on vacant, but fertile land along the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad line from Richmond to Newport News. The railroad was built in 1882.
The official organization of Zion Church took place in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Swenson at Riverview Plantation near the York River. Worship services were held in private homes, and for a period of time, in a granary on the Edenlof farm. The church was built in 1904 at a cost of $2,100.
In November 1904, this Scandinavian community was named Norge, James City County, Virginia, when the Post Office was established.
By 1908, there were Scandinavians from four different Lutheran synods in the area causing Zion Church to reorganize into Zion and Bethany congregations. Zion remained in the original church that is Our Saviour's today.
The Bethany congregation, with 100 members, built a parsonage north of Norge in 1909, and built Bethany Church in 1910 on the corner of what is now Croaker Road and Maxton Lane.
The synodical merger in 1917 brought Zion and Bethany into the same synod. They agreed to be served by one pastor who preached in Norwegian and English. One Sunday afternoon a month, the sermon was given in Norwegian. The two church buildings were used alternately for worship services. In 1932, the two congregations merged, reuniting as Our Saviour's Evangelical Lutheran Church. They agreed to use the original church for services, and used Bethany Church as a parish house.
In 1937, a basement was added to Our Saviour's, raising the building but not the steeple, creating the need for stairs just inside the front door up to the sanctuary and a stairway leading down to the basement.
During the visit of Norwegian Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Martha to Our Saviour's on June 29, 1939, a Norwegian Bible was presented and is on display in a glass case.
By 1956, more space was needed. An addition was made at the back of church in order to provide a nursery and restrooms on the lower level, a choir room and office on the main level and a meeting room on the second level.
A bronze plaque commemorating the early Norge settlers and the founding of the church was dedicated in December 1968, and placed on the church foundation to the left of the entrance.
The former parsonage was sold and a new one constructed in 1964. This second parsonage was sold in 2016. The parish house was sold in 1979, and congregational dinners, meetings and other activities were held in the Norge Community Hall.
Construction of the Parish Hall started in 1985 and completed by late 1986. Construction of the accessibility ramp to the church was completed in 1992. The Educational addition to the Parish Hall began in 1993 and finished in 1994.
The church has three cemeteries, one immediately behind the church, one at the former Bethany Church, and the original one located on Riverview Road.
Our Saviour's changed its synodical affiliation in 1958 to the Virginia Synod of the United Lutheran Church in America. This affiliation was maintained until 1988 when, as a result of a merger, the name was changed to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.