Religion beat: Pastor, 102, will celebrate a tradition

  • Article by: ROSE FRENCH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 21, 2012 - 9:12 PM
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The Rev. William Berg, in 2010 at age 100.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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At 102 years old, the Rev. William Berg is still preaching to the faithful.

On Christmas Day, Berg will conduct a worship service based on an ancient Swedish holiday tradition. Known as a Jullota -- which means "early Christmas morning" -- the service begins while it's still dark outside and ends with daybreak.

Berg will celebrate the liturgical service using language from 1917, giving attendees a little taste of what the ceremony was like when he was a youngster.

"I'm so grateful," said Berg, during a recent interview. "I guess I don't believe in retirement."

The service will be held at the Augustana Care chapel at 1007 E. 14th St., Minneapolis, on Tuesday. Though the Julotta service can begin at 5:30 a.m. in rural areas, Augustana Care is offering the ceremony at 8:30 a.m. on Christmas to accommodate more individuals and families. The Male Chorus of the American Swedish Institute will be singing.

Berg served as pastor at Augustana Lutheran Church in downtown Minneapolis from 1965 to 1980. Faced with a dwindling number of attendees, the congregation held its last worship service at its brick church not far from the Metrodome this past spring.

The nearly 130-year-old church building was sold to a nearby congregation -- Hope Community Church -- and Augustana moved five blocks south to a smaller church.

Berg gave the last sermon at Augustana Lutheran before the congregation relocated. He still attends Augustana's services at its new location. The author of several books, Berg continues to write almost daily and is working on another book.

This Easter, Berg says he's been invited by Hope Community congregation to preach in the church building where he was once pastor.

"It's been remodeled and renovated for the new congregation that moved into the church," he said. "They've invited me to the dedication of the newly remodeled [church] to preach Easter Sunday. I look forward to it."

Rose French • 612-673-4352

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