Spiritual Journey to Norway: Hiking the Pilgrim’s Path to Nidaros is Now on Sale

The last signpost of St. Olavsleden.Led by Rev. Sonja Hagander August 4-13, 2020

In August 2020, the Rev. Sonja Hagander, Augsburg University Vice President for Mission and Identity, will lead a hike to the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway—a pilgrimage made by travelers for more than 1,000 years. Along the way, you will learn about history and culture, and experience firsthand some of the most beautiful nature in the world. This trip is intended for experienced mountain hikers. Hagander has hiked parts of this trip twice and will be joined by a ground guide who will travel with the group. This trip will be limited to 22 participants and it is expected to sell out quickly.

This trip includes 19 meals, all entrance fees for the Peer Gynt Festival, all motorcoach transfers, gratuities, and lodging. It does not include airfare.

Over 10 days you will hike over 70 Kilometers from Dovre Church to the Trondheim Cathedral. The group will also attend the Peer Gynt Festival and will explore Lillehammer and Trondheim. 

To learn more or to register for the trip please go to the online travel brochure.

Or, to learn more about the Pilgram walk check out St. Olav Ways.

Any additional questions can be directed to Katie Code ‘01, Director of Alumni & Constituent Relations at codek@augsburg.edu or 612-330-1178

Lori Brandt Hale, Professor of Religion, on the Augsburg Heritage Tour – July 2020

Note: Only 3 spots remaining on the Heritage Tour: Historic Cities, the Alps, and the Oberammergau Passion Play! (one female looking for a roommate)


Katie, Hans and LoriI am so excited and honored to be co-leading this tour to southern Germany, including the Oberammergau Passion Play, in July of 2020. Hans Wiersma, Katie Koch Code, and I have led a group together before and I cannot wait to travel with them again!

The trip itinerary is bursting with amazing sites and experiences, but I am most excited (and a little overwhelmed, if I am being honest) about the stop we will make at the Flossenburg Concentration Camp where Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor, theologian, and Nazi resister, was executed on April 9th, 1945. I first read some of Bonhoeffer’s works as an undergraduate student and have spent my entire academic career studying his life, his work, and his legacy. I have visited all the Bonhoeffer sites in Berlin on numerous occasions, but I have never been to Flossenburg.

BonhoefferThe last few months I have been re-immersed in Bonhoeffer’s texts as I finished my own chapter for the book I am co-editing with David Hall on the political theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It is a collection of essays by Bonhoeffer scholars from around the world. Some of the chapters tend closely to historical-critical analysis of Bonhoeffer’s texts in light of questions and themes pertinent to the field known as political theology; some of the chapters use Bonhoeffer’s work constructively to address contemporary issues and concerns including climate change, mass incarceration, and interfaith cooperation; and, some of the chapters detail ways that Bonhoeffer’s thought has inspired and supported political action or church life. We hope the book will be in print by late spring or early summer of next year.

My chapter is the one addressing possible ways Bonhoeffer supports interfaith work even though he was not an interfaith activist. I look very carefully at his idea of Stellvertretung (or vicarious representative action) and trace the ways he talks about this idea as a theological and Christological concept based on Christ’s vicarious death on behalf of humanity and then look at the ways he talks about this idea as an ethical idea that shapes how Christians (disciples who follow after Christ) are called to act on behalf of other people in need.  These ideas were important in Bonhoeffer’s own life, and played a role in his decision to get involved in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler; a choice which led to his own execution.

Abbey of EttalWe will also get to visit the Abbey of Ettal, a Benedictine Monastery, where Bonhoeffer lived from November of 1940 to February of 1941 and worked on his Ethics. His encounter there with St. Benedict’s Rule, and the mandate to “greet each stranger as Christ,” had an impact on my reading of Bonhoeffer as a graduate student and helped shape the questions I addressed in my dissertation on Bonhoeffer titled, “Love Your Enemies? Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Question of the Other.” It is another Bonhoeffer site I have never visited.

I am very much looking forward to sharing my knowledge and love of Dietrich Bonhoeffer with the group when we meet in advance of the trip and, of course, while traveling. Really, I can’t wait!

In the meantime, here is an article I co-wrote with Reggie Williams for Sojourners’ Magazine (Feb. 2018).

If you would like to hear more about me, my teaching, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, check out my episode on The Augsburg Podcast.

“Grüß Gott!” – Augsburg Travel Opportunity

There are only 8 spots still available for this 11-day trip! Please contact Katie Code (codek@augsburg.edu) if you’re interested in learning more.


The alps above Berchtesgaden
The alps above Berchtesgaden

Bavaria is known for many things, including soaring peaks, very large mugs of beer, and “Grüß Gott!” Mountains and beer you can get in many other destinations, but “Grüß Gott” you’ll only get in the German-speaking regions that surround the Bavarian Alps. (The odd-looking “ß” is actually a double-“s”.) If you want to try greeting someone with Grüß Gott you’ll want to say it like this: GrooS GoT—landing hard on both the “S” and the “T”.

Grüß Gott is shortened from “Grüß dich Gott,” an old way of saying “God bless you” in German. The phrase is more religious than “Guten Tag” so it’s a phrase befitting Germany’s most religious and most Roman Catholic region. The closer you get to Bavaria’s majestic mountains, the more you’ll be greeted with Grüß Gott instead of Guten Tag. It’s as if those dramatic elevations naturally give rise to spiritual yearnings.

Bavaria is Germany’s largest state, covering one-fifth of the country. It may not be obvious from looking at a map, but our tour’s wide-ranging itinerary falls entirely within Bavaria (not including our dip into Salzburg, Austria). From the Castle Coburg (where Martin Luther resided during the time of the “Augsburg Confession”) to Berchtesgaden/Obersalzburg (where the Third Reich constructed its infamous mountain fortress), we’ll span a land filled with great natural beauty and complicated human history.

Still, you may wonder: What does Augsburg University—a school with deep roots in the heritage of Norwegian Lutheran immigrants—have to do with the most Roman Catholic region of Germany? Only a lot!

  • Consider first our name, Augsburg University. We are called Augsburg because of a specific historical development that took place in Augsburg—today Bavaria’s third most populous city. (Our tour ends in Augsburg!)
  • Second, Bavaria has many cities and sites that are important to the ongoing Reformation of the Church, including Nuremberg (the largest “printing center” of the Reformation), Flossenbürg (where the great 20th century theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was martyred), and Salzburg (yes, the “City of Mozart” but also the city that once expelled its entire Lutheran population).
  • Third, Oberammergau’s Passion Play dramatizes the very events that unite all Christians, Catholic, and Protestant: the last week of the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
  • Fourth, Bavaria’s topography—ranging from rolling hills to high mountains—is reminiscent of the topography those Norwegian Lutheran immigrants longed for as they settled the flat spaces of the Upper Midwest. (Okay, I know this last one is a stretch.)

Grüss GottI’ve been fortunate to travel in Bavaria many times over the years. I’ve exchanged Grüß Gott! with Bavaria’s über-friendly people many, many times. So I’m excited to co-lead a group of travelers through Grüß Gott territory! Interested in learning more about this one-of-a-kind travel and learning opportunity? Don’t hesitate to send me an email at wiersma@augsburg.edu.

– Hans Wiersma, associate professor of religion at Augsburg

150 Sesquicentennial Norway Arts & Culture trip in May 2020

Led by Darcey Engen ‘88 & Luverne Seifert ‘85

About five years ago, I fell in love (again) with Henrik Ibsen. As an Augsburg graduate, theater artist and Professor, I’ve been reading his plays for over 30 years, but after re-reading An Enemy of the People, my passion for Ibsen’s plays gave me a big mid-life boost. 

It happened shortly after hearing about the Flint Michigan’s water cover-up. My husband, Luverne Seifert who is also an Auggie and a professional actor in the Twin Cities said: “do you remember that play about contaminated water that Ibsen wrote”? Sure enough, after reading our little weathered paperback version, we were forever changed. Turned out that Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People had an uncanny similarity to the contaminated water problem that occurred in Flint Michigan. 

For those of you who need a little reminder, Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People examines how a community responds when a local doctor threatens to expose that the water it relies upon for tourism is being poisoned. The play questions how far a community will go to protect their town’s secret in order to avoid financial ruin. 

The re-read inspired us so much that we created our own adaptation and produced it. Supported by the MN 

State Arts Board, our Sod House Theater Company (Luverne and my theater company we formed in 2011) has performed our unique bluegrass music-infused adaptation to over 15 communities in greater MN. 

Our renewed love of Ibsen also spurred our interest in traveling to Norway in order to experience not just Ibsen’s artistry but all the arts that Norway has to offer!  We are so delighted to be asked to lead the 150 Sesquicentennial Norway Arts & Culture trip in May 2020! Both Luverne and I, as Augsburg Theater graduates (’85 and 88’), find it so meaningful to have the chance to explore our institution’s origins. Both Luverne and I had life-changing experiences at Augsburg—we, like you, had professors that significantly influenced who we are today.  We’re humbled to be leading this trip, for Augsburg, together. Full circle. 

We’d love for you to join us in experiencing all of the amazing activities we have planned in Norway! We’ll visit The National Theater, the Ibsen museum, the incredible Opera House that seems to emerge from the ocean, The Viking Ship Museum, a Stave Church and celebrate Syttende Mai Festival! Come join us in the land the inspired one of the greatest playwrights of all time.  

Pastor Sonja Hagander on Becoming a Pilgrim in Norway – Augsburg Travel Opportunity

Sonja Hagander
Pastor Sonja Hagander

Careful travelers search the internet for maps, cruise over to AAA for their fancy brochures with highlighted directions, giving details on gas stations, food, rating campgrounds, and hotels. If you’re a careful traveler, you probably clean out your refrigerator, dump the garbage, pay your bills, upload all travel apps—and complete this in good time before you depart.

And then there are the spontaneous types—the adventurous ones who prefer to hop in the car and take off out of town, buying licorice and chips and string cheese on the way, making no arrangements about where to lodge– and forgetting toothpaste.

We are pilgrims, those who will hike with me on the 2020 Norway Pilgrimage. Daniel Taylor writes, “What does it mean to say one is always on a pilgrimage? It means, among many things, that one must always be alert. The pilgrim is on the lookout for significance, for signs and rumors of transcendence . . . It means I must look for the holy within the mundane,” (In Search of Sacred Places).

Join me and other pilgrims in this rare opportunity to hike with companions in some of the most gorgeous landscape in the world; we will traverse rivers, be awed by mountain ranges and woodsy paths, and finally set foot in Nidaros, the northernmost cathedral in Europe and our destination in Trondheim, Norway. Our route is the Gudbransdalen Path, which during the Middle Ages was the main road from Oslo to Nidaros (Trondheim).

No matter what kind of traveler you are, you will become a “pilgrim” and experience the holy ground of this route.  Your footsteps, at times challenging, will have the grounding of our travel company who provides expert planning and support, the friendship of other Auggie pilgrims, and the hospitality of our Norwegian hosts throughout the trip.

pilgrimage sign
The Pilgrims Path. Photo: Mattian Jansson / trondelag.com

Two years ago, I led this pilgrimage and here is one participant’s reflection:

Today’s hike was absolutely breath-taking. No pun intended… And the beauty was objective. It was the type of beauty everyone can agree on, not to be portrayed by words or even pictures. I found myself wishing that my mom, dad or close friends could’ve been there too. How am I supposed to have this magic all to myself? When I return home (yuck), I’ll try to share my experience in words, but again, it won’t bring this experience justice – not even close.

We started the hike from Skaun Commune. This space has been popular among fellow hikers, or “pilgrims,” that travel along Pilgrimslea. We followed the blue, “Pilgrimslea” sign up a large, paved road visible from the commune. Slowly, we made our way into the mountains. The trail started off as a leisure walk. The ground was solid and we were able to observe our surroundings as we moved along. This was easy! “Follow the orange, wooden stake, follow the orange, wooden stake.” (That was my attempt at mimicking the “yellow brick road” bit from The Wizard of Oz, however, my version feels much more forced.)

The wooden stakes were marked with red-orange tips and a small marking we called a “squiggle.” Yes, we’re intellects. One of these sat on the outskirts of a heavily wooded area, and we had no choice but to accept it’s invitation.

We made our way down the mountain, each turn instilling us with hope that our destination was near. Well, the trees were probably laughing at us. Towering above, they could see we wouldn’t reach our bed and breakfast for another several hours. And to the trees, we said, “who’s laughing now!” The group was relieved to find our new friend, John. For his presence signified the end of our 10-mile hike. John was the husband of Karen. John and Karen owned a bed and breakfast across the river from where we stood, and it looked promising. We followed John down to the river where we expected to board a ferry. But alas, the ferry we chalked up to be large and Victorian was a small, wooden, five-person boat just wider than a canoe. But at this point, our bodies were sore, knees weak and feet swollen to the point where chuckling was a natural reaction. All aboard!

Across the river, we entered our farmhouse sleeping quarters. Karen opened the green and white striped barn door. Inside, was a room constructed entirely of wooden beams. The dining room was extravagant, with chandeliers hanging about and candles lit up and down the tables. The building was taller than it was wide and with each set of stairs leading to a new level of charm. Trinkets played on every surface, and memories of the past draped the walls. If hobbits were to occupy this town, this would be the hobbit Castle. I don’t think I’ve ever slept in a place so perfect.

Right now, I feel so lucky. I’m in Norway, which is across the world. The bed I’m laying in has been appreciated by so many before me, all with their own reason for sleeping here. That realization alone could set my mind wandering for hours! Each with their own interpretation of the pilgrimage and this gorgeous space that welcomed our desperate bodies. Although, I bet we could all agree on one thing. Today was beautiful.


Contact Katie (Koch) Code ’01, Director of Alumni and Constituent Relations, at codek@augsburg.edu or 612-330-1178 if you are interested in learning more about Augsburg’s travel opportunities or to be placed on a list to receive the most up to date information about the trips.

What You Need to Know about the Oberammergau Passion Play

Oberammergau Passion Play
Source: https://www.parkhotel-bayersoien.de/en/offers/passion-plays-2020/

I’ve recently subscribed to the Oberammergau newsletter.

This might seem odd that a person living in Minneapolis, Minnesota would develop such an interest with a town of a little over 5,000 people located in the Bavarian Alps, but believe me, this place is truly fascinating.

2 years ago, I had the opportunity to travel with Augsburg to Germany/Lutherland and as a pastor’s kid and grandchild of German immigrants, I left Germany with amazing experiences, new friends, and a deeper understanding of myself.

I’m downright giddy as I look toward traveling again in July 2020 with some of the same friends, to places I’ve never been before and to take advantage of the opportunity to experience the world-famous Oberammergau Passion Play.

I graduated from Augsburg with a Theater degree and all of my work previous to my time at Augsburg has been in theater. I met my husband when we were both on staff at the Guthrie Theater.

To me, the Oberammergau Passion Play is an ultimate theatrical event. It’s impressive, unique, and moving…its like seeing Ibsen in Norway. Oh wait. That’s another blog post.

Since subscribing to the newsletter, I’ve learned the following about this town-wide production:

  1. When the cast list is announced, their names are PAINTED on a sign outside the theater.
  2. On Ash Wednesday, the “-9 year” before the passion play, the BEARD DECREE goes into effect. Many of the men who have been cast in the play get their last haircut and shave.
  3. Each performance has an audience of 4,700 people composed of theatergoers and pilgrims from all over the world.
  4. Not only will we see the Passion Play, but we will be staying in Oberammergau. I heard that the hotel is close enough to the theater that at the intermission we can use the bathrooms in our own hotel. Also, rumor has it that one of the actors portraying Pontius Pilate is the proprietor of the hotel!
  5. 2,000 people are involved in the Passion Play each year. I remember feeling overwhelmed when I worked with a cast and crew of 75 members!
  6. Augsburg is fortunate enough to have 40 tickets to a performance on July 23, 2020, and 20 of them are already spoken for. Once they are gone, we cannot get any more.

katie code travelingThis trip to Germany as well as three trips to Norway, are truly uniquely Augsburg experiences. I would love to tell you more about this and all of our Sesquicentennial Heritage trips. Please look for subsequent blogs about the trips, check out the itineraries which can be found on the Alumni Travel Web Page, or feel free to reach out to me directly, I would love to chat with you about any of the trips codek@augsburg.edu or 612-330-1178.

Happy Travels!

Katie (Koch) Code ’01
Director of Alumni and Constituent Relations

Alumni Travel Opportunity: Germany and the Oberammergau Passion Play

The mural covered buildings of Oberammergau.
The mural covered buildings of Oberammergau.

Update: If you are unable to attend the information session in person, University Events Video Streaming is inviting you to watch it via livestream. 

Join the Zoom Meeting on Wednesday, April 17, at 6 p.m.: https://augsburg.zoom.us/j/712441468


Auggies are hitting the road again. During the sesquicentennial year, the Alumni office will be hosting four trips to Germany and Norway. We are happy to share some information about the Germany trip that will take place on July 15-26, 2020.

This uniquely-Augsburg trip features professors Dr. Lori Brandt Hale and Dr. Hans Wiersma. Hale and Wiersma lead the Lutherland trip in 2017 and are now bringing their expertise to a trip that will include historic towns, castles, famous WWII sites, breathtaking scenery, and the world famous Oberammergau Passion Play which will have its 42nd showing. Details on the trip can be found on our alumni travel page.

Join us for an information session on April 17, 2019, from 6:30-8 p.m. in the Oren Gateway Center Room 100. Dr. Hale and Dr. Wiersma will present on the highlights of the trip, and you will have the chance to ask questions and learn more about this once in a lifetime opportunity. For more information about this trip or to RSVP for the info session please contact Katie Code ’01 codek@augsburg.edu

We will also be hosting an additional info session for the Norway trips as well as the Germany Trip on May 14, 2019 at Augsburg.

Homecoming Auggie Talk: The Study Abroad Experience, Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow – Hosted by the Class of 1978

Register now for Homecoming!


Auggie Talks, Auggie Eagle abroad in GermanySaturday, Oct. 13 from 1 – 1:45 p.m.

Auggies from the class of 1978 have traveled the globe studying in places like Norway, Central America, and London. The opportunities to study abroad while at Augsburg have shaped their lives and the lives of many of its graduates. Join the class of 1978 as they reflect on their own study abroad experiences and examine Auggie global education of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

About Auggie Talks:

They’re back by popular demand! Join us for 30-minute, insightful sessions presented by professors and fellow alumni on topics spearheaded by your class reunion groups. Talks will be published as they become available on social media and in upcoming communications.

Space is limited. Please register today for Auggie Talks.

Auggies Travel to Thailand and Cambodia

Auggie travelers ready to tour Thailand and Cambodia: Laureen Mathison and Renee Weaver, Jill Watson '10 MBA, Arthur (Dan) Cherryhomes '73 and Pat Collins, Sharon Carlson '72 and Susan Carlson, Deborah Dehnhoff Krofa '96 and Beth Daigle, Marcia Schneider '65 and Joyce McGlaston, Ava Beilke '14 and Laurie Powless, hosts Jack and Kathy Swanson. Not pictured: David Ishida '12 & Kathryn Lawson Ishida.
Auggie travelers ready to tour Thailand and Cambodia: Laureen Mathison and Renee Weaver, Jill Watson ’10 MBA, Arthur (Dan) Cherryhomes ’73 and Pat Collins, Sharon Carlson ’72 and Susan Carlson, Deborah Dehnhoff Krofa ’96 and Beth Daigle, Marcia Schneider ’65 and Joyce McGlaston, Ava Beilke ’14 and Laurie Powless, hosts Jack and Kathy Swanson. Not pictured: David Ishida ’12 & Kathryn Lawson Ishida.

Augsburg alumni, friends, family, and one li’l Auggie Eagle are on their way to Thailand and Cambodia today. The tour will be led by Augsburg English professor, Kathy Swanson, and her husband, Jack, who are both fluent in Thai and have hosted five trips to Thailand with Augsburg students.

This morning, alumni director Katie Koch ’06 met up with the happy travelers at MSP airport to wish them a safe and exciting trip! Alumni Board President Jill Watson ’10 MBA is carrying the same little Auggie that Katie Koch took on last fall’s alumni trip to Germany. Auggie Eagle will continue to share updates on Facebook.

Small plush toy bird buckled into an airplane seat
Li’l Auggie Eagle, all tucked in for a Hong Kong-bound flight.
Jill Watson is carrying the same little Auggie that Katie Koch took on last fall’s Augsburg trip to Germany.

Why Travel with Auggies?

Thailand-WebDan Cherryhomes, class of ’73, and his wife, Pat, saw promotional material for the Augsburg trip to Thailand and Cambodia in January 2017 and decided to go to the on-campus information session.

Both Dan and Pat had thought about different ways to travel and tour in retirement, had looked at tours, but had never given serious thought to any group package.

“We had  the opportunity to try out the idea in an orientation meeting with some of the people with whom we would likely travel. It was not so surprising to us that as part of the extended Augsburg family, we share the same values and hopes for the trip as a number of the participants. When we met the hosts, English professor Kathy Swanson, and her husband, Jack, we also learned they had spent time as Peace Corps volunteers in Thailand.”

Dan’s parents were missionaries, and he spent his first four years in Thailand. Jack talked with Dan about where he had lived and offered that they could make a brief side-trip one day in Bangkok to the place where Dan had lived.

Dan Cherryhomes '73 in Prague, 2014.
Dan Cherryhomes ’73 in Prague, 2014.

“This was something we didn’t expect  in a group tour—the willingness of our host to help make the experience more personally meaningful to us. We left the orientation and decided that the trip was not only something worthwhile, but that this was the best opportunity we would ever have to travel with people willing to share a similar experience.”

Tour host Kathy Swanson promises a trip that will be Uniquely Augsburg. Travelers will visit sites that appear on most trips to Thailand and Cambodia: the temples, the Grand Palace, the night markets, the floating market, Angkor Wat. The tour will, however, also include items that are uniquely Augsburg such as a visit to an orphanage for Hill Tribe children, Augsburg guides who know the country well and speak some Thai, and a group of travelers who share a common background and interest in being citizens of the world.
Swanson and her husband are already looking forward to the trip. “With all of our trips to Thailand, we most enjoy sharing our love and knowledge of the place with others who are interested in various cultures and new experiences. Each time, we see the familiar through the new eyes of our travelers,” she said.
Who should take this trip? “Anyone who values expanding a world view, learning about a new culture, experiencing beauty (and fun!),” said Kathy Swanson. As Mark Twain wrote:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” — from Innocents Abroad

The tour is open to all and now accepting reservations—just a dozen spots remain. Find a full itinerary and more details about the Thailand/Cambodia trip here. If you have questions or wish to register, contact Katie Koch at kochk@augsburg.edu.