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Minnesota church ends 70-year tradition of lutefisk dinner

FOREST LAKE, Minn. >> A Minnesota church has ended its 70-year tradition of serving a dinner of lutefisk, a Nordic dish of dried cod soaked in lye, and the pastor has penned a eulogy for the dinner’s end.

Faith Lutheran Church in Forest Lake, Minnesota, would serve a Scandinavian dinner featuring the pungent, jellylike fish the first Tuesday in December.

But the Rev. John Klawiter wrote an obituary for the annual dinner in the community newspaper last month.

Klawiter wanted the obit to read as a tribute to the seven decades the church in east-central Minnesota has served hundreds of pounds of lutefisk at the annual dinner, dubbed “Holy Tuesday,” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

“There was a lot of pride that this made it to 70 years,” said Klawiter, a self-described “lutefisk convert.”

The dinner would require about 190 volunteers. Planners had to find ways to fill gaps left by volunteers who had died or grown too frail.

This fall, the group also wondered how the event could draw more young families from the congregation and from Forest Lake, a town of about 20,000 about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Minneapolis. Most of the 500 people who went to the church and waited their turn for the $20 meal were not members of Faith Lutheran or even residents of Forest Lake.

Planners wondered if a turkey dinner would be a better option, but decided a menu change would not make things easier for the volunteers.

While no immediate replacement was announced, the pastor says the focus now will be on creating a new tradition. And the obit notes that lutefisk lovers still have other options nearby, with Scandinavian dinners in other area towns listed as “survivors.”

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