The Preserving Nordic American Heritage Churches website is a resource of Partners for Sacred Places. The centerpiece of the website is the searchable database of Nordic American churches in the Upper Midwest. Additional website links provide context to the database and draw from research conducted during this project and from the ongoing work of Partners for Sacred Places.

Partners for Sacred Places brings together a national network of expert professionals who understand the value of a congregation’s architectural assets, its worth as a faith community, and the significance of its service to the community at large. With a national presence and offices in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Dallas/Fort Worth, Partners  for Sacred Places fosters the active community use of historic, sacred places – churches, synagogues, and more – and builds the capability of their congregations through training programs, fundraising assistance, and assessments. Partners has served thousands of congregations and other organizations since 1989 and represents the needs and concerns of over 100,000 older, community-serving sacred places across America.


Programs and services offered by Partners value and respect the spirituality and faith of all congregations that open their doors to the community. Designed to stimulate success, Partners changes the way congregations view their role so that their sacred place remains a rich and vital part of the social fabric of a community. Partners helps congregations leverage existing and new resources, solidify their continued relevance, and ensure their own sustainability.


Through our training programs, information clearinghouse, and professional network, we have helped congregations in all 50 states. Stories of success unfolding in cities, towns, and rural areas inform Partners’ knowledge bank. Each story fuels our capacity to help congregations, and we continue to expand our national reach by strategically growing our projects and work.

To learn more about

Partners for Sacred Places,

visit our website at

The Nordic American Churches Project Team Includes:

A. Robert Jaeger, President of Partners for Sacred Places
Bob co-founded Partners for Sacred Places in 1989. Previously, Bob worked with the Philadelphia Historic Preservation Corporation as Senior Vice President for the Historic Religious Properties Program. He is the co-author of Sacred Places at Risk(1998) and Strategies for Stewardship and Active Use of Older and Historic Religious Properties(1996), author of Sacred Places in Transition (1994), and editor (from 1985 to 1989) of Inspired, a bi-monthly magazine with news and technical articles on religious property preservation. Bob holds a master’s degree in preservation planning from Cornell University and an MBA from the University of Michigan.

Joshua Castaño, Director of Community Engagement Services at Partners for Sacred Places
Joshua brings to Partners his professional experience as a historic preservation specialist in one of the nation’s most densely and diversely populated communities of Paterson, NJ. There, he helped build partnerships between historic congregations and public institutions, with a particular focus on heritage tourism initiatives that benefited many of the dynamic congregations successfully serving the city’s economically challenged neighborhoods. Joshua also developed a variety of heritage-based public education programs and participated, through research and legislative assistance, in the local landmark designation of historic congregations in addition to formal advocacy on behalf of threatened historic sites. In addition to his work at Partners, Joshua provides consulting assistance and leadership for regional denominational committees and boards within the Presbyterian Church (USA) and cultural institutions in the New York metropolitan region. Joshua earned a BA in Art History from Oberlin College where he curated an exhibition on the landmark Robert Venturi-designed addition to the Allen Memorial Art Museum, originally designed by Cass Gilbert.

Laurie Kay Sommers, Consultant and Nordic Churches Project Manager Phase 1
Laurie is an independent folklore and historic preservation consultant based in Okemos, Michigan. She holds a PhD in folklore from Indiana University and has more than three decades of experience in the fields of public folklore, ethnomusicology, and historic preservation. Her work has included community documentation projects, traveling exhibitions, folklife festivals, historic preservation surveys, documentary radio and websites, folk arts in education materials, National Register nominations, and publications. She is editor of “The Place of Folklore in Historic Preservation,” a special issue of the Journal of American Folklore (2019). She currently co-chairs the American Folklore Society’s Working Group on Folklore and Historic Preservation Policy where she has taken an active role in identifying model projects that combine folklore and historic preservation methodology for a richer sense of place.

Emily Sajdak, Project Manager at Partners for Sacred Places, Nordic Project Manager Phase 2
Emily came to Partners in 2017 to coordinate and facilitate capital campaign consulting services. Since that time she has delivered feasibility and readiness studies, furthered grant-funded initiatives as a team member for the Nordic Churches Project, and fostered connections with the preservation community in Chicago through participation in Landmarks Illinois’ Skyline Council. She previously worked with the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and Calvin Theological Seminary. Emily holds a Master’s degree in Public History: Historic Preservation from Southeast Missouri State University, as well as a Master of Theological Studies and a Master of Theology in Old Testament from Calvin Theological Seminary.

Timothy C. Prizer, Consultant and Nordic Churches Project Research Associate
Tim is a folklorist and anthropologist who has nearly 20 years of both educational and practical experience in the fields of folklore, ethnography, material culture, and heritage studies. He received his Master of Arts degree in Folklore from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2009. Tim’s interest and expertise focuses on exploring and documenting the efforts of communities and individuals to preserve and to commemorate the vernacular culture that matter most to them. He previously consulted with the Georgia Council for the Arts, the Southern Arts Federation, the South Georgia Folklife Project at Valdosta State University, and the South Carolina Arts Commission. Of particular interest are individual- and community-based efforts at commemoration in situations of industrial decline and the role of digital technology in cultural preservation initiatives.

Additional project support was provided by…

Simon Kaufman, Director of Development at Partners for Sacred Places
Simon brings fifteen years of experience working in the development field for a variety of Philadelphia area non-profits. Having worked in a West Philadelphia parochial school for many years, Simon has a special appreciation for the role sacred places play as community centers for people of all ages and backgrounds, and the challenges congregations face in maintaining aging infrastructure. Simon holds a BA in Economics from Swarthmore College.
Allison King, Grants and Program Manager at Partners for Sacred Places
Hidden Text
Craig Nowlin, Chief Operating Officer, Partners for Sacred Places
Joining Partners in 2018, Craig brings nearly 20 years of experience as chief operating officer working in a nonprofit. Throughout his career, he has had repeated success guiding diverse organizations in business operations, strategic business planning and growth, and capacity building and expansion initiatives. Craig excels at transforming under-performing programs and operations into stable financial units, procuring strategic business partners, and cultivating community relationships.

Nordic American Churches Project Advisory Board

  • JULIE ALLEN, Arts and Letters Professor of Scandinavian Studies at Brigham Young University, Board Member of the Danish American Heritage Society
  • KRISTIN ANDERSON, Professor of Art History and Archivist at Augsburg College
  • PHILIP ANDERSON, Member of the Swedish American Historical Society and Professor Emeritus of Church History at North Park University
  • MARILYN CHIAT, Independent Art and Architectural Historian
  • PAUL DANIELS, Archivist and Curator at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN
  • THOMAS DUBOIS, Professor of Scandinavian Studies, Folklore, and Religious Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • CLAIRE ECKLEY, President of the Icelandic National League of North America
  • TROYD GEIST, Folklorist for the North Dakota Council for the Arts
  • JANET GILMORE, Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures and Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • DENNIS GIMMESTAD, Vice President of the Norwegian American Historical Association
  • JAMES KURTTI, Director of the Finnish American Heritage Center at Finlandia University
  • ROBERT MACK, Principal of MacDonal and Mack Architects, Minneapolis
  • ROD OPPEGARD, Independent Scholar, Dazey, North Dakota
  • HILARY VIRTANEN, Professor of Finnish and Nordic Studies at Finlandia University
  • MARIANNE WARGELIN, President of Finnfest, Board of Directors and Honorary Consul of Finland, Minneapolis