The Willerup United Methodist Church, incorporated in 1851, claims to be the oldest Scandinavian Methodist church in the world. Dissidents from Norway’s state Lutheran church began immigrating to the United States in the 1820s, and by the 1840s, a small community of Norwegians and Danes had grown in the Cambridge area. In 1850, the Methodist Board of Missions sent the Reverend Christian B. Willerup, who spoke fluent Norwegian, to bring its evangelical message to this Scandinavian outpost. Willerup worked tirelessly to build the Cambridge church, mortgaging everything he owned to help raise the $4,000 expense. Even Jenny Lind, “the Swedish Nightingale,” who was then touring the country, performed a benefit concert and donated $200 of the proceeds toward the building’s construction. After the church dedication in 1852, Willerup returned to Europe, where he served as superintendent of all Methodist mission work in the Scandinavian countries.
The Gothic Revival church is a simple, front-gabled building constructed of limestone, quarried south of Cambridge. Its focal point is a three-story, pyramidal-roofed tower, which abuts the gabled front. Triplets of lancet arches pierce the belfry, and a pointed arch frames the entrance.