November 8, 1877, Moberg, Denmark.
June 22, 1970, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Sunset Memorial Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Aaberg emigrated to America in 1901 and went to the small, close-knit Danish-American community in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to join his brother, who was studying for the ministry at Augsburg College and Seminary.
After attending St. Ansgar’s College, and Grand View College and Seminary in Des Moines, Iowa (1904–08), Jens was ordained in the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
He served pastorates in Marinette, Wisconsin; St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Dwight, Illinois (1912–26); and St. Peder’s Lutheran Church, Minneapolis. Until retiring in 1946, Aaberg continued as pastor of St. Peder’s.
Over the years he held various offices throughout the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church, and for years after retiring served a series of congregations as an interim pastor.
Aaberg translated numerous hymns and songs from Danish to English, and served on committees that compiled several Lutheran hymnals. In 1947, he was honored with the Knight Cross of Denmark from King Frederick for service to Danish-Americans.
He began translating hymns in earnest after an incident that occurred while he was in Marinette. A Lutheran bishop from Denmark attended church there one Sunday. In honor of his visit, the Marinette congregation held a special festival worship service. After the service, Aaberg asked the bishop what he thought of it. The bishop replied,
It was so wonderful. It reminded me of the way church services were in Denmark 50 years ago.
That comment, meant as a compliment, stirred Aaberg. He concluded that to be vital, living congregations, the Danish-American church must start using the language of America, English. Staying strictly with Danish, he believed, the church would become an ever more isolated backwater of nostalgia for the past.
So he began creating and publishing translations. A translation committee was formed by of Aaberg and three other like-minded pastors. They met some opposition and unhappiness: Some felt translating hymns to English would hasten the day when Danish Lutheran traditions would be lost. But the work went forward through the years between the World Wars, until most of the treasured hymns had been translated to English.
Aaberg’s works include:
where to get a better photo of Aaberg