Faith: The Scandinavia Tour

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As you know, the Swedish Church of Hamburg was temporarily closed for renovation. A big scaffold hides the pretty facade and you hear the stones falling through the tunnel kind of thing they built from the fifth story to the ground.

This is why we, the Swedish church community, have sought refuge with our Scandinavians neighbours. All Scandinavians churches are located in the same street which is very convenient. I’ve learned that we are on good terms with the Finnish and we like the Norwegians. We do apparently not like the Danish because of a row some years ago. This is just rumours I heard but judging from the fact that we now are sheltered by the Finnish and Norwegian, it seems somewhat true.

Our first choir practice was in the Finnish church last week. I do wonder what kind of drugs their architect was on when he designed the building. There are no windows at all, no decoration, the walls look like white prison cells and the room keeps getting smaller and the ceiling is suspended in a way that sabotages the acoustic.

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I also feel like I am in a foreign country because I do not understand a single word that is written in the Finnish hymn book. I looked at the page with the usual prayers, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed and such, but I could not even discern which one was which. That is not the Finnish Church’s fault though and I am anxious to point out that I think it is very nice of them to let us be in their church, do not misunderstand me. Also, it is very charming when you are sitting there and suddenly a tango tune plays somewhere in the house. Because the Finnish, they’re tango dancers in case you didn’t know.

This morning I attended service in the Norwegian church. Every week a new church, I feel like I am on a tour through Scandinavia (see poster). The Swedes consider the Norwegians for historical and lingustic reasons their brother people. (Even though they keep teasing each other but when the going gets though, they stand side by side, very closely.) Today for the first time, I could really feel why. When I came in late, the door was held open for me and I came into a church that was not as wonderful as ours but still much nicer than the Finnish one and there was a likeable Norwegian priest talking. Norwegian sounds always-happy and more or less understandable to Swedish-speaking ears and compared to Finnish, you feel like you’ve finally found your way home. There were Swedish and Norwegian songs sung and our Swedish pastor held the sermon saying some very smart words on Je Suis Charlie. The only time that almost tripped me up was when we said the prayers in our respective languages. La viljen din skje pÃ¥ jorden slik som i himmelen is close but phonetically not the same as LÃ¥t din vilja ske pÃ¥ jorden sÃ¥ som i himlen.

My absolute favorite part of the Norwegian service must have been that they had dogs in church. To bring children is normal but bringing your dog is…awesome. I must say they were very hansome, obedient dogs.

Afterwards, we had fika in the community room that was adjacent the church room. Basically, it is all one big room. Having grown up with Catholic churches where the sacral space is demarcated clearly from the mundane, I felt like the first Christians must have felt when they had service in their living rooms. The Norwegians had served lovely fika for us and on the one side of the buffet, they had placed napkins in the Norwegian colors and on the other, napkins in the Swedish colors – the loveliest gesture! 

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Apparently, the Norwegian church has the tradition to put those who had their birthdays the previous week, on a chair in the middle and then everyone sings for them, doing a funny dance. It was easy to tell apart the Swedes because they did not know how to do the dance. The pastor concluded the fika with announcing the things that were happening at the church this week, ending each announcement with, “Swedes are allowed to come, too!”

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