Monday, May 9, 2011

A Dying Danish Church

The Smith family arrived back in Dublin on Friday.  We had an amazing 10 day trip to the UK and Denmark and were able to experience some of the sights and sounds that my grandfather and grandmother did 66 and 87 years ago respectively.  It was great to visit the old American airbase near Bury St. Edmunds where my granddad was stationed in WWII.  Many buildings at the base are still standing and have been turned into a museum. 

Unfortunately, the house and barn my grandmother's family used to own near Gelsted, Denmark were torn down about 2 years ago.  We stayed in a house only 10 minutes walk from her old farm and though some things had changed, a lot had remained the same.  One thing that has definitely changed in Denmark is the religious climate.

In most rural areas the people are more religious than in urban areas.  If that's the case in Denmark, then the Danish state-funded Lutheran Church is dying, if not already dead.  We were able to worship at the parish church my grandmother was Christened in some 92 years ago and if it weren't for the priest, the organ player, and 3 teenage girls recruited to sing in the "choir", there would not have been any Danish people present under the age of 70.  In fact, there were only a handful of elderly people there and most of them had been bussed in from a local nursing home.  After worship Juli asked the girls if any young people ever attended church.  "No", they replied.  "What about families, do they ever attend?"  "Never", the girls responded.  It would have been a rude question to ask, but I have a strong premonition that if the girls had not been recruited to sing in the choir, they wouldn't have been in the church that Sunday either. 

Denmark is leading Europe's secular parade and it won't be long until other European countries have as little religious fervor as Scandinavia.  But thankfully, Denmark's story isn't complete and there is hope that there may be revival in the future, if only in small numbers (who am I to doubt the power of God...maybe there will be a revival in big numbers?).  A friend of mine in Dublin did mission work in Denmark over 30 years ago and he said that it wasn't known as Europe's spiritual icebox for nothing.  God bless the work of those whom he may send in the years to come.  And for those of us engaged in Christ's Kingdom work in other parts of Europe or North America, visiting Denmark is a good reminder that the work we do may be the difference between spiritual life and spiritual death for many individuals, if not entire nations. - Shay  

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