Instead of giving you the usual report where I am talking about statistics and numbers and different events, I have decided to do something different this year.
I am going to invite you to meet people, many people, because many people come to our church for many different reasons.
A man walks into my office with some papers in his hand, we greet each other and smile. We have known each other for the last 11 years. We only meet once a year, namely when I am signing and putting the stamp of the church on the form he has to mail back to his home country as proof that he is still alive and eligible to receive his pension. He thanks me and hands me a donation to the church.
It’s a Sunday and after the service when I am greeting people at the door, I am introduced to a couple from Denmark visiting family members in Vancouver. The hosts that brought their family members to the church service, are very proud of the Danish Church, even if I normally only see them Christmas eve.
The doorbell is ringing at the parsonage. Young Danes bringing plastic bags with food we are going to cook and eat that evening. Lots of laughter and lots of fun, good food, good fellowship.
It is Sunday and the last 5 minutes before the church service starts I am seated in one of the chairs next to the altar. When I look at the people in the sanctuary then there are many of them who sit in the same pew every Sunday. If they are not in their pew, I don’t need to look anywhere else, because then they are not there. I have even seen people ask someone who by accident had seated themselves in their seat, ask these people to please move.
In the mail there is a letter from a Danish–Canadian living many hundred kilometres away up in the Interior. That person writes to comment on something printed in the last issue of the Church Newsletter.
This Sunday the church is packed with young families with their children. The children obviously like to be involved during the sermon, and afterwards we have fun downstairs around the Christmas tree or by beating the barrel.
It’s a Friday evening and people are coming into the church hall with a certain look on their face and licking their lips in expectation of the yellow pea soup they are going to enjoy in a moment.
I am in the hospital talking with an elderly Danish immigrant who is bedridden. We speak a little bit of both languages at the same time, and I realise that the other patients in the room with a smile are listening to our Denglish.
Now another letter on my desk. I read, Dear Pastor. I am enjoying reading your Newsletter. I am of Danish decent but I belong to another religion, I can understand if you want to take me off your mailing list.
This is the second Sunday of the month, an English Sunday with church lunch. There are many people attending church today. At the door a couple introduces themselves to me. They are from Vancouver Island, it is their first visit to the Danish Church even if they have received the newsletter for at least the last 20 years. I do remember them from my visits to Nanaimo when I have been preaching there.
Dee and I are at Normanna Rest Home having a church service for the residents. We have to sing as loud as we can and support each other to keep us all on the same key. That you love to sing does not always mean that you can keep a tune.
Up the long staircase come people for the Bible Study group. I am not directly involved except that I try to provide them questions they may want to discuss. You can hear laughter from the library. They seem to have a good time. A few times they will ask if I can spare a moment and come and talk with them about a subject they are discussing.
This time I am meeting a few people out in the parking lot and we’re not even getting inside our own church. No, we take off and drive out to Granly to be part of something going on out there.
I receive a phone call and a young woman tells me that I married her and her husband a few years ago, and now they have run into trouble in their relationship. Would it be possible that I would do some counselling? So we meet a weeknight every week the next couple of months.
Tonight there is a lot of laughter and a lot of running around making fun, we are having a wedding rehearsal, the bride and groom to be are a little apprehensive about this performing up at the altar, while the crowd of bridesmaids and groomsmen and ring bearers and flower girls and parents are having a great time with lots of silly jokes.
I am driving with my map of Vancouver in my lap. I am on my way to the outskirts of town to find a home, where we are going to arrange the funeral services for a beloved wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. I find the house and we spend the next two hours talking and planning the funeral.
I hear a family coming up the stairs to my office. They are Mom and Dad, the very proud big brother and the new baby sister. The parents explain to the big brother: you were also baptised here in this church. We go into the Sanctuary so that we can see the baptismal font. The big brother promises me that he will receive the embroidered serviette after I have wiped his sisters head after having baptised her.
Another phone call, would you be kind enough to tell me how the traditional folk costume from Falster looks?
I am attending a club night at the Scandinavian Centre and a man comes over to me as soon as he has spotted me. Good to see you pastor, now please tell me, from where did Cain get his wife?
It’s a Danish Sunday, a couple arrives a little late. They seem to be a little confused even if they behave absolutely nicely. After the service they tell me that they had seen this church so often, and they liked the way it looked very much, and this was the Sunday they wanted to attend a service, and then they realised that they could not understand one word of what was going on.
I could keep on for hours because I meet so many people under so many different circumstances, but I will stop here.
All the people I have talked about now have one thing in common even if they are all very different. What they have in common is that they came, wrote or phoned the Danish Church on their own initiative. We as congregation have not done a thing to make them come. Would it be fair to say that we as a church have the right teaching, the right activities, good food and much more? We know that what we present to our congregation is the right thing. We know that what we present to our customers is the right merchandise, you could say.
We appreciate them coming, it is good if they come, if they don’t too bad, at least we have given them the offer.
Should we consider what we could do to attract more people to our church, or don’t we want to be disturbed with new ideas, and maybe new activities?
Are we having a great time just as things are, do we want to keep it that way?
We the Danish Church are here for those who need us. That could be the steadfast Sunday congregation, but it could just as well be someone whom we only see at the bazaar in October that needs the church. It could also be people who never have been here, but have supported the church by mail and have been reading the newsletter for years.
The young families with the many children come every Christmas and every Fastelavn because they receive the newsletter, and they read it. Could we make one or two more events per year that would attract young families?
Should we consider making our newsletter better to serve the many people who only know us through the newsletter?
It seems as Danes are coming in big numbers every time we announce something with food, should we consider many more events with a Danish meal. Many of our members are single people for whom it is a treat to get a good meal cooked by someone else and to be able to sit down and have a good talk while they are eating instead of watching TV at home while they are eating by themselves.
How do we follow up after weddings, we very seldom see the newly wed again until they want a child baptised.
How do we follow up on confirmation classes? Is there anything in this church that could be attractive to teen-agers? How do we follow up on funerals? Everyone else very soon gets busy again, but the person who lost a husband, a wife is sitting there, lonely in the house which now seems to be too silent.
Many, many more things could be suggested, could for that matter be decided upon that we should do for the people we only have a sporadic contact with, but it takes time, it takes manpower, lots of volunteers. It takes energy, ideas, money and involvement.
But maybe we think that we don’t want any changes we like it the way it is? It is up to you to decide that!
I cannot end my report without saying thank you to you all in the congregation for making my life a challenge and give me a very exciting and giving everyday. Thank you for your support. Thank you to the board and to many volunteers for their great co-operation. Thank you to Bodil, who is always there, who always knows where things are, you are a wonderful secretary and a great help.
Thank you to my wife, Dee, who still loves our church in spite of how much it, takes me away from her. Dee is still struggling to help me make my written English better and more understandable. Dee is interested without being curious, meaning that when I talk to people Dee has the respect not to ask, what did they say? Thank you Dee for all your support and your encouraging smiles.
But most of all I thank God for entrusting me with this job, and for never letting me down. In my job you can never prepare for the next situation. You may be called to people in need of counselling; you may be called to a deathbed, you may be asked questions regarding Christianity. You cannot prepare these situations. You need to go, you need to react trusting that God will help you to say the right thing at the right time.
That does not mean that if I don’t do that, I can blame it on God, absolutely not. I also trust that some of the members of the congregation remember me in their prayers.
When the church bell rings the prayer strokes. I inside myself say. “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit” three times. That’s what I must relay on, and that is what you must relay on. Thank you.
Kai Glud, Pastor.