Our current church was built in 1984 to look like a typical Danish 12th century church; only we replaced granite and bricks by lumber and drywall, which leaves downstairs quite a bit cozier than the crypt under a Danish village church. We used paint instead of whitewash, and we have no pre-Reformation frescoes on the vaults to uncover, but the look is very Danish.
The Word of God is our most valuable possession. According to the Lutheran faith we meet God through His word and through the two sacraments. During the church service the congregation stands when we “meet God” in the readings from the altar and from the pulpit, during Baptism, and when the Holy Communion is instituted.
The altar is where the bread and wine of the Holy Communion is prepared. Mrs. Consul General Bøggild, Copenhagen, donated the wood work of the altar, kneeler, and railing.
According to Danish tradition several items must be on the altar: An altarpiece, a painting, a carved altarpiece, or, as in our case, a statue. Two big candle holders, and often also a menorah. Two vases for flowers. A Bible, a hymnal, and a Ritual Book. Making the altar ready for the Sunday service is the duty of the deacons. Pastor A. Th. Dorf, Brooklyn, New York, donated our two bronze candle holders. Mrs. Camilla Ienssen, Copenhagen, donated the menorah, which symbolises the Old Testament and reminds us of our Jewish heritage. On the menorah is engraved, Til Den Danske Kirke i Vancouver 1937. Mattæus 28 vers 20.
The Statue of Christ on the altar is a replica of the statue by Bertel Thorvaldsen in the Cathedral of Copenhagen. Vigerslev Church, Denmark, donated Thorvaldsen’s statue in 1972 to replace the original altar painting. The altar painting by T. Strøm (made around 1937) is now in the hallway east of the Sanctuary. The inscription beneath the Statue of Christ reads, Kom hid til mig, or Come to me. Matthew 11:28 continues all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
When we celebrate Holy Communion we place on the altar a silver pitcher, a silver chalice, a silver plate, and a silver container for the wafers. All of the silver items are engraved, Til minde om M.M. Nielsen. Vancouvers Danske Kirke. In 1994, Robert Hauge donated twenty of the small silver altar cups in memory of his wife. In 2007, a communion set for use at the pastor's hospital and home visits was donated by Eigil Hallum in memory of his wife, Dorthe Marie Hallum.
The embroidered rug in front of the altar was made by many members of the Church in the years 1988 through 1992. The pattern is partly a replica of the altar rug in Fåborg Church, Denmark. The Queen of Denmark, Margrethe II, made three stitches on the altar rug when she visited the Church in October 1991. The altar rug was in place on Easter Sunday, April 1992.
The seats and backs of the four chairs are embroidered in a pattern to match the altar rug. These chairs were re-installed in their new splendour on the first Sunday in Advent, 2001.
The organ pipes north of the altar are purely ornamental but the box underneath hides some speakers for our electronic organ.
In the olden days a pulpit was a necessity for practical reasons. The sermon was easier to listen to if it was spoken from above, and you could also see the preacher while he was speaking. The “lid” hanging above the pulpit is a soundboard that helps direct the sound out into the room. In our church we have a very good speaker system, but we maintain the pulpit as the place from where the sermon is given. The Danish Club, represented by E.O. Petersen and I.P. Mortensen donated the pulpit, and Mr. Pergaard, North Vancouver, donated the carving on the pulpit.
The font is where your Christian life begins. When you are baptised you become a member of God’s Church on earth. You are told that all your sins are forgiven, and you may call God your Father; you are also promised life eternal, and you receive the Holy Spirit. B. Borgen donated the materials for the Baptismal Font; Johannes Bergman donated the workmanship. The plaque on the font reads Skænket til minde om en gammel dansk sognepræst Kristian Sofus Borgen. The pitcher is engraved, Fra Fraugde menighed til den Danske menighed i Vancouver.
We use the grand piano for concerts and, occasionally, to accompany the Sunday School children or our Youth Choir. The grand piano was manufactured by Karl Müller.
At the front of the church you will find a Canadian and a Danish flag. The church also has a Norwegian and a Swedish flag to be used when we have a baptism, confirmation, wedding, or funeral for a member of one of our sister nations. On the pole of the Canadian flag a silver plaque reads, In memory of Herbert R. T. Gamst. Feb 21, 1906–May 29, 1984. Dedicated on Oct 14, 1984. On the pole of the Danish flag there are two silver plaques, one reading, Oct 14, 1984, the other, H.M. Queen Margrethe II and H.R.H. Prince Henrik of Denmark. Visit Vancouver, B.C. Oct 16, 1991.
As in almost all Danish Churches, we have a model ship hanging under the ceiling in the Sanctuary; yes, we actually have two model ships. From ancient times the ship has been considered a symbol of the Christian church’s journey through the centuries. The symbolism you may use is plentiful: right course, rough weather, the right pilot on board, a lighthouse, etc. In 1937, Mr. Holmgren, Vancouver, donated the first model ship. It is a frigate by the name of Orion but the name plate has now disappeared. This model ship was once stolen but was found again by a member of the congregation in a second hand store in downtown Vancouver and bought back for the church.
The second ship was donated in 2000 by Poul Møller Hansen, Tsawwassen, as a kit to be assembled. Mogens Tveden, White Rock, built the model. The ship is the frigate Jylland.
The chandeliers were made in 1937 by Ingemann Nielsen, Langley, who modelled them on chandeliers he had previously been part of making for the Cathedral in Roskilde.
At the ends of the pews on each side of the aisle have candle holders. We use the candles when we celebrate a festive church service. They are also quite often used at weddings and funerals. The light from the candles symbolises the light that guides you through life. Jesus said, I am the light of the world. The current candle holders were installed on the first Sunday in Advent, 2001.
About half the pews display a plaque with a name. These are the parishes or districts in Denmark that contributed money to the building of the first Danish church in Vancouver.
On the west wall of the Sanctuary we have pictures of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and Prince Henrik. The present pictures from October 1991 replaced the older pictures on occasion of the Queen and the Prince’s visit to the Church. In the Church office we have a portrait of the Queen and the Prince Consort with their signatures given in recognition of the reception here. The Queen is the only person in Denmark who, according to the Constitution, must be a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark as she is “the head of the Church.” The Queen will almost always be present when a new bishop is ordained. Queen Margrethe II is a dedicated Church-goer who will attend a Church service almost every Sunday.
The Narthex is the room right inside the main entrance, immediately to the west of the Sanctuary. In the Narthex you will find washrooms (in the south end) and the elevator.
We have two organs: Resen Church near Skive in Denmark donated the pipe organ in 2004. Our electronic organ, a Baldwin 626 Classical Organ, was purchased in 1986. The plaque on the front of the organ reads, This organ is donated by the congregation of the Danish Church in memory of the Danish men and women, who during World War II in and outside Denmark, lost their lives for the sake of freedom.
The bell rings before any Church service begins: the Sunday service, a wedding, or a funeral. In Denmark the bell rings an hour before the service begins, and again half an hour before the service begins, and then the last time right before the service begins. It is also rung every morning at sunrise and every evening at sunset. The idea behind this is that in the olden days people would not have a clock. Therefore an hour before the Sunday service, they might stop their work in the barn and get washed and change clothes, half an hour before the service they would start walking to the church. The ringing in the morning was the sign when to start working in the fields, and in the evening it was time to stop working when you heard the bell ring. Traditionally the ringing consists of 100 strokes followed by the Prayer Strokes, which are three times three single strokes. “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.” Many people will say these words to themselves as a little prayer before the Church service starts. Our bell was donated in 1985 by Skovshoved Church, north of Copenhagen. The East Asiatic Company freighted the bell to Vancouver free of charge. The inscription on the bell reads, Støbt af B. Løw & Søn. København 1940. V. A: Klokke meld vor længsel til Gud.
The east end of our building houses the church office and our library. You can enter this part of our building through the Sanctuary, from the Church Hall downstairs, our through the east entrance.
In the office hang portraits of the pastors sent over by Dansk Kirke i Udlandet and Danske Sømands- og Udlandskirker since 1935. Also in the office you will find a very old Bible donated to the Church August 15th, 1937, by Hjalmar Madelung. On the title page one reads, Prentet i Kiøbenhafv aff Salomon Sartor Anno M.DC.XXXII (1632). In the office you will also find a big portrait of Professor Carl Brink Christensen. On the back of the frame behind glass you can read the sermon from his funeral service in the unfinished first Danish Church in May of 1937. Professor Carl Brink Christensen had been a leader among the Danes, first in U.S.A., later in Cape Scott on the northern tip of Vancouver Island, and last but not least in Vancouver, where he was one of the instigators behind building a Danish Church.
Downstairs you will find the Sunday School Room, the kitchen, the stage, and the Church Hall where we run most of our cultural events. You will also find washrooms (in the west end by the stairs and the elevator).
On the north wall of the Church Hall, you will find group pictures of all the confirmation classes back to the early 1940’ies.
The Queen’s monogram over the main entrance was installed on May 5th, 1985. Permission was granted by the Court in Copenhagen. In Denmark, the nobleman who built or restored the church building often has his monogram over the main entrance as well as his picture inside.
Outside on the wall close to the main entrance is a marble plaque which reads, 15. August 1937, 14. Oktober 1984 in memory of the days of dedication of the old and the new Danish churches.
On the lawn just outside the main entrance is a big boulder. The shape of the boulder is quite similar to the famous runic stone in Jelling, Denmark. The runic stone is called Denmark’s Baptism Certificate as it tells us about King Harold Bluetooth who “made the Danes Christians.” A bronze plaque on our boulder quotes (in modern Danish) some of the runes and also mentions the year 985: Danmarks Dåbsattest. Kong Harald bød gøre disse kumler efter Grom sin Fader og efter Thyra sin Moder. Den Harald, som vandt sig hele Danmark og Norge, og gjorde danerne kristne. Indskrift på Jellingestenen anno 985.
The buttresses are ornamental only. Had the church been built of stone they would have been necessary to support the arches.
Every service is a celebration, so we fly our flags every time except Good Friday, when we fly the flags at half mast, and for funerals and memorial services, when we fly the flags at half mast before and during the service as a sign of mourning but hoist the flags all the way up after the service to express our belief that the deceased is now in the hands of God; God who in Jesus Christ won the victory over death and gave us the hope of life eternal.
Between services we fly pennants instead of the flags: In Danish tradition, the flag, Dannebrog, should not be flown at night; you hoist the flag at sunrise (or 8am, whichever is later) and take it down again at sundown (or 8pm, whichever is earlier). Canadian tradition impose no such restrictions on the Maple Leaf, but we follow the stricter rules.
A sundial was made by blacksmith Emil Pedersen, Surrey, in 1998 and donated to our church by Emil Pedersen and his wife, Karla. Sadly the sundial was stolen in the fall of 2007.
The Memorial Walk leads to the barrow and dolmen which we since 2003 have used as a scattering garden. During the fourth millennium before Christ, peoples all over Europe and North Africa built monuments in large stones for the dead, the Egyptian pyramids being the most famous. Danish Stone Age farmers built both covered chambers (passage graves) and the more modest dolmens. Many dolmens still dot the Danish countryside, so we built a small one for ourselves to remind us of the landscape we come from.
Likewise, we planted beech trees. The beech has been the dominating deciduous tree in Denmark since about 500 before Christ.