Highlights for May 2020
Erling Grumstrup, known for his love of singing, is on the cover, greeting us with a smile while the Solvang hospitality team, including songleader Suzanne Hollrah, huddles in the background. The singing theme continues with Edward Broadbridge’s English translation of En Lærke Leddet, a song about the liberation of Denmark in 1945, commemorated each year on May 4 by Danes putting lights in their windows, as in the photo by Anders Boll. He and his wife Gudrun, relatives of Else Nygaard Martin of the Danish colony of Granly, Mississippi, own this former schoolhouse in Kattrup, Denmark where German soldiers stayed a few weeks before stealing away under cover of darkness on May 5 seventy-five years ago.
Eric Jul and Birgit Højer, kin to Richard “Dick” Juhl, describe how the tradition of community singing in Denmark has had a resurgence while people have stayed at home to thwart the coronavirus pandemic. Hanna Broadbridge describes the creativity of Danish churches during this extraordinary time. Our pandemic experience is not unprecedented. We are reminded of that in the second part of the series looking at Manistee, Michigan as it endured the 1918 Spanish flu.
Continuing to look at archives, we find Danish folk school inspirations in newsletters of Community Service Inc., founded by Arthur Morgan, a supporter of the Americanized version of Ashland Folk School, which appeared in the last issue of Church and Life.
Before world travel came to a standstill this year, Marianne Gaarden, bishop of Lolland-Falster and Danish Churches Abroad, and her husband Michael Schelde, former director of the Grundtvig Study Center at Aarhus University, visited the Danish churches in Argentina. She shares her understanding of the churches role in those communities.
A few photos by Dan Mikel take us back to where we started on the cover to the Solvang Folk School Talks and people savoring time together to sing and visit. Little did we know at the end of February how precious such an in-person gathering would be.
The West Denmark Family Camp, held annually on July 1, 2, and 3 in Luck, Wisconsin, has been cancelled for 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We look forward to welcoming our campers back in 2021.
Danebod Folk School in Tyler, MN is closed to all on site activities for the summer of 2020. due to COVID-19. However, The Folk Meeting is planning a virtual abbreviated on-line experience. Continue to save the dates August 19-21 and look for more information to come. In the meantime, stay safe and well. Keep singing.
On page 2 of the April 2020 issue in the notice about the former Danish Lutheran Church in Manistee, Michigan, the name of the church should be Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and it is Our Savior’s Historical Society that is preserving the building and increasing its accessibility. The term “old” was mistakenly used instead of “our.” The museum in the structure is called the Old Kirke Museum, which may have led to the confusion.
Upcoming Danish Celebrations
After Grundlovsdag, Constitution Day, on June 5, commemorating the establishment of Denmark as a constitutional monarchy in 1849, comes Gunforeneningsdag, Reunification Day, on June 15. This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the return of North Slesvig (Southern Jutland) to Danish control when the border with Germany moved to its present location from the Kongeå River where it had been since 1864.
Highlights for April 2020
We can all use some lifting up during this time of pandemic, so we begin this issue with Grundtvig’s hymn “If you are feeling low, dear friends.” Our regular contributor Hanna Broadbridge relates Grundtvig’s state of mind in writing the hymn to the current place we find ourselves, sharing what Denmark has done in its confrontation with the coronavirus.
A large part of this issue involves reflections on Michigan history as a way to acknowledge that the state appears to be one of the growing COVID-19 “hot spots.” Using material from the “100 Years Ago” column in the Manistee News Advocate, I offer the first of a two-part series that looks at Manistee, Michigan during the first wave of the 1918 flu epidemic. Keeping in mind that next month will be about the second wave, it might be instructive for today, illustrating the tendency to celebrate prematurely.
Staying in Michigan and following on last month’s article about folk schools in the U.S., several pieces from archived materials shed light on the legacy of the Ashland Folk School. The first two are from Chester A. Graham and John E. Kirkpatrick who were instrumental in developing an American folk school at Ashland, followed by an article illustrating the role of the school and of the Danish singing tradition in the Michigan farm labor movement.
Michigan-born and former president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO Retiree Council Dan Mikel shares a review of the book Leadership in Turbulent Times.
A poem by Jim Djonte, shared at last summer’s Danebod Folk Meeting, speaks of compost, relevant not only for the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day observances but also in the Easter season as a message of new life through death.
Tom Riley, father of Kirsten Riley whose death was reported last month, shares a touching poem about his daughter.
Finally, a word search challenge of places where Danes settled is thrown in for light distraction.
Danish Church Preservation
Research for the article about the 1918 flu epidemic in Manistee, Michigan yielded news of a current effort to rehabilitate Old Savior’s Lutheran Church in Manistee, regarded as the oldest Danish Lutheran Church in the United States. Besides a March 7, 2020 article posted by the Manistee News Advocate, an April 6, 2020 Facebook post by the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers speaks of this campaign. Now operating as the Old Kirke Museum, funds for a new roof and wheel-chair accessibility are being solicited. Donations for this effort are to be sent to the Old Savior’s Historical Society, 304 Walnut St., Manistee, MI 49660.
My special needs sister Lisa is notorious for her questions, wanting to know what will happen and when it will happen. Our father would raise his finger and answer, “We’ll just have to wait and see.” That applies to all of us now. Before proceeding with sending out registration material for the Danebod Fall Folk Meeting, the planning committee will be assessing the pandemic situation in late April or early May. Stay tuned for an update.
Belated Birthday Greetings to Joy Ibsen, former Church and Life editor,
who turned 80 years young on April 1, no foolin’!
By HANNA BROADBRIDGE
We live in troubled times. We are confused, unsure of what is to come, frightened. Are we all living through a nightmare? Are we staring at an abyss of unimaginable proportions?
We see politicians, medical experts, economists admitting that they are driving on a road that is being asphalted as we are driving on it. We are on virgin territory and don’t know where we shall end up, or how long the road will be.
Did we ever imagine that the world would come to this? There have been political and academic murmurings about the likelihood of a new epidemic or even a pandemic, but these murmurings have not been taken seriously, let alone heeded.
Here in Denmark, as I write in the middle of March 2020, and as the stories and figures from Italy and elsewhere reach us, our government and the whole of the Danish parliament, irrespective of political party, have rallied round and informed the whole population of a mandatory lockdown of schools, all public offices and activities, even including the churches. All public employees have been sent home for at least two weeks with full pay. Schools and all other educational institutions, including libraries, have been closed. Courts, churches and other religious centers have been ordered to close — totally unprecedented except in a war situation. The only public (and some private) employees still expected to work are caregivers, hospital staff, the police, the military, and other critical job functions. This was all decided and happened on March 11 and 13, by which time all cross border traffic in Europe, except trucks carrying foods and industrial goods, was also brought to a halt. Danes abroad were told to come home as soon as possible, and air traffic has since then also been brought to a virtual standstill.
A variety of economic and financial support is being worked out by the politicians for the businesses and firms who have lost the normal activity and income. Eventually we shall all have to help these firms and companies when the problems are over, possibly through some extra tax, similar to the tax in Germany after the unification. The important thing for the Danish government is to have the businesses and firms ready to take up their normal activities with their expert staff raring to go when the situation improves.
On March 17, the Queen spoke to the nation (last time it happened was in 1945 at the end of the WWII when King Christian X spoke to the nation outside on New Year’s Eve) to urge us all to act and behave in accordance with the new rules and guidelines that have been issued, namely to protect ourselves, our families and friends and to make all the efforts possible to break the chain of infection and contagion. ”Anything else would be seen to be wanton. To show that we care for one another we have to be apart,” she said.
Streets are empty; parents have miraculously managed to get their young children looked after; and schools are teaching through the internet and other digital possibilities. Visiting family and friends, especially the ones who are housebound, has been banned. Everything is very quiet. Only the exuberant and soul-lifting sounds of the birds’ warbling in their enjoyment of the early spring sunshine break through the gloom and gray clouds.
However, disasters and grief have always happened, at a personal level, at a national level, and also at an international level. And we have come through them, found hope and comfort as well as new energy to deal with results and consequences.
In the winter of 1850-1851, Grundtvig had realized that his wife Lise was dying of the wear and tear of life, worry and work, and he was feeling sad and low. He started to write one of his best-loved hymns: “If you are feeling low, dear friend,” (’Er du modfalden, kære ven’ DDS 655) as much to comfort himself, to lift his own spirits, and to tell himself that his and our lives are in the hands of God. But he couldn’t finish it until later that year, by which time he had married again, this time to Marie Toft. However, and perhaps somewhat strangely, the text was not printed until it was sung at his funeral on Sept 11, 1872, and afterwards published in his Song-Work for the Danish Church.
Grundtvig was fully aware of the brutality and at times meaninglessness of life, what with his two sons participating in the war that Denmark had fought with Germany from 1848-1850, the political worries in Denmark, and the tensions in Europe, as well as his family leaving home and thus him and his wife to deal with their frailties. However, he would not let his faith be troubled, because he saw faith, hope, and love stretched out under us as baptized persons like a safety net of angels. As adult believers, he said, we can rely on our childhood baptism and childhood prayer, the Lord’s Prayer. This will always inspire us to be assured in our hope and firm belief that we shall overcome this too.
God’s message of trust in Him is relevant in major as well as minor catastrophes. We are told not to despair, but to look to God’s care for us, and then to look at the world at large, full of signs of God’s love. No war has been won by those who opposed God and his love. There are multitudes of angels to help us through our daily lives. No storm is too big for God to conquer, and we shall all find peace and comfort in God’s right hand, caressed by his angels. God’s spirit and love will see us through the darkness and lift our sadness. Our faith that stems from our baptism protects us and inspires us to hope – a hope that is always sustained by God’s love and spirit.