The West Denmark Lutheran Church celebrated its 150th anniversary on the weekend of June 24 and 25, 2023. As people gathered on Saturday afternoon, there was a feeling of reunion in the air, not only among the peo- ple in attendance but also, through special exhibits, with all the saints of the congregation from its very beginning to the present. The display about the woodcarver Jes Smidt, nicely arranged by his granddaughter Kathy Wilson, was a reminder that several Danish immigrant churches had a bit of West Denmark in them with his altars, frames, lecterns, and such.
After the welcome by Pastor Linda Rozumalski and Council President, Terry Speiker, the past and present came together as everyone sang the gathering song, set to the tune of the beloved Grundtvig hymn “O Day Full of Grace.” The artful lyrics of Henrik Strandskov’s “Six Hun- dred Seasons” convey the inspiration from nature that heirs of Grundtvi- gian immigrants still hold. Erik Hansen followed, channeling his grand- father, with a presentation in the old Danish storytelling tradition.
Also in good Danish tradition, the kitchen crew was always busy, providing coffee and treats for breaks and classic Danish dishes for meals. Fittingly, commemorative cookbooks and hand-crafted coffees mugs were available to purchase.
A presentation about the buildings on the West Denmark campus, including recollections of the Petersen brothers who were instrumental in constructing the present church building thirty-eight years ago, reminded all of the persistent dedication and skill of different generations who, after the church building twice burned to the ground, saw to the construction of a new one each time.
The congregation displayed its dramatic talent and wry humor with a play about a pastor taking a needed rest leave, well-meaning congregation members, and the intervention by nisse. The fun continued into the evening with live music and folk dancing, led by Shawn Mai.
In addition to the worship service on Sunday, there was a concert that afternoon. Christine Johansen played selections from Danish composers on the piano; Chuck Parsons offered a couple of celebratory pieces by on the organ, and the West Denmark Choir, conducted by Harry Johansen.
For sake of posterity, the pastor dedicated a newly planted tree near the Founder’s monument, and a photographer, raised aloft by a bucket truck, took an official photo of the assembled group. Actually, two sets of photos were taken, the second with everyone holding a number on which folks wrote their names so as to be identified for future generations of West Denmark Lutheran Church.
Emerging from a novel, a film, a deep sleep, or returning home from a vacation,.we have probably all had the odd experience of seeing the world through a different lens even when its the same place we’ve been living perhaps for decades. What is it that’s happened? Perhaps a kind of disruption, death if you will, of a habituated worldview that allows for a fresh, surprising, perhaps even awe-inspiring look at our surroundings. The message on the church sign on the cover photo, sent in by Henrik C. Strandskov, is along those lines, introducing an issue that hopefully stirs readers as the sign suggests.
For this season of resurrection, the issue begins with the poem “Love Rises,” which seems to have emerged from the writer’s personal, internal experience of the divine. The anonymous writer on the blog Mystic Meandering frequently posts such offerings, which then often become a source for my own contemplative meditation.
In the next article, “Christ is Risen! and Irenaeus was the first illumination physicist,” Uffe Jonas discusses the reality of the Resurrection, tying modern physics to what Grundtvig found so inspiring in the writings of the second century bishop.
After that rather heavy read, it’s time for some excursions into the outdoors. In “Challenges for Birders,” Dagmar Marie Muthamia shares her experiences with birding, giving tips to encourage others to take up the hobby. Then Lois Knudsen Lund recounts her travels last year to the far distant northland of North America in “Camping in Labrador.”
Finally, we travel, metaphorically, to the edges of the institutional church with excerpts from Episode 29 of The Rewilding Podcast, a conversation about Rewilding Christianity with pastors Solveig Nilsen-Goodin and Aric Clark, facilitated by Peter Michael Bauer.
With ongoing conflicts and suffering around the world, this issue begins with a hymn conceived by my friend Howard Maple for use at world-peace prayer services.
In “Roses and People,” from a book of the same name published in 1962 by Pastor Harold Petersen, we are re- minded that flourishing happens when actions are mo- tivated by love. This goes for learning, as we see in the personal testimony of Veronica Litt in “Letter Press for What Ails You.”
Following recent articles about Ruben Strandskov as a conscientious objector during WWII, Paul Petersen com- piled correspondence from Ruben during this time and presents “Ruben’s Letters Home.”
In “Fiftieth Anniversary of Denmark in the European Union,” Rolf Buschardt Christensen gives a history of this important framework for national relationships in Eu- rope that was adopted within three decades after the war.
About a decade after the war’s end, Carlo Christensen decided to leave Denmark to settle in the United States, a journey he wrote about in “The Story of the Sailing Suit- case.” This is published here in tribute to him after his re- cent passing in Glendale, CA, at the age of ninety-five.
In “West Coast Hospitality,” the editor hopes that readers will vicariously feel the warmth and kindness that she recently experienced from various people and communities.
And finally, thank you to all of the supporters of Church and Life for your gifts and renewals.
Bridget Lois Jensen