New York, New York!

New pastors welcome you to the Norwegian Seamen’s Church in NYC

Seamnen's Church

Photo courtesy of The Norwegian Seamen’s Church, New York
In September, Geir Øy and Jofrid Landa arrived at Sjømannskirken in New York City to serve the community there.

New York

At the start of the pandemic, the Norwegian Seamen’s Church in New York—Sjømannskirken i New York—was without permanent pastors. Odd Inge Tangen, the director and host for arts and music and student pastor, and two other employees led the work in the church.

Two new pastors arrived in September. Jofrid Landa has worked for several years in Sjømannskirken before, first in Antwerp, Belgium, and then in Copenhagen, Denmark. Geir Øy, who is also the general manager, is new to the organization. He came with his wife, Hilde Steigum Øy, from a position as a parish pastor outside of Bergen, Norway.
The two new pastors have challenged each other with few questions on what it’s been like to embark on their new adventure in New York.

Why do you want to work for Sjømannskirken?

Jofrid: I have now worked for Sjømannskirken for 11 years, both in Antwerp, Belgium, and in Copenhagen, Denmark. Sjømannskirken is an incredibly exciting and varied workplace! I love working in a church that is about creating fellowship with God and people as well as meeting a great diversity of people in sorrow and in joy. The job offers a lot of variety—social, practical, and administrative—so I get to use all aspects of who I am. Sjømannskirken’s diaconal profile with its focus on meeting individuals is something I think is important to us as a church.

Geir: For a long time, I have wanted to work in the Seamen’s Church. I try to do what I can to make people feel welcome at church. I enjoy getting to know new people. I like that Sjømannskirken is a social, cultural, and spiritual meeting place. Sjømannskirken likes to welcome people “home,” and I would like to be among those who do so.

Why New York?

Jofrid: I love big cities! I have always thought New York is a cool international city with a lot of energy and great potential. It is exciting to be at Sjømannskirken in a city where we can meet Norwegians of all ages, whether they be tourists, students, those who work in culture or business for a period of time, or those who have lived here a large part of their lives.

Geir: There are many places where it’s nice to be a Sjømannkirken pastor, but New York must be one of the really interesting places to live for a few years. New York has nearly everything, and I hope during our time here, we will experience much of what the city has to offer.

How long has it taken to break into your new positions?

Jofrid: I’ve had a great start at Sjømannskirken, and I have been very well received by staff, the church board, and people at the church. It’s nice to have worked at Sjømannskirken before, because the culture and a lot is familiar, even if some things are done differently in New York. Otherwise, you spend time finding out practical things about everyday life in a new country and orienting yourself in the city. At first, it can take a long time at the store when you have to find out which products to choose, from detergent and milk, and there will still be some wrong purchases in the beginning. But all in all, New York has welcomed me!

Geir: I agree with Jofrid. We have been so well received. It is great to experience that the activity at the church is starting up after the pandemic. It’s also been nice to get to know the city a little bit. We have so much left in the coming months.

Which of your experiences or qualities do you think will be useful in your new job?

I have extensive experience and expertise from Sjømannskirken and know our culture well, which will be useful in a new place. I am social and love meeting new people and creating good fellowship in teams, with staff and with volunteers. Besides, I am flexible and like best when everyday life is varied—the way it is to work at Sjømannskirken.

Geir: I want to mention three things. I am quite versatile and have the need to do a lot of different things. I my experience leading staffs and building good teams will be useful. I enjoy getting to know new people and hope that people around me will benefit from the positive experience of being seen and recognized.

What are the biggest challenges of working in Sjømannskirken?

Jofrid: We must constantly work to reach out, so that Norwegians know that we are here for them. We must constantly build new relationships and find new volunteers, because there is a turnover of Norwegians abroad. There are also some ministry challenges we face when we are there for people in crisis, which are extra difficult, because you are in a foreign country, without the same network and help apparatus as in Norway.

Geir: If I have to mention one challenge, I think it must be reaching out to Norwegians in our area. We cannot just sit around waiting for people to come to Sjømannskirken.

What do you hope to experience in the United States during the time you are here?

Jofrid: I have only been on a short trip to New York before, so first and foremost, I want to experience what New York has to offer in terms of culture and café life, which I am very fond of. But I also hope to see something more of the United States’ diversity, since I have not traveled around in this country before.

Geir: I hope to take some nice hikes in some of the beautiful national parks in the United States. I also look forward to meeting relatives who live here, both on my side and on my wife’s side.

So, when in New York City, why not drop in at the Norwegian Seamen’s Church between First and Second avenues on 52nd Street in Manhattan? You will be greeted by the friendly faces of its two new pastors and the staff there. With church services on Sunday and a variety of programs during the week, there is always something to experience, bringing enrichment to your life. For more information, visit their website at Hjertelig velkommen!

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 3, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.