The Norwegian Seamen’s Church reaches out worldwide

The positive sides of the coronavirus crisis

Seamens Church - Vegard Husby

Photo: Morten Opedal
Pastor Vegard Husby says that during the coronavirus crisis the Norwegian Seamen’s Church in Los Angeles has been in contact with many people they’ve never talked to before.

ERLEND BJERKE OTTERÅ
Norwegian Seamen’s Church

Quarantines and practical challenges during the time of the coronavirus have brought more people than usual to the Norwegian Seamen’s Church—both on the telephone and internet. 

“Many we normally don’t hear from have expressed the importance of having the church right now,” said Pastor Morgan Berg.

In San Francisco, he’s noticed how the church has become a gathering place through digital channels. After two months of strict coronavirus measures, when the church buildings have been closed, many of the churches have seen that Norwegian communities abroad have strengthened.

Reaching out to the entire country

The Norwegian Seamen’s Churches in Berlin, Los Angeles, Switzerland, Paris, and London are among those experiencing this. They have seen that when they reach out to more people than they normally would during “coronavirus-free” everyday life.

“When everything is digital, you can meet more people, even those who live far away,” said Pastor Magnus Hegland Ingvaldsen in Paris.

Reaching out to each other during times of crisis

Pastor Dag Magnus Hopstock Havgar in London believes that the coronavirus pandemic has taught people to value the telephone even more. People want to hear voices, and they can’t meet in person. Contact over the telephone is the solution.

“During times of crisis, people reach out to one another. The coronavirus pandemic has perhaps had a more unifying effect, as Norwegians have been looking out for each other and calling one another,” he said.

Pastor Vegard Husby in Los Angeles believes that the coronavirus pandemic has made Norwegian and culture and traditions more relevant in a completely new way for Norwegians abroad.

“The distance to Norway feels extra far when the world is going through a crisis like this.” he said.

According to Husby, several thousand Norwegians live permanently in Southern California. He said the church has been in contact with many people they had never talked to before.

“It’s been about everything, from getting help on booking tickets, practical assistance, wanting Norwegian products, to long conversations on the phone,” said Husby.

The joy of reuniting

The Norwegian Seamen’s Church in Berlin hasn’t yet opened its church building, but recently, they planned for their first church service—outdoors. Pastor Kristin Heskje noted that the community spirit among those who regularly visited the church has been strengthened.

“It was great joy of reuniting and the feeling that we belong together. It was a feeling there before, but it’s been strengthened here now,” she said.

Even if the church buildings have not been able to open, the churches haven’t been closed. Instead, they have found creative ways to be there for Norwegians abroad, not in the least through social media. Like many other Norwegian Seamen’s Churches, the church in Berlin has, among other things, helped people by delivering groceries to their doors. Heskje explains that they‘ve also had a digital edition for youth, which is a group that may have not had so many other things offered to them.

“This period has helped to underline the relevance of the Norwegian Seamen’s Church, that we are there,” said Heskje.

Translated by Lori Ann Reinhall

For more info about the Norwegian Seamen’s Church, visit www.sjomannskirken.no/nav-top/english.

See also “A heart-centered harbor for SoCal’s Norwegian community,” The Norwegian American, June 26, 2020.

This article originally appeared in the June 26, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American

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