Monthly Archives: April 2012


Gudstjenester means God’s services (ie worship) and yesterday (Sunday)  I played my first main service at Finnsnes church. As well as the regular communion service, there were 3 baptisms (dåp), so there were a lot of extra people in church, although the photos don’t show them. Some fine tuning is required, but it mostly went fine. I was also introduced and prayed for in the service by Ruth-Astrid Stellmacher, the sokneprest (senior pastor) who came back from maternity leave for the service. As I learn the ‘flow’ of worship here, and as my Norwegian improves I’m sure the kinks will be ironed out.

Below are pictures from the service, and also of some of my new friends, taken as we shared coffee and cake after the service.

Coffee & Cakes

Coffee and cake are an important element of social and church life here. In the church, almost no meeting passes without it being served, and I have had several invitations to peoples homes for an enjoyable evening, consuming coffee and a variety of cakes, accompanied by conversation. My only ‘problem’ at the moment is not really having settled to the Norwegian pattern of eating:

  • 7am Breakfast
  • 11:30 Lunch
  • 4pm Main hot meal
  • 6pm onwards Coffee and cake or another snack

Attempting to eat a main evening meal ‘US time’ has meant that a last minute invitation to coffee and cake over-rode meat and vegetables – of well – it’s a hard life!

Tomorrow is May 1st, a kind of Labour Day, and a public holiday. I’m playing for a special service in the morning, then there is a parade in town and I have an invitation to join a family for evening meal and . . . . Coffee and Cake. The day will be rounded off with a gospel choir concert in the ferry terminal. The only downside might be that it’s now snowing again.

Home From Home

Whilst I’m under no illusions that there will be many challenges ahead, Finnsnes now feel like home. Actually it only seemed to take 3 or 4 days. The transition was probably made easier by arriving to clear blue shies and sunshine, even if was only just above freezing.

Maybe it is human nature to look for the familiar in strange places. I thought that there would be nothing  here in common with South Carolina, but on my first day I found it: the steel works! It’s not actually in Finnsnes, bur I can see it from my kitchen window (picture below). I also noticed that whilst I can’t look out of the church windows to see palm trees, there are Yukka plants in a couple of the windows. Today I had other reminders of past homes, this time  in England. First it rained (cold drizzle), and then out of the corner of my eye I spotted a red phone box! Maybe I had walked past it before, or perhaps it had previously been buried under snow. Either way it was a surprise. (Picture below). By the way, the red plastic pole is one of thousands used to mark the esge of the road during the winter snows.

This afternoon and evening were spent with the MILK group (MIni Leaders Kurs) – young people from several churches being trained to take responsibility for various church activities.

Tomorrow I will play my first parish service, including 3 baptisms, and eight hymns! Of course it’s all in Norwegian, so hopefully I will play in the right places.

Oh – now it’s snowing.

The Melt

The big thaw is now well under way. My walk to and from work is accompanied by the sound of running water, the piles of now are now considerably smaller, and comparing photos from last weekend to today, even the snow on the mountains is reducing. As a result, mud is everywhere, and paths that were good shortcuts in the snow are slimy and slippery. Today was much cloudier too and gave at least the impression of being colder.

I’ve had more firsts. Todsdag Klub (Thursday Club) is a dropping open youth club for teens and about 80 young people came through during the evening. I spent time talking with some of the youth, including a very talented and articulate young lady who draws comic books and and a young man studying to be a mechanic. As part of the evening there is Time Out; a short Bible devotion with a song and time to pray quietly.  The leaders have a real passion for the young people to come to know Christ.

Today I played for my first funeral and was welcomed to the international Bible study where we read some of Jesus words at the last supper (John 13: 31 – 36). We discussed what it meant to glorify God as we seek to do His will, and the special nature of Christian love, which should be the hallmark of Church. I am very glad that last year Paul Fuener so clearly taught on this in Men’s Bible study.

Now I am off the help with MILK (MIni Leders Kurs) which wont finish until after midnight. Along but exciting day.


At first slight, one might wonder what strange Norwegian word PiBi might be? It turns out to be Pizza and Bible – the weekly meeting of the older youth at Finnsnes Church. Tonight 10 of us gathered at the home of Frank (Youth Pastor) and Ruth-Astrid (Senior Pastor) for said eating and study. The pizza element combines two national traditions (transposed from Saturday to Wednesday): Pizza and Tacos. This was the first time I had eat taco pizza, which actually works.  After eating we sang in English then Bible study continued mostly in Norwegian. I am slowly understanding more words. Below are pictures of the group.

Today I also enjoyed more organ practice. For those who are interested, I have been told that the instrument is designed in the tonal style of a French baroque organ. The Great has a magnificent Trumpet stop which is very rich and I have been experimenting with some wholly inauthentic registrations just because I like the sound!

Having had a couple of days of uncertainty about some ‘official’ things, there have been some good outcomes, and as an extra encouragement, someone told me today of a dream that God had given before Christmas about our coming to Finnsnes.

And finally here are a couple of pictures taken at midnight. My camera isn’t very good at accurate low light shots, but you can see it there is quite a bit of light now.

Babel 101

Today I started official language classes. In my group there are people Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Bangladesh, Somalia, Eritrea and me.

At first glance for an English speaker, Norwegian doesn’t seem too hard. The English have inherited many words for the Nordic languages and the grammar is similar. Reading things aloud with an English accent, I can sometimes figure out the meaning, even if the spelling looks different. Not bad – on paper. However, hearing and speaking is a different matter.

I am reminded of the account of the Tower of Babel in the Bible (Genesis 11). The Babel incident happened over 4000 years ago, but the Viking invasions of the British Isles were much more recent. I think the Babel confusion must be on-going. It’s almost like someone came along and deliberately switched sounds, especially the vowels. So:

  • A  sounds like  R
  • E  sounds like Air
  • I  sounds like  E
  • O  sounds like  Oo (as in spoon)
  • U  sounds like  ?
  • Y  sounds like  E
  • Æ  sounds like  Are
  • Ø  sounds like  Err
  • Å  sounds like  Or

To hear it for yourself, go here.

I’m certain it must be just as confusing for Norwegians learning English. But it makes me wonder how it happens. Did the Vikings arrive, teach the Britons some news words using deliberately wrong pronunciation and then laugh all the way back home at how stupid the English will sound in 1000 years? Or once the Vikings had gone, did the Britons decide to keep the words but change the sound as an early way of sticking two fingers up (flipping the bird) at the departing invaders? Maybe it’s both. It’s quite amusing to think of the conversations either way!

One practical outworking, is deciding how I will be known. Should I remain ‘anglicised’ knowing that many people reading my name will probably mispronounce it, should I say Jon with Norwegian pronunciation  (Yune), or use my full name in Norwegian (Yune-are-ton)? Yune seems best, although I need to remember to answer to it!

Me thinks that language learning doth make my brain hurt.

On a lighter note, it was lovely to meet more of the staff today, especially Ivar Jarle Eliassen, the other Kantor, who is on secondment to the Dioscese but took time to pop in to say hello.

Finally, here are some photos from my walk to work this morning:

Sunday Walk

Sunday seemed very strange: worship today was at 5pm, so I had most of the day to fill. After a slow start, I walked to church to play the organ for a couple of hours. The snow is slowly melting here and the roads and pavements (sidewalks) are most clear of snow and ice, but everywhere there are piles of snow. The pile at the edge of the church car park is probably 10′!

My walk passes what I assumed was sheltered housing or an old people’s home, and I have been wondering why there was windsock outside (maybe it is so that old people don’t get blown away in the winter!). However, this afternoon I found out it’s true nature as an air ambulance swooped in, unloaded a casualty and the flew out again. It turns out that the old people’s home is in fact a hospital. There are pictures at the end of this post.

When it finally came to time for worship, it was a baptism service. The young man being baptised was 15 (I think). After worship came the Årsmøtet (annual church meeting) which lasted almost 4 hours! I am coming to appreciate that Norwegians are very patient people. There was a short break from the business for some music, drama, coffee and cake. The drama performed by the young people was particularly outstanding. In mime they portrayed a young woman tempted in various ways and becoming more trapped in sin and further from the Lord, until she finally comes to Christ. This does not adequately describe it and if I can get pictures or a video I’ll post them. In the midst of the church meeting it made me realize again that everything the church does must be focused on the Lord, and His Great Commission.

No Riot

I’m pleased  to report that the installation, playing and removal of drums in church went smoothly and there was no hint of rioting! The concert was in aid of Cafe Plus, a project helping drug addicts, run jointly by the church and the kommune (town council). The audience of several hundred enjoying soloists and bands, young and old, and the offering at the end raise 18000 nkr (about $3100).

After the concert came the Internasjonal kulturkafe , with food from many nations, much of it prepared by people at the refugee center in Finnsnes. It is very popular here. I enjoyed curry, chapatti, samosas and cake – a real treat. I also met more people including a choir member in his 80’s who still runs relief aid trips to Russia, as well as traveling the globe. It’s great discovering the ways in which Christian’s here are sharing the love of Christ in practical ways.

I need an alarm clock (having only a couple of hours of darkness is confusing me), but I was too late today, as almost all the shops here close at 2pm on Saturday. So, the rest of the afternoon was spent playing the organ. It really is lovely to play and I’m getting the hang of the ‘reverse’ layout. Unfortunately I didn’t bring any recording equipment, but if I can borrow some, I make recordings.

Sorry no pictures today.

Here I Am To Worship

As the plane landed at Bardufoss yesterday, Tim Hughes song Here I am to worship was in my head. The words of the chorus are:

Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down,
Here I am to say that You’re my King.
You’re altogether lovely, altogether worthy,
Altogether wonderful to me.

I normally associated the ‘here I am’ bit of it with simply being in God’s presence where ever I am, but I realized they could also mean ‘here I am in a particular geographic location to worship and proclaim that Christ is King’.

Within a couple of hours of arriving, I had my first opportunity to play for worship – I experienced here I am to worship!. Every Friday there is an international Bible study at Finnsnes church, led by deacon Kjellrun Skoglund. At the end they asked me to play What a friend we have in Jesus and Amazing grace. It was truely international worship as Norwegians, Eritreans (!), and English sang praise to the God who loves all nations – it reminds me again of the vision of worship in heaven described by John,  in Revelation 7:

9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10And they cried out in a loud voice:

 “Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

What a privilege to serve the Lord and His people in music!

Then it was back to earth with a bump and a light hearted introduction to parish politics, as I was asked if I thought it was OK for the band playing at Saturday’s Internasjonal kulturkafe, to move the communion table to make space for their drum kit. Something are the same the world over.

Acts 17  24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.

If there is a riot I’ll let you know.

Flyr Til Polarsirkelen

I’ve arrived! After a reasonably long day of travel, I’m now in my apartment in Finnsnes. This was the view at 9pm tonight:

This morning I said goodbye to Tim and Tracy after practicing the thing I do best (moving church chairs!). The 50 minute flight from Stavanger to Oslo was full and seemed more like a bus journey.

My stop in Oslo was nearly 3 hours, so I had lunch and managed to order food without the lady switching to English. However at the checkout I was asked if I wanted to add coffee to my order in a special deal, but I didn’t respond quickly enough so without a thought the young lady changed to English. Oh well.

The 90 minute flight from Oslo, north to Bardufoss was spectacular. Oslo was under cloud and is now almost clear of snow. After ascending, we flew above the clouds for about half an hour. They were were completely featureless; something I’ve never seen before. Then the clouds cleared and we flew up the coast over a snow covered landscape. It was amazing and I’m glad I booked a window seat. I spent most of the rest of the flight taking pictures (see below). The descent was very gradual and we flew between mountain peaks. I eventually saw Finnsnes and the bridge to the island of Senja before we turned inland to Bardufoss. It’s strange but in the months which have led to this time, I have not really felt excited, but as we flew past Finnsnes my heart jumped – the excitement finally began – praise God.

I was met at the airport by unbroken blue skies, sunshine and  Frank Stellmacher (Kateket / ungdomsprest: literally Catechist / Youth Priest). Frank is German and married to Ruth Astrid (Sokneprest: the senior priest) who is Norwegian (and a very good cook). His English is excellent, despite being his third language, and we had great conversation whilst we took the scenic route to Finnsnes.

At the church I met Ruth Astrid, Ann-Eva Hanssen (Kirkeverge: the boss) and Glen Hadland (another priest), together with the staff children.  Eating together was a time of laughter as we tried to work out what language to speak, particularly with 5 children under 6!).

After touring the building, viewing my office, trying the organ, and meeting more people (details in the next post), it was on to my new home and bed. It’s now just gone midnight, and the sky is still not properly dark!

Sorry this post is rather long. Here are a lot of photos from the journey:

I Trust In You Alone

Tonight I did some work on the  recording we started with the band in the US. As I prepare to travel to Finnsnes and probably well outside my comfort zone, I was struck by the words of the song I Trust In You. It’s strange because whilst I wrote it, the Lord was challenging me through it – will I trust Him completely?

I trust in You alone, I trust in You alone,
when all around me fades away, I’ll trust in  You.
I trust in You alone, I know Your way is true,
whate’er You ask of me, give me the faith to follow You.

Help me to lay aside the crutch of what I own,
to trust in You alone for daily needs:
and may my treasure be, hid with You on high:
purest gold refined, safe from thief and mold.

I want to be awake, to hear my master’s voice,
in the dark watches of this world’s night.
To stay alert for You, ready to move,
as Your Spirit leads, leads me on.

And when at last I tread, my final journey home,
I want to see your face, as I pass through death to life.
To hear You say “well done, good and faithful one,
your life was lived for Me, now live eternally.”

The recording isn’t finished yet, but if you want to hear a provisional version, click below:

or Click Here.

And here is the sheet music.

Finally, People of the Arctic, you probably think I’m making a fuss, and I know that people have lived there for thousands of years, but it’s still an adventure!