Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. So goes an old saying I learnt in my youth. At almost 11:30 pm last night the signs therefore looked good for The Big Day. When I went into Finnsnes this morning, the sun was shining and there was not a breath of wind. And to make the day more special, many people had put out flags – what a wonderful way to mark Ascension Day! Wow, these people must really love Jesus, the risen and ascended King of kings.
OK, the reality is that the King of kings faced stiff competition today because it is also 17 Mai – Norwegian Constitution Day.
I had a quick trip into the centre of Finnsnes to watch the parade (known as a train). I’m told it wasn’t as big as it used to be, but there were still 4 brass bands, many school children and their parents, the passengers from Hurtigruten (the coastal ferry / cruise ship which visits Finnsnes at about 11am) and anyone else, including non-Norwegians, who wanted to march. In fact, with an open invitation to join the parade, I think more people were in it than watching it. I was made to feel very welcome, given a Norwegian rosette to wear, invited to march and introduced to various people.
Although there was still some ice on the town lake, the sunshine brought out some legs, but most people wore their best clothes, including bunad (tradition Norwegian attire – article about bunad, and professional photos. Also note the Russ; young people in the red dungarees who are about to leave high school.
The church has traditionally played an important role in 17 Mai, so there were services in our churches across the area. I left the parade early to go to Lenvik church in Bjorelvness, about 15km north of Finnsnes, for my first service. A congregation of 70 gathered in the old wooden church, which has survived 3 fires. The pastor for the worship told me that I would be like the captain steering the ship, when he described the positioning of the organ console, on a gallery at the back of the church, but facing forward, and when I got there I could see what he meant. Worship mostly went well, and people were good humoured when the pastor forgot the words at the end of one of his sung chants (he got it the second time), and I lost count of the number of verses for the final hymn, going for a ‘victory lap’ (Gud signe vårt dyre fedreland is the National Hymn and only has 7 verses rather then the 8 I was about to play – oops). After the service the mayor laid a wreath at the war memorial outside, followed by a speech and the nation anthem. Unfortunately there no was no brass band available to lead the singing, so a very noisy generator was started, and the ‘porta-band’ on the back of a pickup truck supplied the music and off everyone marched!
Then it was back to Finnsnes for a family service. The congregation included people of all ages, and from many nations. It was a lovely time and seemed to engage most who were there. We sang the Norwegian version of Kumbaya and I was joined by an 8 year old violinist, the daughter of an immigrant family, who played very confidently. After the service there were hotdogs, cake and coffee, and traditional Norwegian games for the children, including an egg and spoon race (using potatoes) and a sack race. Sorry no pictures. Overall, a very pleasant day!
I will writing something tomorrow about the Lenvik organ.