Happy Easter / God Påske!
Liturgically it’s a year to the day that I played my last services at Prince George, although in reality it’s about 11 months. And how different it is here! Less than an average week of people in church and it’s snowed for the last few days so we spent an hour digging out our car and trying to get into church (the car park hadn’t been cleared so it was knee-deep in snow). At coffee afterwards I was wished God Jule (a freudian slip, by someone who was gazing out of the window at the snow which is still falling?).
But there is one constant – the Risen Lord. So, with Christians around the world we celebrate and shout (rope)
Christ is Risen – He is Risen Indeed!
Yesterday was the Påskelabyrint (Easter Labyrinth) – part of our Påskefestuka (Holy Week Festival). The church was transformed into a giant ‘maze’ using the chairs (so much more flexible than pews!), with 12 prayer and reflection areas. We certainly got a work out moving everything, and we’re very grateful to Solrun, Mereta, Ernst and Ann-Eva for all their help! This was also in no small measure made possible due to the support of Tracy and Tim – thank you!
Visitors, many in tears, spoke of how powerfully it affected them – spending time in quiet with God and thinking over what Jesus has done for us. Some went away and fetched others back!
It’s difficult to capture in pictures the essence of the event, but at least you’ll see what we did to the room (you can enlarge the wide-angle shots for more detail). There is also a 360 degree picture taken from the centre here.
We’ve just finished four very long days of special events as part of our Påskefestuka (Holy Week festival). Only five more days to go!
It’s been fantastic to see many different people meeting God afresh.
We kicked off Palm Sunday with an ‘Ønske’ Salmekveld (a hymn singing evening where the ‘audience’ / congregation get to choose all the hymns ‘on the fly’). This went down very well, although it was a double test for me – first of my Norwegian in understanding the requests, and then my sight reading ability, as most of the requests were things I had never played before.
Monday we held our Barnas Påskefest (Childrens’ Easter Festival). About 120 came and we had a special service including 5 prayer activity ‘stations’ to help teach the events from Maunday Thursday to Easter Day, plus time together to sing, led by our Barnekor (children’s choir). The music ranged from ‘gospel’ songs (including a new ‘resurrection’ song I wrote in Norwegian), through Panis Angelicus (sung by the older girls in the choir), to traditional hymns like Deg Være Ære (Thine Be The Glory). The level of engagement was amazing: after an hour the children were still quiet and taking part!
Være I Stillheten
Yesterday was Være I Stillheten (Be in peace). This was the fourth of these concert / worship events combining mainly classical music, pictures and video, with elements of evening prayer. We decided to take a slightly different approach this time, recounting the events of Holy Week from Christ’s triumphal entry to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, through to the Resurrection on Easter Day using scenes from Zeffirelli’s film Jesus of Nazareth with the music list below. Neither the musicians nor the audience had experienced anything quite like it before, and afterwards many told us that it was a ‘sterk’ (strong) experience and how they were deeply moved as the music ‘narrated’ events in the ‘silent’ film. Susanna played brilliantly and we were blessed to also had a guest tenor soloist. Because the film is copyright it isn’t possible to put anything on YouTube this time – you’ll just have to come next time!
Være I Stillheten
Today was the Påskelabyrint (Easter Labyrinth). We’ll post a report tomorrow.
We keep discovering that whilst we recognise some words and phrases, they have a completely different concept to what we expected.
For example, before Christmas the church had Julspille (Christmas plays): we assumed that this meant that schools used the church building as a space to put on their Christmas performances for parents, etc – therefore not much work for us. WRONG – in Norway it means Church staff and volunteers put on the a Christmas play for the schools – which took about 5 working days of time – a bit of a shock in the run up to Christmas!
Last week it happened again. This time the footnote in the calendar simply said ‘Easter gardens’. OK, so in England that probably means that we help the children make either individual or a collective Easter garden: a foil tray with some soil, a bit of aluminium / aluminum foil for a pond, some flowers and moss for foliage, a yogurt pot for the grave ‘hole’, a stone rolled away, oh, and maybe a ‘lolly stick’ empty cross: not much for a kantor to do. WRONG – in Norway it means we build a ‘set’ – a bit like the Easter garden described above, but 10′ long, and then all the local pre-schools come in (one at a time) and we ‘dramatise’ events from Palm Sunday to Easter day, using play-mobil / lego characters, punctuating the story with suitable songs. Again, a bit of a shock when it took the best part of 5 working days in the run up to Holy Week / Easter!
That said, we’re not complaining. Both the Julespill and Easter Gardens work brilliantly. I was amazed to see children aged 18 months – 5 years sit mesmerized for nearly 3/4 of an hour!
See if you recognise everything . . .
Påskefestuka – a good Norwegian compound word – Påske (passover / easter) fest (party / festival) uka (week).
Starting tomorrow, we have something everyday in Finnsnes church as we celebrate Holy Week, also know here is Easter week or ‘still’ week (although there doesn’t seem to be anything very still about it). It’s a combination of ‘arts’ and worship, this year including a Salmekveld (hymn-singing evening), a special children’s Easter event, Være i Stillheten (classical music with images and video for Holy Week), and an Easter labyrinth (a first in Finnsnes). We hope it will be a week when people can take time out to think and pray over the events of Holy week and Easter, and meet the Risen Lord.
Last year, in the weeks before we moved to Norway, we were excited to read about the concerts in Påskefestuka. Sadly the reality is that whilst the concerts were no doubt very good, in recent years attendance has declined rapidly (with the associated financial losses), so we’ve decided to try a more diverse and ‘all-local’ approach – we’ll see if it makes a difference.
Here’s the program: you’re welcome to join us all the events (click to enlarge):
Today we took a further step in our cultural integration – vi gikk på ski (went skiing). The last time we skied was nearly 25 years ago in Austria – and that was ‘downhill’, so quite different to cross country. Cross country skis are much thinner and more ‘whippy’ than downhill, and the shoes are only attached at the toe, so you use a kind of weird knee-first walking / hip-rotating action. By using the right kind of wax on the skis (temperature dependent), it’s also possible to ski uphill without needing to do the herringbone walk (at least on gentle slopes).
It’s taken a long time to get everything together: we bought clothes last October, skis a couple of weeks ago, ski shoes last week, today there was reasonable snow, this afternoon the wind dropped and we had glorious sunshine, and our friend Gunnar was available for a lesson.
Having said that cross country skiing is quite different, there are a few commonalities – snow is still slippery, gravity / gradients make you go faster, it hurts when you fall: but as Gunnar kept telling us, you don’t learn anything unless you fall. In order to protect the identity of the skier below shown ‘learning’, you need to know we both wore the same clothes (but obviously you can’t see what I was wearing whilst take the photos). Ooops . . . .
Whilst we’ve made a start, it might be sometime before we’re invited to join the Norway ski team (if ever, as we’re not Norwegian).
The last few days we’ve had plenty of snow, but not to the point of causing major problems, and between the snow it’s been sunny, so the skiers are happy.
Last weekend the church held a ‘loppemarked’ (flea market) for used winter sports equipment and clothing, so we are now equipped with cross-country skis, although whilst most of Norway now heads out into the country to ski, we are stuck at work preparing for the Easter period. Ski-mania as has a knock-on effect on some of our activities such as junior choir and youth music (oh, and joy of joys, the football season starts soon). It’s somewhat bizarre that on the most important day of the Christian year (Easter), so many here will go skiing, that some churches either cancel their services or postpone them until people come back. Maybe the solution to the interminable clashes of national holidays with Christian holy-days is for the Norwegian Church to affiliate with the Orthodox church!
Here are some pictures taken today:
- Mountains (self-explanatory)
- Snow clearing. The man driving the snow-clearing machine is on the town pond uncovering the ice to form a skating rink – not something we witnessed very often in Georgetown. It sounded like an electric device – very green. Maybe if Thomas Andrew is reading this he can enlighten us?
- Snow piles. What do you do with all the snow that you clear? In the country it’s usually straightforward – push it, or blow it into the fields beside the road. However, you can’t do that in towns, or you will bury the pedestrians. So, they make very large piles, several storeys high, in any available space (mostly car parks). Then, in the dead of night, they dump it in the sea – one mechanical bucket lead at a time – not very green.
- The two men in the window are former kantors – Bach and Mozart. They’re presence in my office is slightly worrying to me: will I be the next victim of a head-shrinking cult, or it reserved for famous people? My worry is compounded because when I arrived at Prince George, I found the shrunken head of Beethoven in my office: is this a conspiracy? To make matters worse, they don’t look very happy and I can’t work out why – is it the view out of the window, the standard of my musical arrangements, or do they just not like each other? Any thoughts or suggestions?
Last Sunday while we enjoyed worship in a tent, a few very hard folk were being inducted into the Ottar Klub (or being made ‘Vikings’).
Ottar was a local viking chieftain, and apparently quite an erudite man. In the picture below he is featured with his prototype ‘short boat’. Others later perfected the design and renamed it the ‘long boat’ (a long boat is like a short boat, but with the addition of a front [sorry, bow] which helps to prevent sinking).
Sadly, despite knowing that Ottar would probably mostly likely be found at home reading a good book with a glass of cognac or preparing tofu stew for his international guests, the ‘Ottar Klub’ insists on perpetuating the myth of viking toughness via their initiation events, which include long-distance skiing (up-hill), sparking (like dog-sledding but without without the aid of dogs) and finally jumping in the sea (ice permitting).
Our local newspaper were on hand to film it.
Hollywood myth busted: today is the day after “The Day After Tomorrow” and we’re still here. However it appears that the coldest weather will in fact arrive in the next 24 hours, and certainly walking to work earlier the wind was already bitterly cold (the type that makes your eyeballs hurt and using a camera without gloves painful).
This morning the sky was dark with clouds, although a few shone bright white, almost as if chunks of mountain were floating in the air. In the pictures there also seems to be a a kind of mist over the mountains, but it’s in fact powdery snow being blown in the strong winds.
Yesterday a weather warning was issued for northern Norway, which judging by the satellite photos means we could get weather a bit like the extreme low pressures featured in the movie, The Day After Tomorrow. The warning is of ‘polar lows’ – very localised low pressure areas which can develop over the oceans of the arctic region, leading to “wind, rain or snow avalanche danger so great that life and property may be lost”. From space they look a bit like mini hurricanes.
So, we have been warned . . . and if we’re still her tomorrow, then the day after I will be able to update you on whether we suffered weather tomorrow, like the day after tomorrow, of which we were we warned yesterday, and wrote about today.