As the arctic “heat wave” continued over the weekend, we had a family day out to Tromsø. We decided to drive (about 2.5 hours each way as opposed to about an hour by boat), and we had to do all the journeys with the windows open as this is the only kind of air-condition available in our old arctic car! It really has been hot, and our friend Tim reports that it was hotter here than in Malta (Mediterranean), and he saw people sunbathing on the beach as he landed at Tromsø airport (it’s worth reading – see May 27th here).
On the way back we had multiple photo stops.
The mountains around Tromsø:
Balsfjord (including the “Sleeping Soldier”):
Towards the end of last week we enjoyed the moon in the east(ish) and the sun in the west at just about midnight. Now the sun is up ’24/7′ we’ve lost the amazing colours of the last few weeks, but we still get a ‘special’ light. We’ve also got the town fountain and our miniature island back.
It’s been a rather hectic week with 17th of May (constitution day), Pinsedag (Pentecost) and Andre Pinsedag (the day after Pentecost, which is also a public holiday).
The 17th of May is a national and much enjoyed holiday in Norway, when they celebrate the constitution which came into existence in 1814. Many wear the traditional Bunad (folk costumes – different for each area, but you wear the one most significant to you), there are processions, brass bands, speeches, and (in our case) lots of church services. Last year I got to see the procession in Finnsnes, but this year Sarah and I played for 5 services and Susanna played in the Finnsnes Band, so we didn’t get to see much. However, there was lots of very good cake.
Pentecost day saw Susanna in a new role leading the Sunday School, whilst I played for Pentecost ‘hoymesse’ (traditional service) in Finnsnes and Sarah played for a confirmation service in Bjorelvnes. In the evening we held a Salmekveld (hymn singing evening) which is popular with many of the older folk, and was once again a test of both our Norwegian (can we understand the requests) and then our sight reading (this time there were over half the hymns I had never heard / sung / played before).
Monday was Andre Pinsedag: that’s the day after but still with church services. I played out on the island of Husøy. Husøy is now reached via two tunnels and a man-made causeway, and on the way back we stopped between the tunnels for coffee overlooking Øyfjorden, with the community of Fjordgård in the distance:
The weather has been amazing the last few days (T shirt and shorts weather with temperatures in the sun reaching the mid 30Cs (90f+), although cooler in the wind. We’ve taken the opportunity to get out for some walks around town, including down to the beach. Unfortunately the beach is not a pretty sight since many young people gathered overnight on the 16th of May to ‘celebrate’, leaving a lot of rubbish, and broken glass in the sand and sea which will render the beach useless to children and families. Sadly the police say they turn a blind eye (a useful phrase to remember in the event of any driving offense?). Last year a volunteer group from church cleared up the mess, but I haven’t heard anything for this year.
Last week we heard the sad news that our dear friend Arthur Doyle had passed into the Lord’s presence, although we are glad that he is now out of pain and reunited with his beloved May.
In his mid 80s Arthur was one of the longest standing members of the Prince George choir, who had served over many decades and only recently finally had to give up due to health issues. Despite serious back pain and failing eyesight he cheerfully climbed the rather dangerous spiral staircase to the choir loft and always did the extra trip for communion too. He was a fine bass, able to really get some power in the lower register and it always made me smile to hear him single the final note of a hymn or anthem ‘down the octave’. He repeatedly told me that he knew that some people stayed in choirs long after their voice was gone, and he always wanted me to just tell him when it was time for him to quit. That day never came!
As well as being a wonderful and dedicated singer, he was truly a gentle man, a devoted husband to Mary Lou, and possessed a deep faith.
He was a good friend to us, always encouraging and complimentary, a loyal ‘fan’ of Midday Musical Moments, and appreciative of what we did. We have many fond memories.
Today is his funeral and we’re sad not to be able to be with our Georgetown ‘family’, and especially David, the Gates and the Doyles. Here are a couple of pictures from happier days in rehearsal:
Last Thursday was Ascension Day. This is what the Gospel writer Luke wrote:
9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1).
Reading this triggers a couple of ‘lightweight’ questions:
1. I had always assumed that the clouds which both “took Jesus out of their sight”, and will bring Him back at the end of time, would be white (maybe some kind of cumulonimbus). However, I now wonder if it would be even more dramatic if He used of the clouds and lighting effects that saw last night? Or maybe we wont even notice as His glory outshines that of all his creation!
2. Were the “two men stood by them in white robes” the same two men described by Luke at the empty tomb (Luke 24)? They were presumably angels, but did they roll their eyes a little when God told them to go and ask the disciples ‘why’ – again?
Sunday marked the end of confirmations in Finnsnes church, with possibly the biggest congregation ever (713 were counted) and it was standing room only – even after putting a lot of extra ‘illegal’ chairs! It was also a day of mixed emotions as one of the young ladies who was confirmed had lost her father the day before: our prayers are with her and her family. All 4 services in Finnsnes church have been very encouraging with 1200 – 1500 people hearing God’s invitation, and Frank (catechist / youth minister) struck a fantastic balance between youthful , energetic worship, a sense of the ‘weight’ of what was being done. The music was a mix of traditional hymns and contemporary worship songs with organ and the church band. Many people young and old alike commented after the services that they were the best conformations they had ever attended, and one grandmother even wrote to the paper!
Sunday was rounded out with a trip to play for worship in Botnhamn – one of the outer villages on Senja. Some of the road is very bad with sudden dips in the surface caused by harsh winter temperatures ‘buckling’ the road width ways which feel like they might break the car suspension. This makes travel a bit slow, but I was very thankful of that when I suddenly encountered Rudoph and one of his pals, wandering around in the middle of the road, and in no hurry to get out of the way!