Monthly Archives: August 2013

Building The Kingdom

Yesterday we had the ‘grand opening’ of Finnsnes Church’ Lego Club.


Aimed at 6 – 9 year olds, it’s designed to compliment some of our other activities which, rightly or wrongly, are seen by some as more for girls. It certainly brought in the boys, who made up about 90% of the 50+ children who came.

The church recently purchased 65 kgs (140 lbs) of lego second hand from Germany, although even with a relatively vast supply we may need to buy more. As well as building time, there’s a short break in the middle for a bible story and song.

Out Of Puff

Today (Sunday) came with a suprise: a power cut in the middle of morning worship. First the lights went out and then about 10 seconds later all the air was gone from the organ, resulting in a rather premature and slightly comical end to the hymn. Unable to finish the hymn, the minister promptly announced that we would sing the next hymn?! Quick as a flash (how quick that is), I remembered that the organ (in Bjorelvnes church) still had it original hand pump, so I enlisted the help of the nearest man (lesson: don’t sit near the organ) to pump. This worked reasonably well, although the air pressure was a bit variable so the intonation and volume were proportionately wobbly. However, rather alarmingly, after only half a verse some other men near by started to look worried and rushed over to help. Thankfully at that point the power came back on, saving any impending heart attacks. None the less I’m very grateful to my volunteer for his help.


Later in the day we had skolestartfamiliegudstjeneste (a bit like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, but different), a special family service to start the school year, and to which those just beginning school are particularly invited (they also receive a book). Given that the organ in Finnsnes church has no hand crank facility we were glad to maintain full power throughout.

We heard the parable of the woman with 10 silver pieces who lost one and was overjoyed to find it again, and the children then went on their own treasure hunt, only to discover it was Jesus who finds them first.

Great fun and a powerful remind that all is by God’s grace alone  (alt av nåde).

An Indian Summer

This weekend we discovered that Norwegians also use the expression “an Indian summer”. The same weekend last year brought the first snow of winter, but this year we have had another two days of high temperatures, full sunshine and sunbathing! The only snow to be seen was small remnants from last winter, high in the mountains. The sky was blue, the sea was blue and Hurtigruter gave our brides it’s customary salute. Only the plants were confused as the summer flowers continued to bloom while the leaves began to fall.

Yesterday we had some of the last weddings of the summer season, the last of which also included a baptism (never done one of those before). Amongst all the finery were lots of ‘bunad’ (Norwegian folk costumes), from many different localities. Particularly eye-catching was the lady in the stripey wool socks. I shall never worry again about wearing socks with sandals.

Sunny Sunday

After Saturday’s miserable weather, Sunday came with glorious sunshine and warm temperatures. Between services we ate lunch on the veranda and sun bathed.

Evening worship took me to Fjordgård for a lovely family service. We finished about 6pm and the air was very clear, revealing a lot of detail on the surrounding mountains. I had never noticed before that the ‘starta’ in the rocks runs almost vertical, causing it to ‘peel’ as it slowly erodes. Whilst we still have traces of daylight all night, the sun now sets over Fjordgård shortly after 6pm due to the height of the surrounding mountains, especially Segla.

Back in Finnsnes we took these pictures at about 10pm, after a bike ride, with the light fading fast. Ottar The Viking was well placed to watch the wonderful colours!

Lødingen Concert Trip

Yesterday (Saturday) I traveled to Lødingen to play a concert with my friend Christopher Briggs. I had also hoped it would be a chance to take pictures of new views on the way. However it rained most of the day, with low cloud, so there was almost no opportunity for photography: just 7+ hours of concentrated driving.

The concert consisted of a mix of popular and less well known organ and piano solos, plus one duet (an arrangement of the 2nd movement of Camille Saint-Saëns 3rd symphony (the Organ Symphony). We also used some of the videos, created for our Være i stillheten events in Finnsnes. The evening went well with an audience of 24 (a good number for Lødingen), and a free will offering netting about 1500 kroner for the church music fund.

I’m grateful to Christopher for his invitation and hospitality.

Here are some pictures (most from Christopher – thanks!). The bridge links the mainland to the Lofotens on which Lødingen is located. The old geezer with the ear piece is me (no I’m not listening to the cricket, nor am I hard of hearing: it’s to help me keep in sync with the video, although it was quite disconcerting hearing the rather differently tuned Finnsnes organ in one ear and the Lødingen instrument in the other!). There is more information about the organ here.

And So It Begins . . .

The last week or so we have just begun to see the beginnings of autumn as the leaves on a few individual trees begin to turn, and more generally the whole landscape looks just a bit less green. However, school starts next week and several locals have told us that it’s always good weather then.

These pictures are from Rossfjord yesterday, where the bottom of the river has developed really big blankets of weed / algae:

Tomorrow (Saturday) I’m traveling to Lødingen to play in a joint concert with my friend Christopher Briggs. The 3.5 hour drive is said to be very photogenic so I’m trying to leave in good time to take pictures on the way. If you happen to be in Lødingen, do drop in – the concert is free (with a retiring collection).

Runway Clear For Landing

Yesterday Susanna and I drove to Tromsø to  collect Sarah from the airport. There are direct flights from London to Tromsø at the moment which is nearly convenient: they currently get in at 9pm, after the last ferry back to Finnsnes which means either a night in a hotel or 5 hours for someone to drive there and back.

Airport parking is expensive, so we decided to wait in the shopping centre car park which is next to the airport and free, thinking we would spot Sarah’s plane landing and drive round to pick here up. After a few minutes wait we were rather shocked to see not a commercial airliner landing, but a stream of parachutists. We had just begun to wonder if perhaps Norwegian (the airline) was economising by not landing the plane, just pushing out the passengers, when we got a call from Sarah to say her plane was already in. Even so . . .

Sommer I Nord

Last week Finnsnes church was the venue for Sommer I Nord (summer in the north), a Christian conference. It’s orgainsed by Normisjon, separate from the Norwegian Church, but many people from our parish are involved. Whilst the requirements of weddings, funerals and other services meant we couldn’t get to everything, we enjoyed the evening meeting with a range of speakers from across Norway and a music group which blended contemporary instruments and music with cello and classical elements. Having speakers from other areas certainly tested our Norwegian; unlike some countries were people moderate their accent / dialect to aid communication, here the onus is often on the listener to try to understand! So, we have almost no idea what the man from Bergen said (along with about 50% of the other attendees!).

To our surprise (and that of his parents) we also met Matt Rishton a friend of Susanna’s from England who now works organising youth events for Normisjon. Susanna and Matt enjoyed singing the English words to songs (really loudly) which everyone else was singing in Norwegian translation!

No pictures, but if you find yourself in Finnsnes in August 2014 with a few days to spare (and you speak Norwegian), it’s highly recommended.


The Norwegian Church has a large book of regulations covering many things, including the colour of clergy shoes. However, today it was found wanting, leaving us to improvise.

This morning I played for an ‘utegudstjeneste’ (outdoor service) in Gibostad park as part of Gibostadmartna (outdoor market weekend). Thankfully the weather was lovely – blue sky, sunny and only a hint of chill in the wind. The first of our ‘improvisations’ came when we set up our ‘sandwich board’ directing people to the service and realised the direction arrow was facing the wrong way. No problem we thought – we had made posters with arrows facing in both directions for exactly this eventuality – until we found out that despite thinking we had printed both versions, all the arrows faced the same (wrong) way. OK, we’ll just draw it on – but then no pen could be found. So a little ‘artistic’ tearing was the solution.

The next slightly more embarrassing problem came during the service. Ordinarily the takkoffer (money offering / collection) is achieved by those that want to give walking around the communion table and putting their gift in a basket on the table. However, we had no communion table. No problem, we’ll pass a basket round (except their was no basket available, although with hind sight we could perhaps have loaned / purchased one from the inevitable basket stalls). In the end the solution came in the form of a baseball cap, loaned by a visiting worshiper. Crisis averted.

We are considering writing to the Kirkeråd (the national church council) to suggest our innovations be included in the next edition of their rule book. On the other hand, we had one of their number in attendance, so perhaps they will beat us to it . . .

Hands Across The Water

Next Saturday I’m traveling to Lødingen on the Lofoten Islands (about 3.5 hours drive south of Finnsnes) to play a joint concert with Christopher Briggs, who preceded me as kantor here in Finnsnes. We’ll play both organ and piano, including a duet, and some of the piece will be accompanied by images / video. You can read what Christopher has written about the concert here.

We have many things in common, including a love of photography, so in honour of our up-coming collaboration here is one of his recent pictures, described in his own words below:



The mountain in the middle is “Norway’s mountain” (Norges nasjonalfjell, Stetind) and it is worth considering how large a thundercloud is when you compare it to the mightiest mountains!

The thunderstorms occurred mainly inland on the other side of the fjord, and here in Lødingen we had lovely sunny weather and could watch them from afar.