Friday, April 2, 2010

SkjærTorsdag i Aksdals Kirke or Maunday Thursday in Aksdal Church

This evening, Harald, my sister-in-law and I all went to the church in Aksdal, where we usually attend services to go to the Maunday Thursday hour. As promised, I shot a few photos with my trusty iPhone so I could show you all a little bit of how it looks...thing is though, it was NOT a normal service.

It had to be one of the neatest church services I've ever been to. As some of you might already know, but some of you I'm sure don't (thus the explanation) Maunday Thursday, or Holy Thursday celebrates the Last Supper of Jesus and his Apostles. It follows Good Friday (which is the day Jesus died) and at the end of every Lutheran service, the altar and any other banners or decoration in the church is ceremoniously stripped in silence and replaced with either nothing, or plain black cloth to prepare for our Savior's death, and to commemorate his arrest in Gethsemane that occured after the Supper.
So all that happened, in a fairly routine manner (except the little children of the congregation aided the pastor in stripping down the altar instead of the elders)...right after our congregation dinner. Inside the sanctuary, and taking up really the whole floor, was a large communal table in the shape of a large "T" with chairs on both sides of it for everyone to sit at...

the view looking towards the altar

the view with my back to the altar, looking out the doors to the sanctuary

How freaking neat is that?! We all sat down, sang a few hymns, the Pastor read the scriptures, delivered his sermon, then announced it was time to introduce ourselves to everyone around us in order to observe a fellowship in honor of Jesus's Last Supper. Then we ate. And if you know anything about Weegies, you know they love their bread and spreads (brød og pålegg) and it's snacking/breakfast/lunch/cold supper food. Before we ate, as part of the sermon the Pastor explained the relevance of some of the food items, we had crisp bread for the equivalent of unleavened bread, hard boiled eggs to remind us that some times things have to be broken and taken apart for something good to come of them (isn't that lovely? it was my favorite explanation), we had juice as a supplement for the wine Christ shared at the first communion that night, and so on...
After we ate (probably about 30 minutes or so), which followed his sermon, we sang a few more hymns, prayed and the Pastor went all the way around the table to administer Communion to us. Then the altar was stripped, the usual church announcements (including the times for services for the rest of Easter observation) were read, and everyone helped clean up the meal mess before heading out.

It was the coolest, friendliest Maunday Thursday service I've ever been to. What greater way to celebrate and remember the Last Supper of Jesus, and the giving and receiving of the first communion, than to have a supper with your congregation?

I took a few more photos, just to get the idea of the church and how new and clean looking it is...

from outside obviously...

the neat lighting fixtures/chandeliers in the sanctuary...I think there are six total, three on each side of the aisle

the beautiful and large pipe organ

with the late afternoon light, it was hard to get a decent photo of the altar wall and it's stained glass, I'll try for a better one tomorrow, you can't really tell how neat it is from this one...but that's the modern art Jesus on the cross at the bottom there, you can barely see the halo of swirled glass above his head, or the fact that for some reason his thigh/knee area is also glass instead of being whatever metal the rest of his body is. Also, he is pretty much armless and footless. Odd but pretty. Again, I'll get a better photo I promise.

Banners to the left of the altar...

Banners to the right of the altar...including the usual pulpit that the Pastor uses. It was pushed up against the wall for this service because he was sitting at the table with us, and would just stand to deliver his sermon, the scriptures and the kyrie. He sat directly in front of the altar, with his back to it.

In the center of this photo is the church's baptismal font. It's totally glass and metal also, and is usually more prominently to the right of the altar and front of the church, but you know that giant table kind of won that battle...Anyway, it's got four-sided, square glass pillars to hold it up, and the glass bowl itself is suspended from the pillars with silver. Pretty huh? I'll try and get a better photo of that too at some point.

What do you all think? Pretty Scandinavian and modern looking, isn't it? Definitely different from what you tend to think of when you think of European churches, and much different from any other church I've been to before.

I also got to officially meet our Pastor today, since we got to the service fairly early. He seems like a really nice guy, he's pretty young, can't be more than ten years older than me, and has a lovely wife and three tiny ones. He welcomed me, and I found out that the parsonage and thus where he lives, is right down the street from us, in our neighborhood! He was pleased I was attending, and told me he had been meaning to meet me too since he had seen me a few different services since Christmas and didn't recognize me. He asked me if I had been following along well enough, and I said I had, that I enjoyed his sermons, as far as I could understand them, and I tried! He just laughed, and encouraged me to say my prayers in English if I wished so I could participate, to enjoy it. I do!  And I usually do pray and say the creeds in English, but sing all the hymns in Norwegian, which I understand pretty well too...progress!

I'll try for better altar photos tomorrow, we're also planning on dyeing our Easter eggs tomorrow after the Good Friday service...