Norway - The village church at Odde
( Originally Published 1907 )
Direction—We are facing now about northeast. The fjord is just too far to the left for us to see at this moment. Surroundings—Right around us are
the village houses and gardens. We saw from our previous position up on the hill that the village buildings are grouped quite close together.
They do not have service every Sunday through the year, or, as they themselves might put it, not every Sunday is a "Sermon Sunday." The pastor conducts public worship also in one or two other churches, some distance away, and dates must alternate at certain intervals. Only by some such plan can the people in places smaller than Odde manage to pay a pastor. The "circuit" plan is practically similar to that followed in some sparsely settled districts in America.
Morning service is just over now. The men and boys are coming out from their seats in the right side of the bare wooden sanctuary ; the women and girls had been sitting decorously at the other side. Nearly everybody has a hymn book. Now, as they stand or stroll along in the summer sunshine, there is a chance to greet relatives and friends. "Thanks for the last meeting" is a favorite salutation which children are taught to offer. "Thanks to yourself" is the conventional reply. The talk is just such as one hears at any gathering of country folk—inquiries for the health; comments on the weather; comparison of experiences or judgments on the crops. Norwegian people are taciturn oftener than talkative, and a few well-worn phrases do duty for the expression of a great amount of neighborly interest and cordial good feeling.
Confirmation is a great occasion celebrated once a year, when boys and girls of fourteen or fifteen years, after a series of special lessons with the pas-tor, stand in line in the aisles, the boys on one side of the house and the girls on the other side, to pass a public examination in the Church catechism. To be appointed by the pastor to stand at the altar end of one's line, in the sight of the whole congregation, is an honor comparable to that of being chosen valedictorian at an American grammar school "commencement." The benediction given to the young people is practically the same one that is familiar to members of other Protestant churches :—"The Lord bless thee and keep thee. The Lord make His face to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee. The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee and give thee peace."
It is the ceremony which ends childhood and admits boys and girls to the rank of young men and women. A good many romances begin at a place and time like this, when a youth's eyes rest on some demure damsel in new Sunday clothes and he suddenly begins to realize how grown-up she looks, and how pretty, and he feels grown-up, himself.
Weddings are solemnized here, the invited guests coming from far and near, on foot, in farm wagons, and in row-boats over the fjord. The guests go back to the house with the wedded pair and spend at least the day and evening in gay festivities.
Many Norwegian authors have portrayed interesting types of country clergymen. Brand in Ibsen's famous dramatic poem, known to English and American readers through Herford's excellent translation, is a clergyman, but in no sense a typical one. Nor is Bjornson's Pastor Sang in Over Evne, who lives in a realm of spiritual exaltation so far above the level of everyday experience that he is represented as curing a bedridden invalid by the compelling power of prayer.
Even in a country church like this the pastor is a man with a university education, and tradition makes him a greatly respected figure in the community, the respect sometimes implying a certain degree of social isolation.
The smart little shop at this side of the church, with the flag-pole over the door, is devoted mainly to the sale of photographs, embroideries, silver trinkets, knicknacks carved out of wood, and other souvenirs for summer tourists. Shops are closed on Sunday, though custom encourages picnics, athletic sports and dancing on Sunday afternoons after church is over for the day.
Had you noticed that electric lights are established here? Nothing could be easier than to install electric lights in a land like Norway, where water-power is going to waste on every hand. Progressive inn-keepers are finding it wise to introduce more and more such modern improvements.
There are several interesting excursions from Odde. Some of them involve journeying in a little fjord steamer which touches at various small piers like an accommodation train. If we look out from the second story of a building on the Odde wharf, a few rods beyond the church, we can see passengers gathering for such a voyage.