(Post 4 of 5)
Back on the trail of #meetthenorth (check previous posts) we attended a service at Svalbard Kirke this morning led by pastor Leif Magne Helgesen. The clean beauty of the church surprised me; wood panels and gold paint welcomed us
Leif was raised in Madagascar by missionary parents, and he’s been in Svalbard since 2008. “Nature is nice here, but it’s nice in the Seychelles, it’s nice in the Maldives and in Madagascar. I would not have stayed here for so long if it wasn’t for the rich cultural life
Leif’s is a Norwegian Church (Lutheran Protestant) in an isolated community, but he presents a global context, reminding us of climate change, conflict and poverty. His sermon talks about spring when the flowers come up out of the earth, and in Svalbard all flowers are protected by law. “But each human is protected too,” he says, “so do not hurt or walk over anyone. We need to lift the value of each person”
Svalbard does not have extended medical care or services for the elderly, so attending to the sick and bereaved is missing from Leif’s job description. “This is not a life long society,” he reminds us. But death still comes from accidents, suicide or heart attacks. “When it happens, it affects everyone. We are dependent on each other”
We asked Leif to introduce us to something new about Longyearbyen, and he recommended a hike up the mountain behind the church. He said we would feel the force of nature there. Did we ever. Check out the next post.