Danish United Methodist church values global ties
Spotlight: A Vital Congregation
In Denmark, where only 2 percent of the population regularly attends church, every United Methodist congregation must be "vital."
The general Danish population is secular, despite belonging to the Lutheran State Church.
"People go [to church] to get their children baptized, have weddings and funerals there, maybe go to Christmas service, but that's it. It's disengaging and doesn't require anything of you in return," says the Rev. Ole Birch, a member of the Connectional Table and pastor of Jerusalemskirken United Methodist, the oldest church in Copenhagen. It has around 450 members. He also serves as district superintendent in the annual conference with 10 churches and 200 members.
However, Birch says United Methodism's global connection is a huge help.
"Thanks to the connection, we've been able to introduce the concept of Sunday school and various music styles, as well as central mission and local outreach," Birch says.
Jerusalemskirken hosts soup kitchens and halfway houses, and offers personal counseling. It also has active small groups and an English-speaking worship service for asylum-seeking refugees, mainly from West Africa.
He also credits the global church connection for the popularity of African-American gospel music in Denmark.
"A man from my congregation spent six months in the United States and became a huge fan of gospel music. He brought it back to Denmark and started a popular movement," Birch says. Jerusalemskirken has three gospel choirs and there are probably 100 choirs in the city. Flekkefjord United Methodist in Norway has African-British staff members who lead gospel choirs.
Birch says the church in Central Europe also embraces mission work. Centralkirken in Oslo, Norway, has a strong heart for African mission. New Beginnings in Estonia and Riga First in Latvia successfully reach out to young people. Six new churches have been planted in the Nordic and Baltic countries.
"The state church is national in reach and isolated," Birch says, "but we're influenced far beyond our own size and reach because of the global connection."
Joey Butler is multimedia editor for Interpreter.