Eating, sleeping and worshiping Danish
Yes, we stopped at the Danish bakery Saturday morning and bought fresh Danish pastries; the bakery is busy each morning selling "Danish" and dark Rye bread which is sliced thinly and spread with everything from cucumbers and pickled herring to liver pate' and peanut butter and contstitutes at least one meal per day for most Danes (including the entire congregation after morning worship). Sunday we went to my neice Carrie's/Hans' church. It is one of a few "free" churches (those not state-sponsored Lutheran) and has about 80 members after its first 16 years. After 1 half hour of prayer, there is 45 minutes of singing led by a rock band, 45 minutes of sermon, and 15 minutes of communion. The Pastor was heard to complain that only 80% of the congregation tithed (gave 10% or more of their household income) to the church, until he went to a church conference in the U.S. and made the mistake of complaining about the poor stewardship of his congregation to an American pastor, who set him straight with regard to realistic expectaions. As I recall, the average American household gives about 2-1/2% to all charities combined but church members are substantially more generous than non-members on average. I have never met an average church member; each is uniquely gifted and responds in personally appropriate ways.
After worship we were all invited to the home of a church member named Martha Neilson. She is the head of the local Danish-American Club which celebrates the 4th of July each year in remembering the liberation of Denmark from Nazi oppression. Her home was built in the years 1776-1779 and was a bachelor's manor house with 35 servants when first completed. We drove down a long cobblestone lane, through a gatehouse into an estate surrounded by a tall brick wall, across a stone bridge and into a courtyard with a large fountain. The house is easily as long as the block of Iowa City where we live, and the garden and grounds are lush and well kept. The rooms are very elegant and some of the furnishings date back to the 17th century when ancestors of the orginal owner of the estate formed their lineage through the marriage of two royal houses in Germany. The 16th century "cornerstone" proclaiming that marriage adorns the wall of the dining room, having been brought from Germany to give witness to the nobility of the family lineage. Many of the walls are covered in handpainted tiles from the Netherlands which have the appearance of wallpaper. A crane-shaped weather vane atop the house is mechanically linked to a large wind direction indicator in the living room. A small window on a south facing wall is designed to hold a sundial: high tech in its day. Mr. Neilson (Karl) is obviously a successful businessman. He and his wife raised 4 daughters in the house, and sometimes boarded homeless families there in its ample rooms until they could get back on their feet. Out back, a "tea house" with a thatched roof has just been restored. The Neilsons are very gracious hosts; Karl meets us in old leather slippers worn through at the toes while a picture of him with the new General Secretary of the United Nations peaks out from a magazine on the picnic table where we are served coffee. The Neilsons have visted the Danish Consulor in Des Moines several times- just good friends. As we leave we exchange blessings for our respective families and congregations and pile into the family Fiat for the trip for the trip to Carrie and Hans' home. Another amazing day.