Standing in the legacy of N.F.S. Grundtvig, a 19th century pastor, theologian, hymn writer, politician and social innovator, West Denmark blends traditional liturgy with a deep appreciation of the natural world and concern for social justice. Our worship style and space reflect those values. Clear glass windows overlook the wooded shores of Little Butternut Lake opening worshipers to God’s revelation in the world. They speak to our openness to new ideas, to new people and the gifts new people bring. Our liturgical worship reflects this – new hymns mix with old, the ancient words of worship are sung even as we explore new inspirations and new ways of hearing and experiencing Christ’s advent among us. Come, and worship, help us form a community of Christ.
Under the fun, informative and inspiring directorship of Harry Johansen, the choir is in full voice at rehearsals on Wednesdays at 7 and once a month or so in worship. The Choir is accompanied by Christine Johansen who knows our every failing and plays those notes a little louder – in addition to her own full score. We take the summer months off, and are appreciative of special music then or anytime.
Come join us and be inspired – perhaps even inspiring!
It is the pastor’s job (and joy) to equip lay people in developing and sharing their gifts. Here are some of those gifts put to use in worship at West Denmark: Prayers are avenues of communication between ourselves and God. They are a beautiful expression of faith and concern for others. The Prayers of the Church are actually the prayers of the people. We are fortunate to have lay people write and offer the prayers of our community in worship.
There are other avenues for participation: Scripture is read by lay members; communion bread is baked at home and presented – giving emphasis to the sacramental nature of daily life; ushers welcome and guide guests and worshipers; fellowship is hosted – at times spilling over out into the community with invitations for lunch or the afternoon; the altar is set and communion wine poured out for others; our financial gifts are gathered, accounted for, and sent out; worship services and seasons are planned; the church is cleaned and cared for; and music – played, sung, chanted – accompanies our thoughts, spirits and prayers.
From September through May the Narrative Lectionary wends our way through the Bible following the storyline of God’s relational involvement with the world. The Word of God organized the burgeoning forces of life, guided and pushed a people forward, constrained and warned through law and prophet for the sake of relationships between all people. We witness the formation of a people of God, recognize their faults and “fallings” as our own, and move with them into God’s grand experiment of grace: the incarnation – the indwelling of God with us (immanuel) in Jesus. The living Word will move through and even beyond that human life, as Jesus the Christ, the anointed one, calls us still to follow, pushes us still to move forward, who loves us still – enough to dwell among us in Spirit and truth – even to the end of the age.
Why the Narrative Lectionary? The shortest answer is simply this: knowledge of the biblical story is crucial to mature Christian faith. Rolf Jacobsen is one of the designers of this project: “This lectionary is not simply a series of stories,” he writes, “but rather, it is a series of stories that facilitate an understanding and appreciation for the broader biblical story.” In the fall, the readings work through the Old Testament. During Christmas, Epiphany, and Lent the readings are from the Gospels. During the season of Easter we read and consider the word from Acts and Paul.
In the summers we are free to explore other corners of the Bible such as the Psalms, the book of Revelation, Paul’s letters, other New Testament writings, Jesus’ parables, or the varied Wisdom literature. The narrative goal is to give a broader picture of the context, greater depth, and (hopefully) a clearer understanding of the overarching themes of the Bible so that the good news of God’s living Word, found throughout scripture, will find a home in our daily lives.
Year in Worship
The four Sundays prior to Christmas make up the season of Advent. The commercial, cultural calendar is busy preparing us for Christmas, but the church calendar prepares us for the coming of Christ – in both a baby born in Bethlehem and in the “second coming” of Jesus Christ at the end of the ages. The readings for worship are prophetic – news of judgment and warning, but through it the boundless grace and love of God, who comes to us in person, for the sake of a world God loves. Special music, themed children’s messages and fellowship often accompany our worship through these days.
Christmas Eve Services
Our joyful, traditional family Christmas Eve worship service. Filled with music and the favorite carols of the season, we hear the story of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, of the shepherd’s amazement and angel chorus celebrating the Son of God, born in our midst. Interspersed are short readings and poems. The West Denmark Choir joins in with the angels.
10:30 pm ~ Candlelight Communion Worship Service
Quiet, peaceful, intimate – a beautiful Worship Service celebrating the Nativity accompanied by guitar in candle-glow lighting.
Both services end with all those present lighting individual candles, dimming the lights in the sanctuary and singing Silent night, Holy night, all is calm, all is bright…
Part of West Denmark’s beloved Christmas tradition is the family Christmas program and the Juletre, or dancing around the Christmas tree. The program itself is intergenerational, of late written by Pastor Linda and Christine Johansen and typically consists of Christmas carols, poems and songs by the Sunday School children, and an original nisse skit written by Christine Johansen – our own local authority on nisser activity. The program ends with a reading of the nativity story and singing Silent Night – a favorite Christmas carol. Then the chairs are put away and the lighted 15 foot tree is brought into the center of the room. One of the Happy Dane traditions is ring dancing around the Christmas Tree as carols are sung. Of course, coffee follows.
Lent is an old-fashioned, seemingly out-of-date observance. Its roots were catechismal – a 40 day period of instruction and preparation for those (primarily adults) preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil. Over the years its practices of self-reflection, self-denial, prayer, and meditation on scripture lost touch with their origin and became occasions for pious self-degradation. Instead of an intentional focus on God and instruction in the ways of Jesus, the focus turned inward – the deficits of human nature, our sinful state, our need for divine mercy.
Lent is more properly a time to appreciate the paradox of life that rises in the midst of death, hope that shows itself even in despair and fear, love and purpose that live on beyond us, beyond our abilities, beyond our own lives through the power of Christ’s cross and the love of God.
Lent is the March we experience in our lives – a mix of inevitable, untimely, unwanted ends, mortality, limitation and the steady, unpredictable, often unseen happening of new life and transcendence and joy.
Lent reminds us that life wins. Lent reminds us that hope is an inexorable force – breaking open cocoons, and seed husks, and hardened hearts, and frightened nights, and painful endings. The lesson of the cross is that love, the profound life force and spirit centered in God, finally wins.
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday – a traditional liturgy in which Holy Communion is celebrated with the blessing and imposition of ashes. The cross shaped smudge of ashes is a reminder that “…you are dust, and to dust you shall return” … a connection to God, a connection to the earth, a connection to the cross of our salvation is a small, solemn ritual.
Mid-Week Lenten Services and Supper
Each week begins with a Lenten Soup Supper at 6 pm preceding the 7pm Worship Service. Meals consist of kettles of soup, sandwiches, bars, milk, and coffee provided by volunteers (sign-up). Confirmation students serve the meals and help with clean-up.
The Holden Evening Prayer setting shapes our worship. The theme for the five weeks between Ash Wednesday and Holy Week changes each year – in the past couple of years we have considered the work we do as vocations – work used by God for the sake of a world in need. We have considered the intersection of faith and science – how these two voices of truth speak in our lives, how we make sense of the dialog. Each week we hear from members of our congregation as they think out loud helping us see God working in the world and in our everyday lives. Music, prayer, candlelight and psalms assist our contemplation of faith.
Join in the traditional procession with palms. At West Denmark we wave Eco-Palms – grown and harvested in a sustainable way that protects the environment and allows hard-working palm harvesters to support their families … a sustainable development project of Lutheran World Relief.
Jesus enters Jerusalem in a kingly parade, riding a donkey – traditionally a royal mount – but weeps over the city that does not know the things that make for peace.
Come for a Seder-style meal at 6:00 pm featuring roast lamb, ratatouille, rice, charoset (apple, nut and honey salad), boiled eggs, matzoh, bitter greens and sparkling juice.
Worship follows at 7:00 pm including Holy Communion as we hear the gospel story of the Last Supper and Jesus feeding his betrayer, his closest friends, and us. The altar is striped and left empty in preparation for these solemn, holy days.
A simple Fish Soup supper at 6:00 pm precedes the 7:00 pm Worship Service featuring the reading of Jesus’ passion, confession using the format of solemn reproach, and prayers for healing and hope placed as candles in a cross of sand. We hear of Jesus’ crucifixion and death and we depart in silence, awaiting ….
Worship at 8:00 am
Join us in festival celebration in praise and worship for the life given us through Christ in God’s mercy and enduring love. The tomb that held Jesus’ body is empty! He is not there, but has been raised to new life though the power of God. God has done this so that we, too, might be given life everlasting! Alleluia!
Children may participate in an Easter egg hunt on the way to breakfast at the Parish Hall.
At the beginning of summer, Pentecost is the 50th and final day of the Easter season. It celebrates the sending of the Holy Spirit to the disciples and to all believers. Through the Holy Spirit we come to believe in Christ, we are given gifts to be used for the sake of all people – “the world in need,” and are inspired to be stewards of the environment and our fellow creatures.
The Holy Spirit is portrayed both as a dove and as flame, gentle and searing, it both moves within us and sends us out into the community.
The Season of Pentecost is the longest of the church year spanning summer and autumn until the beginning of Advent.
Typically, Reformation is the Sunday we celebrate the rite of Confirmation for confirmands who have completed the course and requirements. All Saints commemorates those who have died in the past year, the loved ones we hold before God in memory and thanksgiving for the life of faith they exemplified.