The Late Lutheran

Lutheran Church, Patreksfjordur, Iceland

Lutheran Church, Patreksfjordur, Iceland

I went to church Sunday. Alda said I should go this week if I wanted to go because I wouldn’t have another chance. They only have church every six weeks or so, though Alda joked that there wouldn’t be another church service until Christmas. The little I know about religion in Iceland is the national religion is Lutheran, but [at least in this town] most people do not attend church. How do I know this? About 700 people live here in Patro and there were seven of us at church, not including the priest or choir in the balcony.

After work, I rushed over to the church but ended up waiting for ten minutes in the silent little chapel with the few others. The steeple bells finally chimed and the priest slowly came out the side room. He blessed the congregation and thusly began a short forty minute sermon. Yes, I know I had no clue what he was saying because I cannot speak Icelandic, but it was lovely.

It seems the priest works a circuit, and that is why church is seldom held here in Patro. I suppose the profession of priest isn’t very popular. In contrast, a nearby town in Southern Illinois with the same amount of people has at least five churches which are typically well-attended. The profession itself seems to be the same monetarily and the priests receive a parsonage as in America, so it’s not like priesthood requires poverty.

So, what are my observations about Icelandic Lutheranism? Well, I think this sums it up: No one locks their doors here. Even Alda said she wasn’t quite sure where the key to the house was. People can come and go at the hostel, and hospitality is fierce here. But the one building which stays locked is the church. I think that says a lot.

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