I woke up missing church. Last Sunday in Torshavn, I tried to figure out how to go to church, but my attempts to decipher webpages in Faroese was too much for me.
The main denomination in the Faroe Islands is in the Lutheran tradition. Most towns and even hamlets have a lovely (and frequently photographed) church. However, I have always found them locked.
Last night I started researching again. Somehow I happened on to a page about the new integration minister who was leading English language worship in the Faroese churches. However, there was no information I could find on the Fólkakirkjan website, at least in English, about when and where. I emailed her with my query. Alas. No response.
I wasn’t feeling a church welcome here. I thought how wonderful it would have been for someone to invite me to church.
I decided that we could find a place out on the road today and stop and worship there. A pause at my new favorite bakery, and we were off for another day of Faroese beauty.
Until we weren’t.
My friend and I had stopped at a scenic overlook and were having a wonderful beginning to our Sunday. When we got back in the car to drive away, the steering wheel had locked and the key wouldn’t turn. No matter how hard we tried, nothing would budge.
On a mountain top in the gray, windy cold with no phone service and no one near, we waited for a car to drive by.
The first person we flagged down, looked at his watch and said he had to be somewhere in five minutes. He told us he would be driving back that way in an hour if we still needed help. The story I made up in my head was that he was on his way to church. Or even a pastor.
The next man who came by had to stop, reluctantly, because we were sort of blocking the road with our waving arms. He never spoke and hurried away.
I made up the story that he would drive to the next town and send help.
But he didn’t.
And then, oh yes, I remembered to ask God to come to my assistance.
Soon later, another truck drove by and while we tried to flag him down, he sped on by—but then he paused, and backed up.
He was late to work and didn’t understand much English. I pantomimed what was wrong with our car, and he hopped out of his truck and jumped in our car. One tug, and he unlocked the steering wheel and the key turned. As we thanked him with amazement, he smiled and said, “A strong man!”
I felt a little like I had lived the parable of the helpful Samaritan, except it was the parable of the Atlantic Airways baggage handler.
Later we did stop for noontime prayers, and it was lovely. As the day passed, I still felt unsettled by the car incident and the desire to worship in community on this Sunday.
As we were driving back towards the city, I spotted a church. With an open door!!! It was the first open church door I’d seen in the Faroes this visit.
We circled back and parked in the parking lot. The gate was open, and we walked in the door. A woman came from the sacristy and I asked her if we could stop and pray. We had a quiet conversation, and she let us know that we had just missed Sunday worship. She told us we were welcome to pray as long as we wanted.
And so we did.
As we left, I thanked the woman for staying so we could worship and told her how much it meant to find an open church. We both became a bit teary, and she brought her mom from the sacristy to meet us. Her mom had been serving in the church for over sixty years. I told her that I was a priest, and we called her ministry, altar guild.
We had found community on this Sunday. In our prayers by the road, with the helpful baggage handler who helped by the road, and by the women who served on the altar guild who left the door of the church open in welcome.