Denmark, Faeroe Islands, Greenland

Danish Union of Churches Conference

 danish

Organised in 1880, reorganised 1931, 1992, and 2008

Churches: 37
Address: Syvende Dags, Adventistkirken Concordiavej 16 C, 2850 Nærum, Denmark
Website: www.adventist.dk
Territory: Denmark, Faeroe Islands, Greenland

The history of the church in Denmark

The Adventist Message reached Denmark from the United States in 1872 by means of the Danish monthly, Advent Tidende, which John G Matteson, a native of Denmark, had started primarily for the Scandinavian people in America.

In May of the same year, Matteson received a letter from a man who had already begun to keep the Sabbath and who was distributing the papers among his neighbours in order to win others. In June, Matteson sent 20 taler ($11) to another man in Denmark and asked him to have a tract on the Sabbath printed and distributed. Later Matteson received word that copies had been printed and given out, and also received many encouraging letters from readers of the Advent Tidende in Denmark, stating that they had begun to follow the teachings of the Bible as they had found them taught in the papers.

In 1875 M A Sommer wrote from Denmark that he had been reading the Advent Tidende for two years. As the printer of a monthly paper with a circulation of 4,000, he asked for and received permission of the officers in Battle Creek to incorporate articles from the Advent Tidende in his paper. But when he boldly attacked the ministers of the State Church, he was arrested and imprisoned for two months in 1876.

In March 1877 one of the interested readers wrote of some of his attempts to win others. ‘I hope that the Lord in His mercy will allow His workers to visit Denmark, so that souls also here may be won for the Lord.’ After receiving several such letters from different parts of Denmark, Matteson wrote to James White, the president of the General Conference, asking for permission to leave his work in the States and take missionary work in Denmark. His request was granted, and he was promised the prayers and financial support of the American Seventh-day Adventists.

The pioneers worked hard and unselfishly and on 30 May 1880, the Danish Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the first self-supporting Adventist organisation outside the USA, was organised with ninety-one members in seven churches, and thirty sympathisers, several of whom kept the Sabbath.

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The history of church in Faeroe Islands

The Seventh-day Adventist faith was first brought to the Faroe Islands by Norwegian born O. J. Rost Olsen in 1893. In 1908 Wilhelm Nordlund, from Sweden, continued the work of his predecessor, followed in 1913 by two Danes, Valdemar Jacobsen and Gaston Emanuel Christiansen (who later changed his name to Westmann). In 1915 G.E. Westmann held a series of evangelistic meetings in Vági and baptized the first five converts.

The first Adventist church in Torshavn (1922-1932) was named Bethel. In 1917 there were 13 baptized members on the Faroe Islands. The first annual meeting was held in 1924 with 18 people present. In 1930 there were 48 members.

In 1937 the mission house Betel was purchased and used as an official mission house and church. For the following 38 years, the mission house was used as a place of worship until it was sold in 1975.

For several years, the church in the Faroe Islands was part of the territory of the Iceland-Faroes Conference under the West Nordic Union in the Northern European Division. In 1946 it was united with the East Denmark Conference. During this time Norwegian Schøning Andreasen (1926-31) and Faroese Niels Johannes Viderø (1931-1947) served as pastors for the church. Then for a period of 36 years pastors from Denmark primarily took turns of two to four years ministering to the congregation in Tórshavn and the scattered members on the islands as well as conducting evangelistic outreach.

Seventh-day Adventist fishermen from the Faroes first brought Adventist literature to Greenland before it was opened to the proclamation of the Advent message.

Literature was always important for reaching this island population with the Advent message. The first colporteurs stayed a few months each year and sowed the seed. In 1961, however, Ib Jensen from Denmark moved to the Faroe Islands and worked as a fulltime literature evangelist for 45 years. He visited every inhabited island and placed his books in almost every home. He stayed in people’s homes overnight and ate at their tables. And even though he was prone to seasickness, he defied the rough sea and went to meet his customers. Especially the children’s books Skýmingarløtan (Bedtime Stories) and Trúfastir vinir (My Bible Friends) were very popular. He also took subscriptions for the health magazine “Sundhedsbladet” and sold many Adventist books in Danish to the people he visited. His winning manner opened doors and hearts everywhere.

An Adventist school was established in 1965 located at Hoyvíksvegur 56, FO-100 Tórshavn. The building of the current church in Torshavn was begun in 1977 and on the 17th of June 1978, the church opened its doors.

The Skodsborg physiotherapy clinic was launched in Torshavn in 1957. The clinic and the school had a positive impact on the population in the Faroe Islands as local people and their children came to the clinic and the school, thereby giving them an opportunity them to hear the Adventist message. Leaflet and book distributions became important ways in which to reach people. Big meetings in hired halls, usually on Sundays, and meetings in the Adventist Church in Torshavn on Fridays were also part of the outreach work. A hymnbook with Faroese hymns was introduced in 1964.

In 1984 the first Faroese with academic theological training, Jens Vilhelm Danielsen, became pastor of the church and worked there until 2009. This gave more stability to the church and acceptance in the wider community, too. The sermons could again be heard in the native language, and opportunities were opened for regular radio and television programs for the public. Danielsen was well known in the religious community and was also part of a group working on a new Bible translation.

In 1988 Skodsborg physiotherapy clinic was sold to the local council. The school is still owned by the Danish Adventist Union, but on 1 August 2014 it was rented out to another local school and is no longer being run by Adventists.

The Faroese are very generous, especially when it comes to helping people in need. For more than 70 years the Adventist church has visited the homes with an annual appeal called “Hjálpsemi” (Action to Help). The funds collected are for ADRA projects. One of the pioneers was Bina á Ryggi, who visited most of the homes on the island of Vagur. Over the years a team of three to five additional collectors from Denmark have gone to the Faroe Islands in the summer to assist the local pastor and members. In the best years US$ 45,000 to $60,000 have been collected, which amounts to about one third of the total amount for the Union.

Adventism is still present on the Faroe Islands, but the members of the Torshaven church, which is part of the Danish Union of Churches Conference, are the sole witness to the Faroese. According to the Danish Union of Churches Conference statistics in 2017 the membership was 57 and in 2018 was 51. There is still much work to be done on the Faroe Islands, but the realities with regard to an aging church, and the absence of Adventist institutions makes it difficult. There is a need for more evangelism and especially for the youth to take up the challenge of sharing the gospel. Currently (2019), Pastor Allan Falk from Denmark pastors the Adventist Church on the Faroe Islands.

Used with permission from ESDA.

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The history of chruch in Greenland

Since 1953 Greenland has been an integral part of the kingdom of Denmark. Greenland – Kalaallit Nunaat – has Canada as its nearest neighbour and is the world’s largest island.

The first Christian missionary to Greenland was a Lutheran minister, Hans Egede, who during 1721-1736 became known as the Apostle to Greenland.

The first Seventh-day Adventist missionary to set foot on the island was the Danish minister, Andreas Nielsen. In 1953 he came to the island and began evangelising and he very fast became a beloved person all over Greenland.

Several missionaries have succeeded Andreas Nielsen, but though they have been working hard with literature, Pathfinder-work, and health-evangelism, success has not been immense. Today we only have a very small membership, and in 1999 the church property was sold.

When new avenues of missionary endeavours have been decided, the Danish Union of Churches in co-operation with the Trans-European Division will again attempt to find missionaries who are willing to go to this cold area of the world.

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