After breakfast, we met up with Elise, who I met when she and I were both studying at THE Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg. She has lived in Helsinki for over 20 years and graciously met us at our flat, bearing maps, and walking tour information, and assistance of all kinds, prepared to share her city with us.
We began by walking to Uspenski Cathedral, taking in its beauty and breathing in the scent of the many beeswax candles lit by visitors. I still think of the long version of the Exultet and thanking God for the bees that make the wax for the candle. But, I digress...It did offer a chance for me to show Alex Old Church Slavonic, an earlier form of the modern Russian she is studying. From the elevation of the cathedral, there was an expansive view of much of the city and harbor area.
From there, Elise showed us around the city, pointing out which ferry terminals go to Stockholm, and various landmarks, including the Diocese House, and buildings for the Lutheran Church in Finland. She took us through the market in the harbor where I learned that the "fish from Lapland!" are actually a specific and tasty fish. We journeyed past some of the oldest buildings, to Senate Square, where we saw the University of Helsinki, the Ministry of the Treasury, and the national Cathedral (Lutheran) where she became a part of the roster of the church. On the way into the cathedral we were interviewed as a part of the EU's money at work, a survey about tourism and spending behaviors. Our interviewer was a student at University from England who hopes to stay in Finland beyond graduation.
We stopped at a local market where I got a lesson in labels, so we can avoid future mixups, and we purchased some Karelian pies and blueberry pastries to have with coffee and tea at her office. The Karelian pies are rye flour pastry and rice concoction- we now mark that off our bucket list! They were tasty!
Over our treats, we talked about the Lutheran church in Finland and how in part its commitment to each parish having a pastor, and also youth workers and deacons, lift up the post World War II importance of helping young men find work to do, as well as caring for youth. It was fascinating to learn about pastors spending the day at places of employment and in schools, providing care, and the thousands of people who are employed by the Church- over 20,000!
We also saw that unlike in this country, the Church has developed faith formation resources that all parishes use, not only for indigenous language speakers, but also various immigrant- Russian, Chinese, Spanish-speaking, etc. And how these same resources are available online. Sparing people from having to create curriculum much less do it in a variety of languages. !! It is entitled "To be a Christian in Finland" and explains not only basics of Christian belief, but also the church in Finland particularly. She and her co-workers are helping provide the faith to youth in wonderful ways!
After our respite, we went on to purchase couple day passes for transit, a SIM card for a prepaid phone Elise is sharing with me, and tickets for the ferry to Estonia. We traveled on the very efficient Metro system where the trains really DO run on time. We also made a pilgrimage to the mecca- not just to Marimekko, but to their outlet! And then followed it up with lunch at a yummy Thai/sushi buffet.
Elise rode the tram with us that circled around the city, providing a good overview we could not get on foot , including the Olympic stadium and botanical gardens, the Russian embassy, and the new Music centre. And she took us to the Kammpi Chapel, a new interdenominational chapel that looks like the hull of an ark, and is intended for be a place of silence. When you enter the worship space, you are enveloped by the curving space of the hull of alderwood circling round, and it is totally silent. As we exited, we noticed that the doors are many inches thick, which literally shuts out noise from outside. Various churches are scheduled to be present and to lead worship on different days at set times, and there is a booklet of information that explains the symbolism and meanings of the church to those unchurched or unsure.
We also then visited the Church on the Rocks, literally hewn from rock, where frequently water runs down the side walls We caught part of a free piano concert before leaving. At then back of the church, In addition to information about the church, there were prayer cards in about 15 different languages- we picked up Russian and Spanish.
Tomorrow, we will be meeting her for worship at the Old Church, and going to their coffee time following, then it is on to Suomelinna by ferry. We also learned that on Mother's Day the groceries are closed and many restaurants are heavily booked. Good to know before hand! We then discovered, thanks to Elise, the location of the underground shopping mall beneath the railway station which is open until late at night. Important since all the others had closed by that time. We had the chance to shop more knowledgeably and then to catch the tram home- it conveniently stops right at our place!
Not feeling like venturing far for dinner, I Googled our island, and we found Wellamo, a very small but tasty place a few blocks from us. Grilled goat cheese on bruschetta and greens with fresh and sundried tomatoes in vinaigrette were perfect!
Then we came back and tested out our sauna- a great reward for a busy but delightful day! We simply cannot say enough how grateful we are to Elise for such a wonderful day, seeing and experiencing in a way we would not have otherwise been able to- it was a real treat! We have also been blessed by sunny days so far-and moderate temperatures in the low 60's. Each morning I can sit in our living room or on our porch and watch the birds tending their nest and give thanks for the beauty of the day.
We have purchased tickets for travel by Tallink to travel on Monday to Talinn, Estonia by ferry for the day.
Blessings for this Lord's Day to you all-give thanks for those who have raised you to be who you are this day!