Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day in Finland-who knew?

Another delightfully sunny day here in Helsinki. We checked the route planner site for the Number 4 tram so we could know when to be at the stop and when we'd arrive in relationship to when we wanted to be at the church where we were meeting Elise. True to American mentality, our daughters wondered why we were at the church about 25 minutes before the service would start- because that's when the tram runs. Some of us (me) spent the time walking around the park that surrounded Vanha Kirkko (The Old Church). Public spaces like this are popular gathering places for picnics by day and informal partying by night, as the left behind evidence of cigarette packs, beer boxes, a pizza box and other items strewn among the  grave stones suggested. Already there were two men clearing it all up before church.
When we came into the church, I was struck by that fact that it, like the National Cathedral was plainly designed, except for the organ, the altar and the pulpit which were gold leafed and ornate. I later learned that both the old and newer churches were designed by the same man. We were not greeted by the greeters but were given worship books with small worship folders. At the front of the church, all of the hymns and liturgical pieces were listed on four very large boards. The bulletins themselves are reused week to week. No printing of the entire service in the bulletin.
It being Mother's Day there was a special choir performing as well as the organist, and the music was outstanding. In Finland, all church musicians are provided extensive training in music and performance, there being no such thing as an itinerant musician. All are then employed by the Church.
The presiding pastor welcomed everyone explaining that we were having special Mother's Day music by the second best choir. Not sure what that was about but they were great! Elise sat next to me translating parts of the service so I could follow. I did manage to sing the hymns in Finnish though I could only pick out a few words- Hosanna, Jesus, Lord, amen. It was very different listening to a whole sermon in a language I do not understand and getting a synopsis. But apparently the opening story in the sermon had to do with a mother who used to be critical of her daughter and what she picked out to wear to school when she was a teen, and then someone pointed out to her that the last words her daughter heard every morning before school were negative. She didn't believe that it was a different time. She decided to change after this and her observation that one day when she picked her daughter up she saw that she was dressing like all the other girls her age- times had changed. The rest segued into the reading from John about the Holy Spirit and who we believe and how we respond. I think.
At one point in worship the parish announcements about children baptized and people who had died was provided. The custom is that baptisms occur in the home or after worship on a Saturday or Sunday. It is the law that all children be baptized or at least their names registered within three months of birth.
After worship, worshippers were invited to stay for coffee and Mothers Day cake and mothers were given roses. A large porch area as well as some indoors tables in the stairwell were set up. After cake and coffee, we met the preaching pastor, Pastor Arto. Arto, being Arthur in Finnish. He shared that this church, called now the Old Church, originally had no name. It was intended by the Tzar that the Lutheran church would be adopted and a cathedral built, and that it should be built on the highest point. That church now is the National Cathedral. But while it was being built, there still needed to be a church and so this church was built. And on maps for years it was identified only as "temporary church." Because it was only temporary. But then after the cathedral was built, this wooden framed church remains, and since the cathedral was the New Church, this other became the Vanha or Old Church. And the painting behind the altar of Jesus blessing children was originally intended for the New Church but the tzar thought it too juvenile, so it was placed here at the temporary church.
Pastor Arto noted that after worship they are having a "Sharing time" where they gather chairs in a circle in the nave and invite people to stay and have conversation and learn each others' names. About 100 or so people worship on Sunday mornings but they do not know each other well. And it seems that Finns are not big on asking each other first names. As a result, people keep to themselves and it hard to form community. Now they have a way to get beyond culture and relate.
Not all that different from people back home.
The Old Church is one of 5 churches in the Helsinki parish. They collectively publish a weekly newspaper of events in all of the churches and in the city, as well as individual flyers for individuals parishes.
After some hugs, we moved on to get changed and head to Suomenlinna, the island fortress by ferry. As we were waiting for our tram back to our flat, a specially painted silver tram with decorations pulled up, and the doors opened. There was a singing group on the tram and others handing out roses to all the women for Mother's Day. They stayed for about a verse of their song and then moved on, as spontaneously as they had arrived.
Every where you looked there were women with flowers and the shops were all closed this day.
When we took the full ferry out to the island, we assumed that it would not be very full and that the places to eat there would be open and available. Wrong.
Lots of people had some with friends and family for picnics. Still others had booked up all the restaurants that take bookings. And it turns out there are a fair number of people who live on the island in the historic housing.
But we did find one of a couple small cafes that offered light fare. We got the last of the bowls of tomato mozzarella soup, and some other light treats. It was all very tasty and arty, as we sat surrounded by glass and fabric art for sale in a small renovated outbuilding called Café Icecellar.
Suomenlinna began to be constructed in the 1700s when Finland was still a part of the Kingdom of Sweden and is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. The guns still face west as a reminder of later Russian rule in the 19th century. It is built on separate islands off of the coast of Helsinki and has served as a base in the war of Sweden and King Gustav II against Russia which later would surrender to the Russian army in 1808. It then served as a Russian garrison for 108 years. It was badly damaged in the Crimean War. In 1906 a rebellion was a part of the Russian revolutionary movement.
On December 6, 1917 Finland declared independence. During the Finnish Civil War a prison camp was set up and the fortress was then overtaken by the Finnish government in 1918 and renamed Suomenlinna.
Also located here is the Suomenlinna Church which was built as a Russian Orthodox church but later converted to an Evangelical Lutheran Church, and doubles as a lighthouse. It is ringed in upended cannons. One of the museums on island is the Military Museum showing weaponry an uniforms of Finnish defense over time.
As we walked around outside, one could see people flying kites, taking advantage of the breezy day, and children and families out for picnics and dinners.
After we returned home, we could see Dads and kids at our little play area, and I began to make dinner for us since, of course, we did not have a booking. But spaghetti and salad and artisanal bread are on offer. All of which I could start once I figured out the wall switch for the stove circuit. :)
And our roses are in the vase.

No comments: