Thailand-based Scandinavians celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Norwegian Church Abroad at a ceremony in Pattaya.
Senior pastor Ragnvald Seierstad presided over the Aug. 31 service, which marked a century and a half to the day since the Norwegian Seamen’s Church was started in Bergen. In 1995, the church relocated from Bangkok to Pattaya and its name was later changed to the Church Abroad.
Seierstad explained that the church was started by a man known as “Big John” after seeing the problems sailors had with limited language skills and little knowledge of the countries they visited.
Senior pastor Ragnvald Seierstad talks about the early history of the Norwegian Seamen’s Church during the service.
In 1864, three churches started operating and soon a local association was founded on the Norwegian coast to support the church. The members were often the wives of seamen.
The initial work of the church was to be a church abroad, but also to help sailors with problems that might occur in a foreign country, and to be a cultural and social meeting place for sailors. When a ship arrived in a port, the priest was often one of the first visitors on the ship, bringing mail and local newspapers.
Seierstad said local associations used to collect Christmas gifts for the sailors. One year, as many as 30,000 gifts were collected. As late as 1990, when Ragnvald was the priest at the Seamen’s Church in Copenhagen, he remembered handing out Christmas gifts to visitors.
At the Pattaya celebration, traditional cakes were served, more than usual after a Sunday service, as well as Thai fruit.
Today the Norwegian Church Abroad is welcoming all Norwegians and Scandinavians. At the services in Pattaya, Thai translations are also given. It is open every day except Mondays. Waffles and Norwegian rice porridge are served on Saturdays.
There are services several days a week and many social activities. There is a children’s group, walks in the jungle, visits to the Baan Jing Jai orphanage, movie evenings and live music concerts. In the library, older and modern books can be borrowed, Internet and the latest Norwegian newspapers are available.
The Norwegian Church Abroad in Pattaya is located in Thappraya Road Soi 7. For more information, see its website at Sjomannskirken.no/pattaya
Some of the participants enjoying great traditional Norwegian cakes and Thai fruits after the service marking the 150th anniversary.