Bayta Schwarz moved to Denmark from Berlin about 18 months ago. She did it to take up a new role with a faith-based (Christian) non-profit called AgapeLiv. She encountered the church, more specifically Apostelkirken on Vesterbro, and felt welcome and connected there. We have asked her about her meeting with the church to give a perspective on the church’s role for others than the native Danes.
Can you give us a presentation of yourself?
I moved here from Berlin about 18 months ago, to take up a new role with a faith-based (Christian) non-profit called AgapeLiv. This isn't my first time living outside of my passport country of Germany as previously, I spent 15 years in the United Kingdom. I have been involved in cross-cultural training for many years and have also for many years had the privilege of welcoming international students and being part of organising events for them.
In all these different contexts, I have grown to value so much connecting with Christians from very different cultural backgrounds. Through that, I have grown so much not only as a person but also in my faith. My life would be poorer without these experiences and I am so thankful for the opportunity to learn from people here in Denmark as well.
How did you encounter the church?
Two sets of friends (also internationals) had been part of Apostelkirken earlier and had felt very welcome and connected there. I had heard lots about the church from them, and so it seemed only natural to visit.
How was your welcome to Denmark from the church?
Personally, I feel I have been made very welcome by many individuals.
I also very much appreciate the way the church has been helping me understand and adapt to the Danish culture and context.
At Apostelkirken (and other churches I have visited), I have valued being able to experience the richness of the heritage of the Danish church. Connecting with the deep roots the church has here has been a privilege.
I also regularly attend Danish classes at Internationalt Kristent Center (Betesda). Not only are the classes as such very helpful, the way all the staff go out of their way to welcome any international coming through the door is very, very special. I have heard many people say that they keep coming back because they feel so valued there. The staff at IKC also take the initiative in helping us learn about current events, different festivals, etc. All things that are so easy to miss as an international but that are so helpful in becoming part of the community here.
What church did you go to?
I have mostly been going to Apostelkirken in Vesterbro but have also visited a number of other churches (both Folkekirken and various free churches/other denominations), some of which were English-speaking international churches, some Danish. When moving to a new location I very much appreciate getting a feel for the different expressions of church in that place. There is so much richness there!
What factors gave you a good impression? E.g., did the church have any specific offers you liked?
I was fortunate in that when I first arrived, Apostelkirken were holding a week-long series of events (like a non-residential højskole) and I was able to join in with a few of those events. That was a wonderful opportunity not only to connect with people but also to experience different aspects of Danish culture and of church life. Doing activities together, eating together - things like that are so helpful in starting to feel part of a new context. Probably for anyone but in particular for internationals, as these things are not so dependant on language.
I also appreciate very much that every week for the Sunday service, there is translation offered into English. I know that is a big commitment for those helping but it genuinely means so much. While I am obviously learning Danish and am able to understand more and more as time goes by, it is a gift to be able to focus on the content of the sermon and not solely on trying to understand the language.
Also including other cultures as a normal part of church life (eg Bible readings and prayers in Farsi) expresses that the church holds welcoming internationals as a value, which then helps other internationals feel valued as well.
Thank you, Bayta, for sharing your experiences with us.