grant funds that were available as part of the program . The selected churches represented the ethnic and geographic diversity of the region , and the buildings reflected Nordic heritage through their architecture , decorative arts , and maintenance of ethnic traditions .
Another of the current folk art projects is being carried out by Our Savior ’ s Lutheran Church in Viborg , South Dakota . Our Savior ’ s is a congregation founded by Danish immigrants in the late nineteenth century , and the building features woodwork and an altar painting by Jes Smidt — a Danish immigrant woodcarver well known in the region for his carved pulpits and altars . Our Savior ’ s is among the best of Smidt ’ s intact interiors .
Unlike many other Danish churches , however , Our Savior ’ s did not have a ship model hanging from the ceiling in its center aisle . While this tradition has its roots in Catholic churches in Europe , the Danes — as a seafaring nation — adopted the tradition because ships held special significance . These ships could commemorate loved ones lost at sea , a safe return home , a safe journey across the sea to America , and larger themes , too : navigating the storms of life with God ’ s help , and the transition from this world to the next .
The team at Our Savior ’ s wanted to use a grant from the Nordic Churches program to install a ship in its sanctuary . Our Savior ’ s ship was donated by a former church member ’ s grandfather — also a former member of Our Savior ’ s — who worked in the Danish shipyards in Copenhagen prior to coming to America .
While most of the community events planned for the project needed to be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic , they are now set to take place across the region in the coming months . When asked to reflect on the importance of the project and its effect on the church and community , Corene Vaughn , project manager for Hallson Icelandic Church , said that “ It is a proven fact that the presence of tangible objects and witnessing historic activities create a remembrance of what was taught or experienced during a time in the life of people . Hopefully the four planned events and the tangible pieces of art will help to keep the Nordic folk traditions and customs alive and well . It is human nature to wonder and seek information about who we are and what had happened in the past to make us the people we are today .”
Carved altar and painting at Our Savior ’ s Lutheran Church in Viborg , South Dakota ( below ). Joshua Castaño
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