When thinking of relocating to another country, people face many questions and have to make decisions – which neighborhood to live in, which school to choose for their children, just to mention some of these.
Religion also plays a huge part in many people’s lives and they don’t want to give up practicing it even when they are living in a foreign country where the state’s church may differ from theirs.
The word Folkekirken translates to „The People’s Church”. But what meaning lies behind this phrase exactly?
The Brief History of Denmark’s Church
The Folkekirken is the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Denmark. It is a monotheist religion which believes in the existence of one God. As of 1 January 2022, 73,2% of the population of Denmark are members of it.
The religion’s ancestor, Chalcedonian Christianity was introduced to Denmark in the 9th century by Ansgar, Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen. It reached it’s final form after the Protestant Reformation in 1537 and the church was reorganized based on Lutheran church orders. Since the Danish Constitution’s establishment in 1849, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark has been acknowledged as “the church of the people” and also the official national church.
The Church Structure
As it is the official national church, the Danish monarch is the supreme authority when it comes to organisation, and the national parliament (Folketinget) is the de facto deciding body with regard to church legislation.
The local congregation is one of the main pillars of the structure. All adult members of the church are eligible to vote for the parish council and entitled to stand for election to that. The parish council is responsible for the finances and employing staff in the local church and selecting the pastor.
The selected pastor is responsible for the service and liturgy but there’s a shared responsibility with the parish council which must approve any changes to the liturgy.
This way, the management of the church is an expression of the priesthood of all believers.
The church consists of 2.201 parishes with the number of inhabitants varying from less than 200 to more than 10.000. Each of these parishes has at least one church, and the oldest of these buildings has been in use since 1080, while the „youngest” was inaugurated in 2010.
It’s an amazing feature on the Folkekirke’s website where you can visit some of these churches virtually. Click here to try it!
Most churches hold their services (gudstjeneste; Danish word referring to two meanings: us serving God and God serving us) every Sunday morning. The Sunday service has a special name: højmesse, meaning high mass or holy service. Anyone can attend the services without being a member of the church.
At these services the attendants sing hymns and say prayers, the congregation listens to passages from the Bible and the pastor’s sermon. At most services, the Eucharist also takes place, which is the liturgical commemoration of the Last Supper. Baptisms may also be included in these services.
There are also special services, which don’t follow the liturgy of the højmesse, but the order and the types of events are defined by a specific audience (children for example), a theme (creation) or a music style (gospel or rock). Just to mention some of these special services: harvest services, night church or international services. Fun fact: there is a bit strange sounding one, called spaghetti services. It is consists of a service for families followed by a meal.
The Folkekirken is very welcoming and open to anyone who would like to attend their services, however people are able to find a place to practice a wide variety of other religions too, here are some of the largest communities present in the country.
Islam is the largest non-Christian religion in Denmark with about 270.000 members. The largest mosque and the first one with a minaret is called Hamad Bin Khalifa Civilisation Center, unofficially the Grand Mosque of Copenhagen. It is a sunni mosque in an outer borough of Copenhagen. It was opened by the Danish Islamic Council in June 2014.
About 64.000 Buddhists live in the country, and it is considered the third largest religion among Danes. There are several monasteries countrywide along with meditation centers.
Hinduism is also present in the country, the community has 7.500-8.000 members. There are many hindu centers and temples to visit across Denmark.
The Jewish Community today is very small, it consists of approximately 1.700 members. They can attend services held in the Great Synagogue of Copenhagen.
With all these information in mind, one thing is for sure: anyone living in Denmark will be able to practice their religion freely.
If you would like to know about the everydays of Denmark, we covered many interesting and useful topics in our blog!