Immigrant Churches



One way immigrants keep their cultures alive is through their churches. We are New Englanders. In the non-religious 21st century, remnants of Puritan culture survive in local Congregational churches. Our white clapboard meetinghouse on a hill remains a beacon to Maine mariners. But today, Congregationalists have merged with Universalists to become the United Church of Christ.

Far-reaching and dedicated work for peace continues as a hallmark through Quaker congregations and schools established by the Society of Friends in Philadelphia and other areas.

North Carolina maintains a strong churchgoing tradition. Baptists and Methodists of course, but since Scottish immigrants established their strong presence, Presbyterian Churches are everywhere.

Seattle Scandinavians formed Lutheran Churches—settlers from Sweden and Norway formed their own. My father, Hans Pederson, an early 20th Century contractor from Denmark, built St. Johannes Dansk Evangelisk Luthereske Kirke on 24th and East Spruce. Olaf Linck, author of Pederson’s biography, Kong Hans ved  Stillehavet visited the church in 1929. At the time, Pastor Sorensen, like many of his parishioners, had been born in the U.S. Even though he spoke better English than Danish, he felt called upon to keep Denmark alive in Seattle.

The children learned to speak Danish in the vicarage basement where they attended summer school. Thirty-six children came from the Seattle Danish Home. Orphans? or “train children,” shipped west by Eastern or Midwestern parents unable to care for them. The girls learned handiwork, the boys, useful and practical Botany.

Pastor Sorensen once traveled to Denmark to increase his understanding of Danish, the better to lead his Seattle flock. His wife bemoaned the paucity of contributions that kept the rest of the family back home in Seattle.

As time goes on, the old country gives way to the new.

What old customs remain in your church?

Photo Credit: Wiki Commons

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