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Page last updated at 15:07 GMT, Thursday, 26 November 2009
Religious retreat for local Danes
Danish Seamen's Church
The Danish Seamen's Church in Hull has been running for over a century

It stands prominently in the centre of Hull but for the undiscerning eye it could be overlooked as an ecclesiastical edifice.

The Danish Seamen's Church in Hull has been a hub for the Nordic community in our region for over a century.

The first Danish Seamen's Church in the world, St Nikolaj has been connecting many Danish and Scandinavian expatriates and seamen with their homeland since 1871.

Even before the church was consecrated, Denmark has had a long relationship with Hull exporting goods such as butter and bacon as well as cattle.

The present church on Osborne Street was built during the 1950's after the original was bombed during the Second World War in 1941. All that remains from the predecessor is a rosette in a stained glass window, which can be seen in the chapel of the new St Nikolaj.

Danish design

The church is the epitome of Danish style from the iconic Paul Henningsen designed lighting to the archetypal Nordic retro tables, chairs and sofas, even though it was two local architects that were behind its construction.

Danish Church interior
Scandinavian style inside the Danish Seamen's Church

"We have to be a window for Danish and Scandinavian design." said Pastor Steen Tygesen.

"The Church isn't just for the Danish community here. The sailors come here for refreshments, have food and read Danish papers. We also open the church to the public for fundraising events such as our annual Christmas market, which attracts hundreds of visitors."

Sailors retreat

Steen Tygesen is the new pastor of St Nikolaj who arrived in February from Hojer, a small coastal village in southern Denmark not far from the Danish-German border, where he had been the vicar of a community church for 26 years.

Apart from running St Nikolaj, another core aspect of Steen's role is to visit the many Nordic ships that dock on the Humber delivering Danish newspapers and lending a sympathetic ear to the crew.

"Each time a Danish or Scandinavian ship comes in I go over and take care of the sailor's needs - spiritual and cultural."

However, not all ships benefit from Pastor Steen's service. Tour Brittania is a freight ship which travels to Immingham from Denmark every other day and most of the crew have a constant link with their country. Even so, some of the staff considers the Danish Seamen's Church to still play an important role today.

"I've never been to the Seamen's Church because there's no need for me to go as we're in Denmark every second day." said Camilla Smedegaard, first officer of Tour Brittania.

"But I think the church is important for sailors who are away [for long periods of time] because they can keep up with news from Denmark and it's a social thing as well." added Camilla.

Young blood

Other crew members think differently that the church is purely a place of worship. Twenty-eight year old Dennis Jacobsen is a new recruit onboard the Tour Brittania, who believes his generation do not consider faith to be an integral part of life.

"It's a bit different today. I was born a Christian person but I'm not religious. The Church isn't for me I have no need for it, maybe for the older guys.

Pastor Steen Tygesen
Pastor Steen Tygesen onboard a Danish ship

A lot of people in Denmark are not that religious. Young people today don't talk about it and don't think about it." added Dennis.

Over the last few years Nordic churches in England have been under threat of closure. Although this isn't the case for the Danish Seamen's Church, there is a possibility it could follow a similar fate in the future especially with an ageing congregation.

However, events such as the annual Christmas Market are helping to raise funds for its upkeep and attracting new visitors.

"We want the church to be there when we want it and when its needed." said Pastor Tygesen.

"I think the Seamen's Church is still important today because it's not just about faith but it's to show that we're there socially and to offer support and advice."

"You never know what the future will bring but for now it's a very active church. But if there's no young blood coming through the door then who knows what will happen." added Pastor Tygesen.

The Scandinavian Christmas market is running at the Danish Seamen's Church on Friday 27th November 2009, 1600 to 2100 GMT and Saturday 28th November 2009, 1100 to 1500 GMT.


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