We are nicely ensconced in Reykjavik, “we” being Gwenanne, myself and six brave pilgrims from the Waterloo area on a “Fun in the Midnight Sun” tour organized by TourMagination. We managed to negotiate yesterday’s jet lag and were up bright and early, and in time to make it to worship at Hallgrímskirkja, pictured below.
The church is a powerfully intoxicating. Built over 41 years, it looms large in Reykjavik, with its tower designed to mimic the spray of a geyser and the church itself is said to call to mind mountains, glaciers and the rock formation of this island nation called Iceland (Island in Icelandic). Visitors line up to go up the tower, take a handful of photos, and then leave, but we decided to forego the tower experience and worship with the local congregation.
Today is Trinity Sunday and the resident priest Irma Sjöfn Óskardóttir both preached and presided. The service included special guests in the form of a choir from the Dómkirkjan (Cathedral Church) of Reykjavik. They crafted a service that was inspiring, although we really understood nothing, aside from our ability to make out the form of the Lutheran service, with its overarching structure of gathering, word, meal and sending.
As the priest presided in this architectural wonder, with a kind of simplicity that draws heavily on our hunger for transcendence, I wondered how the space felt for her. I recall some years ago – in Keffer Chapel at Luther, where I work – while presiding at communion, the sense that the building was a part of symbolic clothing I was wearing that day (alb, stole and chasuble), mindful that where we are becomes a part of who we are. And then back in Hallgrímskirkjam, I heard the choir sing. I closed my eyes for a time and as the piece came to the end, the music just kept on going, spiraling around the room until it settled into silence. I thought of my colleague, Gerard, playing flutes in various guises and how he flowed through the instrument, and it struck me that the sanctuary was a kind of instrument transforming the voice of the choir; sanctifying it, in a sense. The space itself became God’s handiwork. It was a holy moment for me.
Later in the day, we enjoyed a conversation by Arnfriður Guðmundsdóttir at the University of Iceland concerning how climate change is impacting Iceland, and the church’s response to this. It was quite a different moment in the day, but holy in its own way as Arnfriður spoke of the ways in which hope can found in the tenacity of faith and its passion for justice for people and the earth. Fittingly, we learned that Guðmundsdóttir means “daughter of Guðmund,” and “Guðmund” references the hand of God. She too, was God’s handiwork. For her and for the day, we are all grateful.