Greenland Stories and Tips

Sunday Morning Church Service

Zion Church Photo, Ilulissat, Greenland

Sunday morning, we took the 8:45 hotel shuttle to town even though our hiking excursion wasn't scheduled to begin until 10:15. Although we don't speak Greenlandic, we were headed to the 9 AM church service. I’ll explain...

During our city walk tour the previous day, our guides took us by Zion Church. The construction of this Lutheran church was completed in 1779. We were told tourists are no longer taken inside during the tour because people had stolen hymnals in the past. How someone can have the conscience to steal from church is beyond me. One of our guides told us about how beautiful the singing is during the services. However, when she said that some of the songs are sang in Greenlandic and Danish at the same time, the curious musician in me would not let me miss this experience.

It was a little after 9 AM by the time we walked to the church from the shuttle drop-off. The church was packed; therefore, my wife and I decided to sit in the vestibule rather than trying to find a seat in the sanctuary. Additionally, being dressed for hiking, we would have felt really out of place.

Anyway, from what I could see, the interior of the church was simple but elegant. I loved all the lighted candles at the altar and at the end of each pew. However, what was unique about being at this service in Ilulissat was that many in the congregation were dressed in the national Greenlandic attire. The men wore loose white hooded shirts with a black bowtie, black pants, and white animal hide boots. The women's clothing was much more interesting. They wore pullover blouses adorned with colorful beads. They wore fur pants and tall animal hide boots. I wanted to take pictures as families entered the church but I thought that would have been tacky to do so at the time. Besides, there was a sign indicating no photography during service. This didn't seem to stop a handful of tourists hanging out in the back of the church from snapping away.

The only word I understood during the service was Amen. The congregation sang beautiful angelic hymns to the accompaniment of a small pipe organ. As for two languages being sung simultaneously, I couldn't tell. It all sounded foreign to me. We hung out in the church vestibule for about 45 minutes and then headed to the meeting point for our hike.

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