Ship hangs in balance at Pella Evangelical Lutheran Church


Hanging a model ship in the church is a Danish custom as a tribute to sea-faring ancestors and as a symbol of the church.

The hand-built model ship suspended above the center aisle in the sanctuary began its long journey to Pella Lutheran from a workshop on the island of Samso, Denmark. With it has come the well-established Danish custom of hanging a model ship in the church as a tribute to sea-faring ancestors and as a symbol of the church.

Christians in the countries of Scandinavia took naturally to the close association of their church and their ships. Early Viking converts to Christianity were said to gather for worship beneath the upturned hulls of their long boats. Some early church structures were built in the shape of a ship.

Through a number of different associations, the ship came to be symbolic of the Christian Church. The ark of Noah, which floated safely in the midst of the deluge while everything else was overwhelmed, is associated with the miracle of the Sea of Galilee, when Christ clamed the waves and saved the vessel of the Apostles from disaster. Both incidents are reminders of God's protective care shown to His people through the Church. The fact that this model is of a school ship is also appropriate, a reminder that Jesus once taught a crowd of people from a boat anchored at the seashore (Mark 4).

A ship is designed and built to carry its crew and cargo safely to a destination beyond the immediate horizon. Similarly, the Church continues ever onward toward the destiny of God. For this reason, the model ship is always pointed toward the altar and the cross of Christ. Even though the church is sometimes "tossed upon the stormy billows" of life situations, it is nevertheless protected and piloted by a gracious and merciful Savior.

This model ship is christened "Denmark" and is a precise scale model of a Danish school ship used for the training of naval cadets. The "Denmark" was originally built in Nakskov, Denmark, beginning in 1930. Builders followed a design by nautical architects, Otto Peterson and Aage H. Larsen. "Denmark" was launched on December 19, 1932. It had a capacity for housing 80 students.

On April 9, 1940, when war broke out in Europe, the ship was located in Jacksonville, Fla. It remained anchored there for the duration of the war. (It is for this reason that the American flag is attached to the model in our church).

On Sept. 26, 1945, a day on which King Christian X of Denmark celebrated his 75th birthday, the Danish flag was again flown from the mast, and the ship was returned to the Danish government. On Nov. 13, 1945, the "Denmark" once again entered the harbour in Copenhagen.

This model ship was built by Niels Njelsden Gaard, a 77-year-old resident of Nordby, Denmark. It was the 34th ship he had built, and the first to leave his native country. The story of its construction was featured in many Danish newspapers and magazines. Gaard constructed a model of the ship "America," which is displayed in Copenhagen.

The ship was commissioned as a memorial to Jens and Sophie Jensen by their daughter, Ethel Jensen Miller, Sidney, and by her brother, Henry Jensen, Minneapolis, Minn. Gaard was contacted through Aage Moller, Aarhus, Denmark, a relative of Andrew Miller, John Miller and the late Jacob Miller.

The ship was dedicated on Trinity Sunday - June 6, 1982.

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