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Denmark's late night churches try to bring back worshippers

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Denmark's late night churches try to bring back worshippers
File photo: Jens Nørgaard Larsen/Scanpix
10:24 CEST+02:00
More and more Danish churches are trying to boost attendances by inviting congregations for night-time services.

More and more priests across the country are beginning to open the doors of their churches at night, according to a survey by Copenhagen Parish, which has mapped out the churches throughout the country offering after-dark worship.

Night churches can now be found in 25 different Danish towns, reports Danish news agency Ritzau.

One of the night churches, in the western Jutland town of Holstebro, opens from 8pm to 11pm on Fridays – a time when Danes are conceivably more likely to be found in bars or cafés.

The aim of the Friday night service is to give citizens an alternative to the traditional Sunday morning worship, priest Erik Ladegaard from the church told Ritzau.

“It’s our duty to be a church for people living now… and there are some that don’t feel Sunday morning worship encompasses their spirituality,” he said.

Numbers of Danes deciding to leave the Church of Denmark (Folkekirken) last year were at their highest for a decade.

Visitors to the church in Holstebro after 8pm on Fridays can light a candle, talk about a text from the Bible, or contemplate quietly.

“There’s a certain calm attached to an evening,” 61-year-old Ellen Brokhøj, who regularly attends the Holstebro night services, told Ritzau.

“On one hand you are part of a community, on the other you can also be alone with God,” said Brokhøj.

The services themselves can either be calm affairs or raucous rock concert-like experiences according to Ritzau’s report.

But the night church concept allows churchgoers to play a more active role than they normally would, says Ladegaard.

According to Jes Heise Rasmussen, sociologist and PhD student at the University of Copenhagen, the concept of independent worship could be one of the factors that makes the night churches an attractive option.

“They offer a different way to meet with the church,” Rasmussen told Ritzau, adding that night churches were also a way for priests to alter the image of a stiff and formal church.

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