Norwegian Church and Community Center

Our history, part I: the Norwegian Seamen’s Church in Montreal, 1929-1994

The history of a Norwegian Lutheran Church in Montreal dates back to 1929!

On April 22, 1929, Syllander Brekke arrived in Montreal with a mission. With the opening, on May 6, of a Norwegian Seamen’s Reading Room and the inauguration of it held on May 12, 1929, the first steps in the creation of a Norwegian Seamen’s Mission in Montreal were taken.

Pastor Brekke was responsible for the running of the Mission during its first season; after that it was run primarily by lay people on a seasonal basis (that is to say, seasonally based upon the navigability of the St. Lawrence). The rooms that the Mission initially rented were rather small, but in 1938 it moved into its first fully functional building located at 408 St. James Street West.With a more permanent location, it became possible to establish a regular congregation. Pastor Berge Øverland was next in charge of the Mission starting in 1937; he returned in 1938 and in 1939 he returned to stay on a year round basis. In 1939, the Seamen’s Mission reached an agreement with The Norwegian Lutheran Church of America which stipulated that the pastor of the Seamen’s Mission in Montreal should open his congregation to all Norwegians living in Montreal.

During World War II, fewer ships arrived in Montreal from Norway. Pastor Øverland and his team had their hands full just the same, and their work during this time focused on Camp Little Norway, located near Toronto, and its Norwegian pilots in training. After three years, Camp Little Norway got its own field pastor and Pastor Øverland could once again focus on the congregation in Montreal. A Seamen’s Reading Room was also established in Halifax, with staff from Montreal, during the war.

Norwegian Seaman's Church

Former Norwegian Seamen’s Church, 1892 Dorchester Street West

The Norwegian Seamen’s Church in Montreal continued to occupy the building at 408 St. James St. West until 1947. Between 1947 and 1950, the Church congregation did not have a permanent address: in 1948 it was located in the cellar of the Danish Church and in 1949 it could be found on the third floor of the Montreal Sailor’s Institute. Finally, in 1950, and after the arrival of Pastor Arthur Styker in August 1949, new permanent quarters were found at 1892 Dorchester Street West. The Church remained at this location for 20 years.

By Spring 1959 big changes were underway in the St. Lawrence, and ships could travel the seaway as far as to Chicago. A three-fold increase in Scandinavian maritime traffic was seen during this time. With regards to the Church on Dorchester, the building was slated for demolition and in 1966 it was determined that a separate Seamen’s Church should be built. On May 16, 1971, the General Secretary, Johannes Aardal, inaugurated the opening of the new church located at 9015 Bellerive Street in Montreal East.

Norwegian maritime traffic continued to decline throughout the 1980s, and the Church held its last service on Whitsunday 1994 and the building on Bellerive sold.

Click here to read about the history of the Norwegian Seaman’s Church in Montreal in Norwegian.

Our history, part II: the Norwegian Church Association, 2002 to present

The Norwegian community in Montreal remained without a Church and Community center until the purchase in 2002 of church building which had recently been abandoned by its congregation. In that time, the community was located for a while in the basement of the Danish Church, St. Ansgars, but mainly ‘lived out of a suitcase.’ Since the purchase of the Norwegian Church and Community Center at 5065 Sherbrooke, Lachine, the Norwegian Church Association (NCA) has been able to continue and build upon traditions established by members of the Norwegian Seamen’s Church. The main purpose of the NCA is to provide a home for religious services, a meeting place for Norwegians and friends of Norway and to provide support to all Norwegian groups and individuals living in and around Montreal. Although the NCA is no longer formally associated with the Norwegian Seamen’s Church, services are held about four times a year in Norwegian, English and/or other Nordic languages, by local Lutheran ministers or ministers from the Norwegian Seamen’s Church in New York. For more information about what they are doing, go to Norwegian Seamen’s Church in New York.

The NCA’s activities include monthly Community evenings between October and May – we have recently decided to combine these culturally oriented evenings with a potluck – as well as such annual events as the Christmas Sale – a great opportunity to stock up on Norwegian food, sweaters, pewter ware and our famous “Marzipan cake” –  held in November. We also organize a traditional Christmas party –  for children of all ages! – in December.

Church Service at the Norwegian Church and Community Center, Lachine

Church Service at the Norwegian Church and Community Center, Lachine

Our church houses two items of historical interest to members of our community. Although we are not able to ascertain who made it, our lovely model of the Bluenose, is to scale. Here is the story about and the specifications for this amazing schooner. Both it and the church bell that had been stored in the board room of Seagulf Maritime Industries after the closure of the Seamen’s Church on Bellerive were brought “home” in 2006, in the case of the model, in January (after a restauration started in 2005) and in the case of the bell, in April.

Community center and church

Norwegian Church and Community Center, 5065 Sherbrooke, Lachine