New Norwegian Priest in Singapore

Jan Tommy Fosse has tried a lot of different things even before he decided to be a priest. He grew up in Østfold south east of Oslo. He was trained as a priest in Oslo, where he was graduated in June 2000. He first started out doing compulsory military service, where he was chaplain in HM the King’s Guard regiment in Oslo. After that he worked as a youth pastor for three years in a church in Oslo in which he was responsible for the youngest members of the congregation. Here he had a lot of one-on-one contact with young people and he was responsible for many of the personal interviews.

First stop: Houston
Then he went to Houston, Texas in the USA where he was a priest for five years in the Norwegian church. He could not get visas for more than five years in the U.S., so it ended naturally. Then he discovered that the job as priest at the Seamen’s Church was available in Singapore, and applied immediately.
“I’ve always been fascinated by being out in the world to work. I myself was an exchange student in my years of studying, and I generally get along really good being out and meeting new people. So when I first got the opportunity to be a seamen’s priest, I had no doubt that it was something right for me,” Jan Tommy says.
The family had earlier had experiences with seamen churches and had visited them some times and they thought that it was comfortable and cosy. They wanted to be a part of that.

A family thing
Jan Tommy’s family is of course with him in Singapore. They are his wife Inger, who now helps in the church, Mathias at 9 years, Daniel at 6 years, and 3 year-old Rebekka. Mathias and Daniel have just started at Overseas Family School in the middle of Singapore, and Rebekka is starting in kindergarten.
“The children have adapted very fast like Inger and me, but they are still struggling a bit with all the new things and impressions they have to get used to. But they have already been finding new friends, so I am very confident about it,” the new priest states.
“We decided that if we were off to a seaman’s church, it was something we should do together as a family, as so we have done. My wife Inger worked in the church in Houston, and now she works here in the church in Singapore.”

More than a church
The Norwegian seamen’s church plays an important role in the local Norwegian community in Singapore. It is obviously a religious meeting place, but the seamen’s church is the setting for many other events such as social arrangements. It is used for cultural events of various kinds as well, and because the Swedish church is sharing the location, the two churches often offer their two communities the same events.
“In Norwegian we call it a “samfundshus”. It is a place where the local community can meet and do different things with each other. Of course most of the traditions are based in religion, but today it means much more than that to us and those who use the church. And I feel ok with that. We arrange everything from services to Thursday lunches, and people are welcome to participate in whatever they want. Of course, again, Christianity is still the starting point for many of the things we do,” Jan Tommy states.
According to the new priest, some come for the Christian services of the church, and then usually attend the social events as well. Others come because of the social events, but then they come into the chapel where the services are held.
“The two types of users generally become a more comprehensive type over time,” Jan Tommy says.
“I want to be used for everything. I like to be a priest, and of course that is my background and the most important thing for me, but I think it is fantastic that in a seamen’s church we can be together and do so many different things. I love all the roles. That is how I worked in Houston, and this is how I intend to continue in Singapore.”

A home from home
Jan Tommy Fosse carries his experience as a seamen’s priest with him from Houston, but what are his plans personally for the seaman church in Singapore? In what way will he affect the church?
“Some of the positive experiences I have from the seamen’s church in Houston I would like to implement in the same way here. It has to be a really nice experience to come here and you should feel welcome. I want the church to be “a home from home” in the sense that people should feel at home among peers and compatriots like they know from their home countries. I would like to give the community that possibility. I see that as one of my main tasks here.”
“Many are as expats, with only one of the parents working and with a couple of children. For them, we would like to be the place where families can find a network and a pleasant environment that does not necessarily have anything to do with work. This should be a place where you can be with someone who is in the same situation as yourself,” the new priest states.

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