The Danish Seamen’s Church in Hong Kong is a lot more than a church for seamen. They both support, socialize and help exchange students, trainees, families and tourists in the city of skyscrapers.
To the Danish chaplain Hans-Aage Koller Nielsen the most important thing for the church is to be a rallying point for Danes in Hong Kong. A place where Danes can meet and get to know each other.
“It is meaningless just to stand and shout that people have to be nice to each other, it is much better just to make them meet each other,” he says.
Danish living room at the harbour
In Hong Kong the Danish Seamen’s Church has two localities, on the church and office at Tsim Sha Tsui and the Danish Room in Mariner’s Club at the harbour.
Danish room is a big living room with a library, television, kitchen, computers, comfy chairs and a small garden. A place where Danes in Hong Kong can come and relax and enjoy good company:
“And there are always cold beers and soft drinks in the fridge,” says Hans-Aage.
Two trainees are at the Danish room to offer a talk about this and that. As well as selling Danish products such as rye bread and sweets and liquorice from Haribo.
According to Hans-Aage Koller Nielsen there are about 50 Danish exchange students in Hong Kong, as well as trainees in shipping companies. And this group of young people frequently visits and hangs out at the Danish Room.
A part of Hans-Aage’s job is also to support the seamen, when a Danish ship enter Hong Kong he pays the Danish sailors a visit, he often brings Danish newspapers and goods along with him.
And he is always ready for a talk if some of the men aboard need to talk about the hard life away from wife and children.
The seamen are very important to Hans-Aage, as they are some of the biggest supporters of the church. The employees at the Danish Seamen’s church are paid by the Danish government, everything else is paid by the members.
With children in the Far East
Before the global economic crisis there was also a big group of Danish families with small children living in Hong Kong:
“We once held Christmas Eve with 130 children, but that’s all changed now. Many families moved because of the economic crisis,” says Hans-Aage.
The Danish chaplain would be happy to do more for the Scandinavian children in Hong Kong, and in September he and his Swedish colleague are organizing a pirate day with a treasure hunt.
“When I meet Danish families here I understand how busy they are, and how much work the have to do, so it is nice for to them to come here at the church and meet other Danes in a relaxed atmosphere,” says Hans-Aage.
Supported by Danish companies
All these activities for the Danish community benefit the church in several ways, not least economically:
“If we only had to hold service there wouldn’t be money enough in the collection box,” explains the Danish chaplain and adds: “Our last Christmas bazaar made an income of 700.000 Danish crowns.”
The goods for the bazaar are donated to the church by Danish companies, for example Top-Toys, better know as Toys”r”us and BR-Legetøj in Scandinavia.
“For the last bazaar they donated a container full of toys, it was like the dream of any child to open that container,” says a laughing Hans-Aage.
The Danes who move abroad want the church, claims the Danish chaplain:
“When people move abroad they become more conscious about their roots and the role of the church.”
According to Hans-Aage Danes are quite a like each other and to him the Danish national church is rallying point for Danish nationals:
“Danish Christianity is very much about traditions like Christmas and Easter. Something we all can relate to.”
That’s exactly what Hans-Aage wants his church to be – a place where people with common values come and meet each other.
“We are conscious about being a church, but we don’t preach. We talk to people and help them with their problems.“
Danish tourists in Hong Kong
If you want to explore the exciting city of Hong Kong by yourself you should not hesitate to ask Hans-Aage for advice. The Danish Seamen’s Church has even made its own and very useful guidebook, which came very much in use when ScandAsia visited the city of skyscrapers.