Our Danish Connection
Although the roots of our church are Danish, and we continue to celebrate our Danish connection, our church is now an international church, with members and visitors from a wide range of backgrounds. Althought our services and our events are in English, except for a few specifically Danish events during the year, if you listen carefully you may yet hear some Danish spoken. You may even meet some Danes!
In the 1920’s there was a large wave of Danish immigrants to Montreal. Times were hard in
Denmark and they received encouragement from the Canadian government to come here. Some went
westward to work on farms, but many others chose to stay in Montreal and found employment in
factories, construction, restaurant and stores. Pastor John M. Jensen, who had been serving Danes all
over Eastern Canada, decided to move to Montreal in 1926 and spent his days meeting trains to see if
there were any Danish immigrants needing help. Their needs were pressing and he helped them find
employment and taught them English, as well. St. Ansgar’s Danish Lutheran church (founded in 1927)
welcomed these immigrants warmly and found them lodging in a church-run rooming house, until they
could find their own housing.
The Danish church became a focal point for these immigrants, many of whom were away from their
families for the first time. The Danish Ladies’ Aid, founded in 1928 by Ragnhild Jensen, wife of the
pastor, served the church through fund-raising activities such as fairs and Bazaars to pay for the upkeep
of the Young People’s home and even directly helping some families in dire need.
Along came the Great Depression followed by World War II during which Danish immigration was
largely interrupted. During this time the Danes had to rely on each other as never before, due to being
cut off from their family in Denmark. Several Danish organizations sprang up in those years. Being
adaptable, Danish immigrants soon became part of the Canadian fabric and they thought of themselves
as Danish-Canadians. Danish immigration peaked in the 1950’s and the new immigrants joined Danish
organizations in large numbers which gave them the opportunity of networking with others like them.
St. Ansgar’s Church remained the central gathering point for many of the Danish/Canadians in Montreal.
Danes have always been adept at mixing in with Canadians and entering a wide variety of careers.
For instance they have always been adept at learning new languages. Some Danes came to identify with
the Francophones and others with the Anglophones in Quebec. Unlike many other immigrant groups,
they have no enclaves where you’ll find the Danish community. They could choose whether to retain
their culture, or not. They have brought many of their traditional foods and crafts with them. Nearly
everyone is familiar with Danish pastry, Danish furniture and needlework, Georg Jensen silverware and
Royal Copenhagen porcelain.
When St. Ansgar’s church holds its annual Bazaar, you’ll see the Danes in Montreal come out in
droves to get a piece of their homeland. The Smørrebrød (Danish open-faced sandwiches) and
Wienerbrød are the most sought-after items, as well as Danish Christmas decorations and handmade
embroideries, to name a few.
In the early 1960’s St. Ansgar’s church moved to Notre-Dame-de-Grace. The cornerstone was laid by
Pastor Emeritus Vilhelm Beck in 1963. The first service in the new building was held in 1964 and the
Pastor at the time was Frederick Jensen, son of the earlier Pastor Jensen. Around the same time,
because the second generation of Danes often were more comfortable speaking English than Danish, it
was decided to drop the word ‘Danish’ from the name of the church. It was by then reflecting the mix of
nationalities that had begun to worship at St. Ansgar’s church and church services were no longer held
in Danish. However, the DCS still holds a Danish Christmas service at St. Ansgar’s church.
[Læs Mere om den Danske Kirke]
[Read More about the Danish Church]