Bragernes Kirke, Drammen, Norway - Our 'Friendship' Church

Bragernes Church (Bragernes Kirke) is a parish church at Drammen in Buskerud County, Norway. 

It was designed by Ernst Norgrenn (1839-1880) in Neo Gothic style and built of brick. It was consecrated in 1871. The old Bragernes church (Gamle Bragernes kirke) was west of Bragernes square. Built in 1708, it burned down in 1866.

Bragernes church is located at the end of Church Street north of Bragernes square in the center of Drammen. Bragernes Cemetery is west of the church. The tower is 64 metres (210 ft) tall. The pulpit was designed by Ernst Norgrenn, while the baptismal font was by Christian Borch. The altarpiece, Resurrection was painted by Adolph Tidemand. It was copied in many Norwegian churches. The church organ has 38 voices and was built in the romantic style of organ builder Carsten Lund Organ Builders of Copenhagen (Carsten Lund Orgelbyggeri).




In the early 1990s several theological representatives from England, Sweden and Finland wanted to move forward towards a goal of unity. They had found that there were no essential differences between them in the fields of faith, sacramental life or ministry. The time was ripe to move closer together and to implement a practical agreement which would be relevant to laity and clergy alike in carrying out our common mission, The original participants came from the five Nordic countries ( Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden). The Porvoo Communion was established in 1992 by a theological agreement – it is a communion of 15 predominantly northern European countries - which entitles full communion between these Protestant churches with a total membership of some 50 million Christians. The Communion takes its name from the Finnish city of Porvoo where the formal signing took place. The Church of Norway joined in 1994 and The Church of England in 1995. The Communion has no central office but each country has a contact person which meet each year. Two bishops, one Lutheran and the other Anglican, are co-moderators.


Reverend Michael Hatchett who was the vicar here at St Peter's for over 20 years had always been interested in Norway and the Porvoo Communion gave him an opportunity to establish a link with a Norwegian church. He approached me and with the help of the Parish Magazine from Bragernes Church in Drammen where I was baptised, confirmed and married, he made contact with Rev. Torstein Lalim.

Then followed numerous visits – the children's choir from Bragernes church was one of the first groups to enjoy the hospitality of St Peter's. Subsequent visits to Great Totham included a weekend during our Harvest Thanksgiving when our church looked spectacular and the visitors enjoyed a shared lunch at church accompanied by wine which would have been unheard of in their own church!

Michael's enthusiasm was outstanding and visits to Bragernes church grew to involve all age groups and travelling at different times of the year, enjoying warm summer days and enduring minus 22 degrees one February. A group of youngsters from our Benefice joined the Norwegian confirmation candidates on their weekend away which is part of their preparation for the big day in May. The trips covered the country from east to west, spending time in the mountains, by the sea and in the capital Oslo enjoying the beautiful countryside summer and winter. The trips developed into week long holidays with activities to keep everybody happy such as cycling ( the hills could be quite challenging and Michael insisted they cycled all day!), walking, sightseeing, swimming and sledging. Michael would take the mini bus to Norway on the ferry ( which meant that we had transport over there) – the rest of us went by air. Bob Tarpey did a lot of the driving including down a steep, winding road on a mountain side only really suitable for goats and cattle. All the trips allowed us to spend time in Drammen and enjoy the company of our Norwegian friends. It was good to see our vicar and members of the group taking an active part in the church services. Our group had a go at learning The Lord's Prayer in Norwegian and they also commented on how easy it was to follow the Norwegian hymn text when the melody was familiar. The last visit a few years ago coincided with Norway's National Day celebrations which was a lively and colourful occasion. Four of us were joined by Reverend Jonathan Pearce and the trip inspired him to go back a few years later for a holiday. We were fortunate in having a contact in Drammen, an English lady who I met years ago. Kaye Westeng has lived in Drammen for more than 60 years and has always been involved with Bragernes Church. Kaye and her husband Erik opened their house on several occasions and made us feel very welcome. The present vicar at Bragernes church, Per Erik Brodal, is quite enthusiastic about reviving the link – St Peter's is mentioned in their prayers every Sunday.


The Anglican Church is established in various parts of Norway including Trondheim in the north, Bergen on the west coast, Stavanger in the south and in Oslo where the senior chaplain Darren McCallig is based. 4 congregations make up a membership of over 1500 worshippers. A group of English speaking ladies in Drammen formed a Ladies Guild – this has since folded but the Rev. McCallig from St Edmund' s Church in Oslo visits Drammen once a month and administers Holy Communion to the people interested – Kaye is one of them. These ladies still organise the very popular English Carol Service at Christmas.

One of the Anglican churches is St Olaf's church, owned by the Church of England, at Balestrand in western Norway, which was a popular site for British tourist in the latter half of the 1900 century. Knut Kvikne whose family ran Kviknes hotel at Balestrand married and English lady in 1890. She was a clergyman's daughter from Yorkshire and a climbing pioneer. Her name was Margaret Sophia Green and it was said that she never felt at ease with the Lutheran rituals in Norwegian churches. After being diagnosed with tuberculosis, her husband Knut promised at her death bed to build an Anglican church. He had it built in the traditional Norwegian style of a wooden stave church. During the summer the church is used for services in English every Sunday. The church is run economically on donations from tourists and the priests who serve in the church are English speakers who work for free. The owners of the Kviknes Hotel provide free room and board for the visiting priests, as they have done since the church was consecrated in 1897, just three years after Margaret's death. The church has over the years been a popular location for weddings, specially by Norwegian/ British bridal couples.

Karin Mann September 2018