Robert A. Olsen


foreign language, religious organizations, immigration


The first documented account of a Danish language church service on American soil were those conducted by the Rev. Rasmus Jensen, a Danish Pastor who was part of the Jens Munk led expedition of 1619-1620 to find the Northwest Passage to the Orient. Munk's diary states "We celebrated the Holy Christmas Day solemnly, as is a Christian's duty, with a goodly sermon and a mass. After the sermon we gave the priest an offering .... "1 Unfortunately only Munk and two of his 64 men who embarked on this journey survived the winter and returned home, thus resulting in no permanent Danish settlement. Jensen himself died on February 20, 1620 and was laid to rest near present day Churchill, Manitoba, Canada where the two ships had been forced to winter. Several theories exist to explain the tremendous loss of life that winter, including food poisoning due to eating bear meet that was not prepared properly, as well as the extreme elements of the Northern Canadian winter.2