Feast of Lars Olsen Skrefsrud, Hans Peter Boerresen, and Paul Olaf Bodding (December 11)   Leave a comment

skrefsrud-statue-lillehammer

Above:  Statue of Lars Olsen Skrefsrud, Lillehammer, Norway

Image in the Public Domain

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LARS OLSEN SKREFSRUD (FEBRUARY 4, 1840-DECEMBER 11, 1910)

Norwegian Lutheran Missionary to the Santals

colleague of

HANS PETER BOERRSEN (NOVEMBER 29, 1825-SEPTEMBER 23, 1901)

Danish Lutheran Missionary to the Santals

then

PAUL OLAF BODDING (NOVEMBER 2, 1865-SEPTEMBER 25, 1938)

Norwegian Lutheran Missionary to the Santals

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The name of Lars Olsen Skrefsrud came to my attention via the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), which lists December 11 as his feast day.  For reasons I do not understand this feast has not carried over into the calendar in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006).  Neither have any Lutheran Worship (1982) and the Lutheran Service Book (2006), both of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, included this feast.  I have also noticed that the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (1996), of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, a body with Norwegian immigrant roots, does not include this feast either.  The names of Hans Peter Boerresen and Paul Olaf Bodding came to my attention as I read and took notes regarding Skrefsrud.

These three saints were missionaries to the Santal tribe in northern India.  The Santals had been present on the Indian subcontinent prior to the arrival of the Aryans.  Skrefsrud, Boerresen, and Bodding worked among Santals, respected their culture, and helped to build a strong indigenous church.

Skrefsrud, born near Lillehammer, Norway, on February 4, 1840, took a winding path to his vocation.  He came from a poor family.  Although Skrefsrud dreamed of becoming a minister, circumstances pushed him into coppersmithing instead.  This did not satisfy him.  Skrefsrud reacted by drinking heavily.  He and some drinking buddies robbed a bank.  The 19-year-old Skrefsrud gave up drinking, delved into Christianity, mastered the German and English languages, and received a sentence of incarceration for four years; he served about half of it.  While in prison our saint received visits from one Anna Onsum, a young woman who believed in him and encouraged him in his spiritual journey.

Skrefsrud became a missionary.  He trained at the Gossmer Missionary Society, Berlin.  (Knowing German helped then.)  While in Berlin Skrefsrud lived austerely and attended services daily.  In 1863 the missionary society dispatched Skrefsrud to northern India.  Anna Onsum joined him there and married him the following year.  She arrived in the company of Catherine and Hans Peter Boerresen, the latter of whom the missionary society sent to work with Skrefsrud.  Boerresen, who was expert in raising funds, was also a minister and a civil engineer.

boerresen

Above:  Hans Peter Boerresen

Image in the Public Domain

For a few years Skrefsrud and Boerresen worked in conjunction with Baptist missionaries.  There were two sticking points:  (1) the theology of infant baptism and (2) the denial of permission for the two Lutheran missionaries to continue to work together.  So it was that, in 1867, Skrefsrud and Boerresen founded the Ebenezer Mission at Benegaria, from which they worked among indigenous peoples.  The following year they cofounded The Indian Home Mission to the Santals, the forerunner of today’s Northern Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Boerresen returned to Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1877.  He died on September 23, 1901.

bodding

Above:  Paul Olaf Bodding

Image in the Public Domain

Another colleague of Skrefsrud was Paul Olaf Bodding (1865-1938), a scientist.  The native of Gjosik, Norway, was son of a bookseller.  The great missionary recruited the young Bodding in the family’s bookstore.  The rest was history.  He served in India from 1889 to 1933.  Although Skrefsrud had written A Grammar of the Santhal Language (1873), Bodding created an alphabet for the people, who lacked one previously.  Skrefsrud translated the Gospels into the new written language, but Bodding completed the process of translating the Bible into it.  Skrefsrud also wrote textbooks and a hymnal into the new written language.  Bodding preserved Santali folklore in writing via that script.  Folklore of the Santal Parganas (1909) depended upon his work.

Skrefsrud did much else to help the Santal people.  He also founded vocational and technical schools and appealed to British imperial officials to protect the Santals from other tribes.  He continued to labor in northern India for the rest of his life.

Bodding returned to Europe in 1933. The saint died at Odense, Denmark, on September 25, 1938.

The Northern Evangelical Lutheran Church continues to minister among indigenous people on the subcontinent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES EDWARD OAKLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDMILLA, DUCHESS OF BOHEMIA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN BEHM, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIBERT AND AICARDUS OF JUMIEGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

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God of grace and might, we praise you for your servants

Lars Olsen Skrefsrud, Hans Peter Boerresen, and Paul Olaf Bodding,

to whom you gave gifts to make the good news known.

Raise up, we pray, in every country, heralds and evangelists of your kingdom,

so that the world may know the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Isaiah 62:1-7

Psalm 48

Romans 10:11-17

Luke 24:44-53

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), page 37

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