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A Port of Velkommen

Some houses of worship are known for the pealing of their bells. But in its Beacon Street neighborhood, the Norwegian Seaman’s Church of San Pedro is known for playing appropriate national anthems through loudspeakers for Scandinavian ships passing through the harbor--a touch of velkommen (welcome) for sailors and tourists. “We don’t play the music before 9 a.m. though,” says Norwegian church hostess Liv Nilson. “Otherwise we’ll wake the neighbors.”

The church doors, in fact, don’t open until 10 a.m. But when they do, out floats the aroma of freshly baked pastries, waffles and coffee to entice visitors. Regulars gather to watch ships and read hometown papers from Oslo, Bergen or Lillehammer.

Along with Norwegian pastor Annette Billing and Swedish pastor Leif Eliasson, Nilson and Swede Ingre Pearson keep the church’s doors open seven days a week.

“This is more than a seaman’s church,” Pearson says. “This is the church abroad for Norwegians and Swedes. It is very important for Scandinavian tourists, and it is a tremendous source of support for au pair girls from the Nordic nations.”

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