When Karl Olsen moved to California from his native Denmark, he lived first in Danish-settled Solvang in the Santa Ynez Mountains, where the familiar sounds, sights and scents helped curb his homesickness.
But after moving to Villa Park in 1966, Olsen turned to his church, Emanuel Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church. "The church is important to me because it makes me feel like I'm at home," he said. "It keeps that part of my past alive."
The congregation has been meeting since 1906 in downtown Los Angeles buildings and currently meets in a rented facility in Pasadena. But this fall, the congregation will have a new home on Bastanchury Road in Yorba Linda, a central location for their far-flung members.
The permanent home, officials said, should attract fellow Danes to the church, which they say is the only one in their faith from San Diego to Solvang.
When the new church is finished, it will resemble many of the village churches in Denmark, said Ernest Nellerman, a member of the congregation who is the general contractor for the project.
"The red-tiled roof and white walls are typical of a country village church," Nellerman said. "The colors are used because they are found in the Danish flag, which is white with a red cross."
The Gothic-style architecture is also the same as that found in many Danish churches, Nellerman said. Outside the east entrance of the church is a replica of the Runic Stone, a large inscribed rock that King Harald erected as a monument to his father, King Gorm.
Danes consider Gorm, who died in 958, the forefather of the country's Christian monarchy.
"The stone is significant because it represents the beginning of Christianity in Denmark," said Carlo Christensen, a member of the church's executive committee.
Since members come from all over Southern California, Sunday services are just the beginning of an all-day affair.
"After services we have lunch, then many people stay around to socialize," said interim Pastor Richard Baglien. "People come from quite a long distance and they don't want leave right away."
The new facility also will have a cultural center. On the first Sunday of every month, visitors can hear services in Danish, then attend a cultural event that could include visiting Danish speakers.
Church officials have not yet set a date for a grand opening, but they are hoping to have some grand guests, including Denmark's Queen Margrethe, who attended the church's 75th anniversary celebration in 1981.