Countywide : Danish Church Doors Opened

For five years, members of a Danish Lutheran congregation in Southern California simply wanted a church they could call home.

They ended up building a center for Nordic culture.

The Emanuel Danish Lutheran Church in Yorba Linda was dedicated Sunday during a three-hour ceremony that became a religious and cultural celebration.

Among about 300 people who attended was Peter Dyvig, the Danish ambassador to the United States.

"We were sort of nomadic," said the Rev. Richard Baglien, pastor of the 250-member church. "Now we have a home. We've dreamed about this for a long time."

Built with private donations and a grant from the Valley Knudsen Foundation, the $2-million church looks like a traditional Danish village church, but inside it has the elegance of a small castle.

The parquet floors, brass and glass chandeliers and wall lights were imported from Denmark. The pews are made of oak; the doors, panels and window frames are mahogany from Honduras, and the music is provided by a $30,000 organ.

"It will be a cultural center for Danes and Scandinavian people," said Baglien.

The church will provide movies, lectures and presentations on Danish history, and visiting Danish artists will perform, he said.

A Lutheran church at 43rd Street and 3rd Avenue in Los Angeles has served the congregation since the early 1900s, but the neighborhood has deteriorated over the years, Baglien said.

According to Kate Krake Neilsen, the church's historian, church leaders started considering a new location five years ago.

A piece of land was donated in Artesia, but the city refused to issue a building permit, saying the location was inappropriate.

In 1993, the congregation bought the two-acre site at 16881 Bastanchury Road.

"It's a location relatively central," said Priscilla Jachel, a member of the congregation, which has members from Orange, Los Angles, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.

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