History – The Era Of Danish Immigration 1925-1935

During its first years, St. Ansgar looked to the multitude of Danish immigrants for growth and development. They came by the hundreds in the early years but the number dwindled during the depression. However, the transiency of the newcomers did not lend to building a large strong congregation. Many went back to Denmark after a short unsatisfactory staywhile others moved on to other parts of the province and country. Only 6 of the original 32 charter members were still in the congregation after 4 years. The worship services had crowds of 130 and 150 people in its second year, but it seemed that each crowd was a new crowd and there were few steady members and attendees upon whom to build a Church.The new Canadians were usually quite poor, more in need of financial help than able to help the financial needs of the new Church. In response to their needs, the pastor and Church acted as a “traveler’s aid society” as well as a ministry of Word and Sacrament. Pastor Kloth reported that as many as 10 immigrants a day pleaded for help and that in one year hecorresponded with 336 inquirers about prospects in Canada. Pastors Kloth and Bondo regularly met them as they got off the trains at Union Station, and the parsonage was a dining hall and hostel for uncounted Danes. Many of the present membership testify to kindness’ received from pastors and Church during their arrival and settling-in period. The Churchwas also useful as a half-way house between Denmark and Canada. It served to ease the culture shock, and many used the Church as a temporary cushion, but then drifted away as they made the cultural adjustment.Pastor Kloth reporting in the synod paper wrote, “when we realize that the Toronto immigrants, as a rule are not the people with strong spiritual roots in the church of Denmark, but people somewhat removed from it, then we cannot expect that our congregation will rapidly grow and become self-supporting.” Many of the immigrants were influenced by thetrend of the “cultured despising” of the Gospel and the Church which was beginning to bring some dark days to the Church o f Denmark. The majority of the immigrants came from Danish parishes where the Lutherans were content to fulfill some minimal “obligations” such as receiving the Sacrament of Baptism and the rites of confirmation, marriage and burial;attending worship semi-annually; and paying the small church tax collected as part of the national income-tax. Not many who came from such a tradition gave themselves to this new North American style of Church life that called for faithfulness in worship attendance, the volunteering of lay leadership, and a generous offering from a meager income.On the other hand, the suitcase of the newcomer typically contained their Danish hymnal and Bible and the fact of their existence begged their use. The emigrant also brought with him a basic Christian education from school and a thousand year tradition of Christianity and so despite social obstacles he was a prospect for our mission Church in Toronto. Some of thenewcomers had been active in the movements of renewal which had their greatest impact in Denmark a generation earlier and these people brought a Christian depth to our new Christian community here. Partly what we celebrate this year is that there were some dedicated Christians from the Church of Denmark, and there were others who rose to the challenge ofthe new Christian life style here and so our Church was founded and survived. 

Original Credits Carl Larson, Philip & Irene Jorgensen

The Depression Years (1930-1939)