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20 February 2013
  + Rasmus Jensen, Chaplain and Explorer +
20 February AD 1620

Danish Coat of Arms In 1619, King Christian IV of Norway and Denmark sent the ships Enhiørningen and Lamprenen in search of the Northwest Passage to India. The crew of sixty-four Norwegians, Danes, Swedes, and Germans was led by Captain Jens Munk, an experienced naval officer. The ship's chaplain was Danish Pastor Rasmus Jensen, who became the first Lutheran minister in the New World.

The explorers journeyed as far as the western shore of Hudson Bay, finally reaching present-day Churchill, Manitoba on 7 September 1620. Winter's cold comes early at that latitude and ice soon trapped them. Scurvy, famine, and brutal cold slowly killed the crew. The captain's journal shows that Jensen delivered a Christmas sermon and celebrated the Lord's Supper.

Not long after, Jensen's health deteriorated. Captain Munk wrote, "On the 23rd of January ... the priest sat up in his berth and gave the people a sermon, which sermon was the last he delivered in this world.... On the 20th of February, in the evening, died the priest, Mr Rasmus Jensen as aforesaid, who had been ill and kept his bed a long time." We know little about Pastor Jensen save for the records of this voyage. No known pictures exist and no records have been found as to his education or prior parish responsibilities.

In July, Captain Munk sailed for home on the Lamprenen with the only two surviving members of his crew. They reached Bergen, Norway on 20 September, seven months to the day after their chaplain's death. Whether or not the harsh winter influenced their decision, Danish Lutherans subsequently concentrated their mission efforts in the much warmer climes of India and the Virgin Islands, particularly Saint Thomas.

Collect

Most gracious God, we thank you for your servant Rasmus Jensen and for all other ministers who accompany Christians traveling to distant, desolate, or perilous places, seeking to minister to those they accompany and to those they meet, sharing their hardships in the name of Him who humbled Himself to share ours, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
 
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