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First female priest for Danish church in Singapore

   
Vicar Kirsten Eistrup says 50 per cent of the Lutheran Protestant Church's priests in Denmark are female. -- ST PHOTO: AMANDA TAN

The Straits Times, February 14, 2011

By Amanda Tan

THE Danish Seamen's Church in Singapore yesterday welcomed its first female priest at a service attended by more than 100 members of the Danish community here.

Vicar Kirsten Eistrup, 55, is the Lutheran Protestant Church's first female pastor in Asia. The Church has branches in Hong Kong, Australia and Canada.

Though this is a first for the Singapore chapter, the Church allowed women to be ordained as priests as far back as 1947. It is by far the most popular in Denmark, with 80 per cent of the population belonging to this Church.

'In Denmark, about 50 per cent of the Church's priests are female. Personally, I don't consider myself a female priest specifically. I come as a priest,' said Vicar Eistrup, who was ordained as a priest about 25 years ago.

In another first, the local Norwegian Seamen's Church will also welcome its first female priest next week.

Vicar Eistrup will be based here for at least the next four years, serving as priest of the church as well as port chaplain, visiting Danish seafarers on vessels which call at local ports.

'I've always had connections with Singapore as my husband comes here for business regularly. The country has been part of my family life and it is a fantastic opportunity for me to be able to come here,' she said, adding that the Danish Church has no restrictions on priests getting married, having children and participating in common life.

Established in Singapore more than 25 years ago, the Danish Seamen's Church at Mount Faber serves as a central meeting point for the community.

The Danish ambassador to Singapore, Mr Ole Lisborg, who was at the event, said: 'The community is very attached to this place as it is their meeting place and cultural centre, not just a church. Vicar Eistrup's role is very important as she is the central figure for Danes here.'

Yesterday, after conducting her first service here, the vicar met parishioners who queued up to greet her with handshakes and hugs.

Mr Claus Wittrock, 69, who was part of yesterday's congregation, said he welcomed her addition to the church.

'I might need some time to get used to it since we usually have male priests here in Singapore, but it is very common in Denmark, and it is very natural for us to have a female head,' he said.

Many churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, still do not allow women to become priests.





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