A History of Religious Tolerance in the former Danish West Indies (now the US Virgin Islands)
Christianity arrived on St. Thomas with the first European settlers in 1666. The Lutheran Pastor, Kjeld Jensen Slagelse, who had run afoul of church authorities in Denmark, ministered to a congregation of some 100 parishioners, only half of whom were Danish Lutherans. The pastor also served as governor of the settlement when the original governor died.
This first expedition ended in failure due to high mortality from disease, hunger and raids by buccaneers and Pastor Slagelse sailed back to Denmark along with the few survivors of that ill-fated mission.
Pastor, Slagelse joined the next expedition to St. Thomas in 1671, but died aboard ship before reaching the island. He was succeeded by another minister, who died shortly after taking over the position. The third minister had to be sent back to Denmark for drunkenness. (The matter was turned over to the Danish courts where the minister argued that his drunken states were the result of the poor quality of rum: a white, unrefined, high alcohol content concoction known a “kill devil,” produced on the island.)
Life expectancy of Lutheran ministers, as well as for many of the other colonists, was quite short. During the first 100 years that the Lutheran Church conducted services on St. Thomas, there were 31 different ministers.
Lutheran services were originally held in the courtyard of the fort and all colonists were required to attend services regardless of religious affiliation.
When settlers sent back accounts of hardship and disease, the Danes, who were generally comfortable at home, became extremely reluctant to settle the new territories. Even prisoners promised freedom after six years of labor on St. Thomas responded to the offer with riots and mutinies. In order to recruit settlers, the Danish government and its representative in the colonies, the Danish West India Company, resorted to inviting foreigners to settle the islands. One of the incentives employed to entice foreigners to settle on St. Thomas was the prospect of religious tolerance.
The majority of these foreign settlers on St. Thomas were Dutch. So influential were these foreigners that a Dutch Creole, called Creolsk soon became the common language of St. Thomas and St. John.
Cooperation and religious tolerance began with the Dutch being allowed to use the Lutheran Church inside the fort to conduct services until they were able to build a church of their own.
By 1675, the Dutch and French Reformed Churches had built churches just to the east of the fort.
Jews and Catholics were granted freedom of religion in 1685. In the early 1700s, an Anglican Church was set up to serve English settlers and in 1736, the Moravians established a slave mission on the island.
St. John Events
St. John Film Society presents: ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT
At the St John School of the Arts in Cruz Bay – 7:30 pm
Screen shot 2014-02-02 at 8.43.39 AMTen years in the making, ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT follows the poignant journey of circus producer David Balding as he tries to find a nurturing and permanent home for Flora, the 18-year-old African elephant that he rescued as an infant, raised as his “daughter” and made the star of his circus. David’s love for Flora is put to the ultimate test when he realizes he made a terrible mistake keeping her as a solo elephant, and decides to retire her from the circus after 17 years of performing.
Knowing Flora will outlive him, and with his health and finances becoming an issue, David sets off on a quest to find a home for Flora can live freely with other elephants. This complicated task begins with Flora’s final circus performance in St. Louis and takes us on an emotional trek across America, then to Africa and back.
We follow David’s journey as he discovers just how difficult it is to find a proper home for an elephant in a world that reveres these animals for their majesty yet slaughters them for their ivory, adores them as cuddly Dumbos yet brands them “rampaging creatures”.
ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT raises critical issues about the well-being and future of the hundreds of thousands of endangered and exotic animals kept in captivity, the over development and destruction of their natural habitats, our intense and often damaging relationship with wild animals, and how all these issues have impacted the life of one very lucky elephant.
Come early to help set up the chairs! Thanks in advance!
St. John Live Music Schedule
Barefoot Cowboy Lounge
6:30 – 9:30
Inn at Tamarind Court
6:30 – 9:30
6:30 – 9:30
6:00 – 9:00
St. John Weather
Isolated showers. Sunny, with a high near 78. South southeast wind around 7 mph. Chance of precipitation is 10%.