The Words of the Devlin Family

News from Gorolund Norway

Gerard Devlin
June 1985

Astrid Jensen (left) and Johnny Lothe (right) help harvest potatoes in Gorolund's spacious backyard.

"When we were looking for a workshop center, our experience had been that there would be times we would have no workshop guests. Our idea was to have some place where we could cover expenses. So it was natural that we would investigate a guest house." Thus explains Mr. Viggo Jorgensen (now state leader of Maryland) about the purchase of a guest house in southeastern Norway called Gorolund Gjestgiveri, when he was the national leader of Norway. Mr. Jorgensen bought the building in March 1979, and since then, this hotel has served as a source of income and employment for many Norwegian church members as well as a monthly workshop center.

In 1894 a well-to-do farmer in the town of Aarnes built this sizable house, it is said, for his fiancee, and for the last 26 years it has been used as a 12-room guest house, mostly accommodating travelers doing business in Aarnes.

Family and guests share an outdoor barbecue during a Unification Church workshop on St. Hans' Day, 1979. This traditional Norwegian celebration marks Midsummer Day, when the sun is up for almost 20 hours.

For 28 days out of the month Gorolund looks just like any other rural Norwegian guest house, a staid and comfortable place for weary Nordic travelers to spend a night or two. But one weekend a month it sheds its quiet, businesslike exterior, and the unlikely strains of "Straalende Fedreland" ("Shining Fatherland") and "Aa Mitt Lille Lam" ("O My Little Lambs") can be heard emanating from the hotel's main room.

Gorolund (the name is taken from the area in which it is located) serves the family occasionally as a seven-day workshop site and as a church meeting place during God's Day, Easter, and Pentecost. These last two holidays are big celebrations in this highly Christian Scandinavian country. Once a year it becomes a vacation spot for a dozen elderly people who have been steadfast supporters of the Unification Church in Norway.

Although the hotel looked pretty much the same after the family took over, the regular traveler to Aarnes found that a few things had changed. The weary businessman no doubt found that the service he received was brighter and more heartfelt, but he couldn't get his usual highball or glass of wine. The closest he could come to it was something called a "brigg," which looks and tastes like beer, but has most of the alcohol taken out. Yet, except for large parties, business did not suffer, according to Astrid Jensen, who was in charge of the guest house from its change of ownership until very recently. "We soon gained a reputation as one of the best places in the area for business workshops and seminars." 

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