An oasis of slightly bizarre solemnity in midtown can be found at Church of Sweden, a narrow, grandish stone building with high arched windows, that is nonetheless easily missable, on E. 48th Street off Madison. It's an actual church with services in Swedish on Sunday, but if feels more like an obscure private library. The walls of the long main room are lined with books and above them, behind a banister, is a demi-floor also lined with books. At the back is a little snack counter, where various Swedish teas, cakes and Lakerol mints can be purchased. There's also an odd shop of sorts, with CDs, books, postcards, knick-knacks and t-shirts are sold.
I used to come to the church sometimes during my lunch hour when I worked in the area. I liked the peace of the place, the way it ignored the rest of the world. It was always full of silent, slow-moving blonde people. If you're not Swedish, however, you have to be a little brave to enter it. There are no allowances for the English speaker. Almost all the signs, posters and books are in Swedish. The staff isn't welcoming. You'll get no smile when you make your purchase, and the cashier will seem a little put out that he is made to speak English for a few seconds.
There is one time of the year when things warm up: the annual holiday craft fair. The church is transformed into a bazaar, with vendors selling Christmas ornaments, candles, cakes, sweets, and everything you could want for your Santa Lucia festivities. It's sweet and fun. And in the basement you can buy Swedish meatballs and hot cider and such. Of course, it's not for everyone. I took some of my workmates to one of these shindigs. They were bewildered.