To distinguish Växjö News and Events

Bishop of Växjö visits Oxford 2017

Oxford diocese was delighted to welcome Bishop Fredrik Modéus on his first visit to Oxford Diocese in the summer of 2017.

Here is a selection of pictures taken during a trip to the Reading Deanery.

Graeme Fancourt, Vicar of St Luke’s and St Bart’s and Area Dean of Reading with Bishop Fredrik and his chaplain, Rickard Bonnevier.

A visit to St John’s with St Stephen’s, Reading was part of the tour.

 

There was plenty to smile about with this group.

Bishop Fredrik, Hugh White, Rickard Bonnevier and Bishop Steven.

The Oxford diocesan web site includes a video of a discussion between Bishops Steven and Fredrik which can be reached via this link.

 

Växjö Priest at Ironstone and St Paul’s Wokingham

Four months in England in 2016

Dag Bjärnhall

Dag Bjärnhall

From September to December 2016 I had the opportunity to pay a visit to England.  This is a short summary of my impressions and experiences.

During my visit I stayed and participated in the life of the church in two parts of the Church of England Diocese of Oxford.  I spent half of the time (in September and December) in the Ironstone Benefice, which comprises seven small rural parishes and lies to the north of Oxford and to the west of the town of Banbury.  The other half of my time (October and November) was spent in the urban parish of St Paul’s Wokingham, which is to the south [east] of Oxford.

From many points of view it was interesting and rewarding to share in the life of two different aspects of both the Church of England and in the community and culture of England.  My aim in gaining this experience was to be able to compare it with my own experience of Sweden and the Church of Sweden.  Both churches have to live in a secular context, that is in a community where religion and faith in God are no longer self-evident; nor [does] the church as an institution [seem relevant].  At the same time, the Church of England and the Church of Sweden, despite their similarities, are in some ways different, which makes it interesting to compare them.

During my period with the Ironstone parishes and St Paul’s parish, which for the sake of simplicity I will refer to as Ironstone and St Paul’s, I was, above all, a guest.  I contributed when I could to the life of the parishes through preaching and leading services.  But my primary role was as an observer.  I am not deeply familiar with their culture, but I could contribute by asking questions and making comparisons with my Swedish culture and with the Swedish church.  As a visitor and guest, that is the contribution we can give to ‘the other’.  And naturally one gets a lot back through what one experiences.

Various activities and gatherings

I had the opportunity to take part in many activities in the church and in relation to the surrounding community.  I mention some of them here in brief.

Church services and a variety of meetings

It is an exciting and joyful thing to take part in the services of another church.  To a great extent there is a joy of recognition from my own church; different liturgical expressions, hymns, the preacher’s effort and eagerness to set forth the grace of the gospel, and prayers in thankfulness, grace and hope.  I recognise also the joy of coming together and sharing faith, sharing the creed and singing and praying together.  And, after the service, fellowship over a cup of coffee.  And I recognise in the eyes of people a certain woefulness or perplexity, sometimes expressed, when not many people attend the service; what will happen to the church in the future?

The Church of England, like the Church of Sweden, has various kinds of churchmanship; high church, low church and everything between.  Like us, they have the challenge of holding the church as a unity and being able to see the riches in diversity.  The liturgical expression of this is in the prayer book.  They use both the old traditional ‘Book of Common Prayer’ (1662) and the modern ‘Common Worship’.  A parish or church can use both for different services.  We can contrast that with our practice in the Church of Sweden where we want to have a single applicable prayer book for all churches /parishes.  Although I wonder if there is such a great difference when suggested revisions to our prayer book, if adopted, will in practice offer a range of alternatives.  The question for both churches is how we keep together as a unity and how diversity is given its place.  There are questions other than liturgical that carry the risk of being more divisive in our churches but, in this context, I leave that aside.

Irrespective of forms, language and culture, it is encouraging and hope-giving to see the joy and positivity that is awakened when people come together in a church service.  The Holy Spirit does something with us when we are gathered in faith and worship.  It is also cheering to see how engaged people are when they come to services and other meetings.  There are many who voluntarily offer their time and energy.  This is particularly true in the Church of England, which doesn’t employ so many people as the Church of Sweden.

I noticed another interesting thing in St Paul’s Church.  It belongs to the ‘liberal catholic’ tradition, which means that they emphasise the liturgical aspect in worship and are liberal in questions of private morality.  What I noticed was their relationship to the liturgy.  They made it beautiful and uplifting without its being rigid or over-formal.  Reverence and seriousness could be combined with warmth and a relaxed humour.  It was cheering to see this, as my experience in Sweden is that it is not so easy to combine these aspects.

Celebration of Swedish Lucia

During my stay, I was invited in both Ironstone and St Paul’s to lead a Lucia service, which I gladly did.  Lucia celebrations are unusual in England, so it was necessary for me to explain about Lucia and Lucia traditions.  We held Lucia services in both places with a Lucia procession, Lucia songs, and a talk on light in the darkness.  Pepparkakor [thin ginger biscuits] were baked and Lucia buns and glögg [a type of mulled wine] were served afterwards.  An appreciated and, for them, exotic, occasion.  It was also fun to hear Lucia songs, even to some extent in Swedish by quick-to-learn English men and women.

Music, song and choir

It is great to having music and hymns in worship.  This unites our churches.  And we have many hymns in common.  One difference, not least in the rural parishes, is that they don’t have the resources to employ a musician.  There are good voluntary musicians, but sometimes reliance has to be placed on recorded tunes to provide the accompaniment.  It does work, but it does not give the same ‘live [music] -feeling’.  We in the Swedish church can be thankful that we have church musicians.

In St Paul’s church there is a big and highly competent choir, and in one of the other churches in the parish, Woosehill, there is a devoted music group, which is important in services.  Not all the seven church in the Ironstone benefice have choirs but, as I understand it, choristers sometimes come together to form a benefice choir.  Music plays an important role in church services.

Weddings and burials

I also took part in a wedding rehearsal and a wedding ceremony.  Also in a burial service.  Their content is basically the same as in the Swedish church, but it was interesting to compare them and see certain differences.  I will not, however, go into that here.

Praise and pizza’, St Nicholas’ Community Church, Emmbrook

On one Sunday evening in October, we met in Emmbrook village hall, which is used on Sunday’s for church services.  This church serves a suburb [housing estate] within the parish of St Paul’s [Wokingham].  The theme was ‘Praise and Pizza!’  We sang praise songs and ate pizza and chatted afterwards.  Relaxed and happy, with low social thresholds [i.e. accessible to all].

All Saints Day – church service and bazaar

In the Church of England, All Saints Day on ‘the day’, that is on 1 November.  We celebrated it in St Paul’s Church on the evening of 2 November with plenty of congregational hymns and choir items; beautiful and atmospheric.

On the following Tuesday evening a bazaar was held in the Parish Rooms, which are adjacent to St Paul’s church.  It was a festive and relaxed occasion, with the proceeds going to charitable causes.

Advent, Christmas Carols and Christmas Stalls

In both St Paul’s and Ironstone Advent and Christmas services are held with an emphasis on singing.  Atmospheric and beautiful.  Christmas stalls are organised in the different churches.

Welcoming Oxford diocese’s new bishop, Steven Croft

The new bishop of Oxford diocese was received in Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford.  Our Växjö bishop, Fredrik, took part.  Afterwards, Bishop Steven was welcomed by the three areas of Oxford Diocese, each of which has an area bishop.  When I was in Wokingham, Bishop Steven was welcomed into the Berkshire area, where Bishop Andrew Proud is the area bishop.  That took place in Reading, a neighbouring town to Wokingham, in the church of St Mary the Virgin.  It was festive and celebratory.

Children and education

Both [our] churches run children’s and family programmes.  In practice this is about offering Christian teaching and mission for the next generation.

Children and family services, etc

Both St Paul’s and Ironstone offer various gatherings where children and families can enjoy fellowship, play and teaching/worship.  One difference [with Sweden] is that they don’t have employed teachers and so, to a great extent, have to rely on volunteers.  The priest is also involved in these events to a greater extent than is the case in the Church of Sweden.

Church and school

This is an area with interesting differences between our two churches.  Simply stated, we can say that there is a closer and more natural relationship between Church of England parishes and schools than is the case between Church of Sweden parishes and schools.  The priest at Ironstone visited a primary school in one of the parishes once a week and taught a Christian education class as well as leading an assembly for several classes which included teaching and singing.  It was, to be sure, a Christian [Church of England] school.  The St Paul’s priest also visits schools in the parish.  There too my impression is that relations there are more natural and not so filled with complexity than they can be in Sweden, for example [in Sweden] the annual discussions about hymns and prayers at the end of the school year.  I won’t take up the reasons for and correctness [or otherwise] of this difference here.  It is, however, an interesting question which can be looked into more thoroughly in other contexts.  The question can also be widened to the relation of the church to the community as a whole

Harvest festival in a school

In autumn, as in Sweden, there is a tradition of harvest festivals, with produce offered in churches, which is then sold for the benefit of some good cause.  One difference with Sweden is that such services, led by a priest with preaching and prayer, can be held in a school.  This happened, for example, in Holme Grange School in St Paul’s parish, Wokingham.  This was, it should be said, a school closely linked to the church.  A unique experience for a big school, with many hundred pupils between 7 and 12 years old sitting together in the school hall, as quiet as lit candles, all at the same time!

Remembrance Day

In relation to various traditions, such as, for example, Remembrance Day (a day of remembrance for the British soldiers who have died in war) it appeared natural for the church, through the priest, to participate and contribute, leading prayers and hymns and delivering a sermon.  This happened, for example, in The Holt School in Wokingham, where a Service of Remembrance was held in the school grounds.  There were addresses by the headmaster and someone from the military, but also, as a natural part of the ceremony, by the priest.

Study [Groups] and discussions

I also had the chance to to be present in various study [groups] and discussions/ conversations in the parishes.

Bible Studies

Bible studies are held in both Ironstone and St Paul’s.  It was interesting that, in the Bible study, in prayers and discussions, the focus was on the same Bible texts or themes, as we do in the Swedish church.  One difference is that it is not so easy in a language not one’s mother tongue, but it was interesting and informative.  It became clear how strongly language is interwoven with culture and that it is not so easy to understand what lies behind the words.  But it was also clear how religious experiences, e.g. of grace, despite being expressed in different languages, seem nevertheless to be understood across the language barriers in a sort of common experience.

Coffee and chat

There were various get-togethers for relaxed fellowship, for example at after-service coffee but also on weekdays under the title ‘coffee and chat’.  This happens in both Ironstone and St Paul’s.  These were good occasions for fellowship and practising my English.  Enjoyable and relaxing, and English people have their special witty and warm humour!

Men’s group

There were men’s groups at St Paul’s, one met in the evening and the other, newly started, was held in the daytime.  The atmosphere was pleasant and there was good ale and good food [here, enigmatically, Dag adds “kom!” – an allusion to a Swedish song which describes how good ale keeps the singer’s courage up, but also makes him poor, even to the extent of pawning his socks!] Even on the occasions at the pub I had the impression that the church is a more natural part of the life and community than seems to be the case in Sweden, despite secularisation in both our countries.

The church and the community

I also took part in activities relating to the wider community.  It is interesting to see how the relationship between the church and the community appears compared with the situation in Sweden

Remembrance Day

The day of remembrance for fallen British soldiers is observed not only in schools, but also in churches and town halls.  Wokingham’s other parish of All Saints holds such a service.  It started with people gathering in the town hall, where there were various ceremonies, culminating with the laying of wreaths, with the town hall chaplain leading prayers.  After a solemn procession to the church of local politicians, representatives of the military, church dignitaries and other civil organisations, a service was held with words of remembrance, wreath laying, but also with hymns, Bible reading, preaching and prayer for those lost in war, their families, and for peace in our community and in the world.

It was interesting to see what a natural place the church had in this and how natural it was to have a Christian service.  Even if we in Sweden do not have such a day of remembrance, there are other occasions which show that the church in our country does not have the same natural place in the community.  A clear example is, as stated, the relationship between church and school.  Another example is the pre-Christmas nativity play about the birth of Jesus.  In the school this is put together by pupils and teachers as a means of teaching parents.  But also, on the initiative of some villages, a nativity play is presented in and around a church in Ironstone.

So my general impression is that the attitude of people to the church and faith seems to be more open, or less complicated, than that of people in Sweden.  Certainly, both the Church of England and the Church of Sweden live in a secularised environment with few attending church and with, in many respects, a critical or disinterested relationship with the church.  But, at the same time, there are nuances, and my impression is that the Church of England in general operates in a community which is generally more positively open to the church than is the case in Sweden.

The parish, staff and church buildings

With regard to the number of employees in the parish, there is a great difference between the Church of England and the Church of Sweden.  In England there is often only one, or one or two priests employed in a parish or benefice.  Apart from that there can be an organist and a secretary, both part-time.  There are no teachers employed.  There are deacons, but their role is generally not the same as in the Church of Sweden.  Most commonly, a person ordained as deacon serves as such for a time prior to being ordained as a priest.  Employed caretakers [or vergers] are not so common either.  Structurally, this means that there is a big difference between our two churches.  The main reason for this is there there are not the financial resources to employ more people.  The Church of England does not have a financing system through laid-down contributions by its members as we do.  Neither have they a tradition of registering people as members.  Only a minority are registered members [i.e. on the parish electoral roll].  The members of the equivalent of our kyrkoråd (parochial church council) are chosen from those registered.

This means that there isn’t the same firm financial base that we have in the Church of Sweden.  The parish work must to a great extent be handled through voluntary efforts.  This is of course means that many people are needed, but it is also a problem when volunteers are lacking.  In Sweden the number of members is decreasing, albeit slowly, which means that before long we too will have more volunteering and change our priorities.  A necessary change of structure, the effect of which depends on how thoughtfully and wisely we make it.  Here, I believe we have much to learn from the Church of England.  Our membership system is something the Church of England should perhaps look more closely at but, naturally, in its context.

The less secure financial situation in the Church of England, of course, affects more than the number of parish employees.  Not least it affects the capacity to maintain church buildings.  Even though there seem to be many different funding sources, finance for church buildings is something which concerns and worries many church activists.  This is also a familiar problem for the Church of Sweden.  I don’t know if it is a greater problem in the Church of England, but that is my impression.  This is perhaps another area where we should learn from one another.

Deanery meetings, church councils and other organisations

Deanery meetings

One evening in Ironstone I attended a deanery meeting in Adderbury.  It was good to meet priests from the whole deanery.  Various issues were discussed concerning collaborative activities, e.g. an evangelistic campaign.  In addition, a representative from each parish related briefly what, currently, were matters of joys and sorrows in their parishes.  It was a good move, through which one got a certain insight into parish life throughout the deanery.  Another meeting took up the subject of pastoral care in the last phase of life; interesting.

At St Paul’s, I also attended a deanery meeting held in All Saints Church, Wokingham.  The theme there was how we can work in a more focused and mission directed way with children and families.  There was a presentation about ‘Messy Church’.  This is an approach which has already been introduced by the Church of England to the Church of Sweden.  A method which can provide a greater awareness and various new ways of carrying out teaching and mission among children and families.

Parish Council

In Ironstone I also attended a number of parish council meetings.  The Church of England still maintains the principle of self-governing parishes, through a parish council.  As Ironstone benefice has seven parishes (and eight churches!), there are many parish council meetings.  I was present at some of them.  The usual topics of service rotas and other special activities were dealt with.  The need for maintenance and, for example, renovation of church roofs also required time and thought.  Difficult questions about priorities came up:  for example, shall we launch an appeal to finance a new church roof, or a new electricity system for the church, or invest money to aid refugees, or in an evangelisation campaign in the village?  Not easy to prioritise, but it brings to the fore interesting questions about the purpose of a Christian parish.

Local ecumenism: “Churches Together”

In St Paul’s I attended a local ecumenical meeting, ‘Churches Together’.  There were representatives of the Church of England, Methodist, Baptist and Roman Catholic congregations.  They discussed matters concerning combined services and mission activities in the town.  Also discussed was a current issue about a new locale for their second-hand shop and their so-called ‘Food Bank’, a relief effort for providing food [to people in need].

Meeting with the Diocese of Oxford Group for the friendship link with Växjö Diocese

I took part in a meeting with the Oxford diocese group dealing with the friendship link with, among others, Växjö diocese.  It was interesting to attend this.  On this occasion the main topic of the meeting was the forthcoming welcome to Bishop Steven and the visit of bishop Fredrik [bishop of Växjö] to the diocese.  Other questions were discussed as well, for example the implications for the link diocese work of the change of bishops.

Church Mission Society

One day in September I had the opportunity of meeting Raj Patel, who works for the Church Mission Society and is responsible for Asia.  CMS is an independent organisation working in Christian mission throughout the world.  They train mission partners and others prior to their being sent out.  They work together in mission with local churches.  Interesting, with a world-wide perspective.

Training days

Partnership for Missional Church (PMC)

One Saturday in St Paul’s parish I was given the opportunity to attend a training for mission day.  It is a mission concept offered to parishes through the diocese.  St Paul’s parish in Wokingham is a participant in this project, which extends over a longer period.  It is process focused and assumes that the entire parish, with employees, parish council members and volunteers, is drawn into the mission project.  Each parish represented selects a number of different groups with different mission tasks in the parish.  One thought is that the entire parish will come to have a consciousness of, and think strategically about, mission.  Another departure point is a view of mission which can be labelled ‘God’s mission’.  This means that God is the ‘actor’ in mission and that we as a parish can choose to be God’s fellow workers in that mission.  This means broadly that God has already touched people through their longing so, when we as a parish meet people, we should see them as partners in God’s mission and not as objects for our mission.

I think that this view of mission, which is also found in other mission ideas, is thought-provoking in many ways.  Through this view of mission there is less risk of a so called ‘foisting views on others’ mission.  Mission is more respectful and more of a dialogue.  I don’t know if this mission concept has been spread to the Church of Sweden – as far as I know it has not reached Växjö diocese (?).  This concept of mission is well worth looking into and could have great relevance in the Swedish church, which is in a similar mission situation to the Church of England.  The concept seems to be well thought out and to have a sound view of mission.  A foundational book on this is ‘We are here now, a new Missional Era’, by Patrick Keifert, 2006.

A networking day on mentoring

I took part in a networking day for priests and others who work consultatively and supportively with other parish workers.  This was organised by the diocese and I went with David Hodgson who works in All Saints Parish, Wokingham.  It was interesting and instructive to see how professionally they work with this.  There was a high degree of pastoral and psychotherapeutic competence in the group.

Spare time

In my spare time there were good opportunities for other activities which gave an entrée to understanding England and its culture and which enriched my life.  For example, I visited Stratford-upon-Avon and Shakespeare’s birthplace museum, the National Gallery in London and Christ Church [Cathedral] in Oxford.  I enjoyed musicals and and a Champions League football match between Reading (near Wokingham) and Bristol FC.

Meeting people

In all these activities I have described there are, of course, encounters with people.  It is above all the experiences from all these meetings that I take home with me.  All the good and interesting conversations which give new perspectives both on the life of the parish and on life in all its variety, I encountered so much generous hospitality and friendliness.  English men and women have great social competence!  As a foreigner in the language and culture I was welcomed in a friendly and accommodating way in every social context.  It makes the foreigner a guest, and sometimes also, a friend.

Conclusion and thanks!

Words on a few sheets of paper are a way of documenting experiences from four months in England.  But much is omitted and much that I experienced is hard to put in print.  I want to thank everybody, nobody mentioned and nobody forgotten, for the great hospitality and friendliness I met in Ironstone and St Paul’s; thank you!  Thanks also to Oxford and Växjö dioceses for the financial support I received.

In conclusion, a small reflection on encounters across culture and language barriers.  My experience is that there is something extremely paradoxical.  It encompassed many dimensions of both understanding and confusion or, perhaps after a time, new perspectives.  Sometimes in conversations and meetings [both] understanding and ‘the human element’ could be there.  It is stimulating when one builds bridges across language and culture barriers and reaches understanding.  But sometimes the barriers were too great.  Words can have different meanings and cultural baggage to the extent that we don’t understand one another.  This can be frustrating, but at best it can lead to new insights and perhaps a certain humility.  And, at the same time – and this is both interesting and paradoxical – sometimes understanding can be reached in spite of language and cultural hindrances.  It is as if one meets on a universally human level when we share grief, joy and hopes.  There, empathy, attitudes, facial expressions and gestures bridge language and cultural barriers.  Just a final reflection!

Dag Bjärnhall, priest, Växjö benefice

[Translation: Michael Nunn]

Växjö’s International Committee Visit

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(l to r) Margot Hodson, Elsa Jönsson, Kristina Torin, Åsa Hedman, Martin Hodson, Maria Hagander and Ulrike Kylberg at The Mitre.

Following hard on the heels of the visit from Oxford to Växjö in early November, on Thursday, 17th November 2016, Åsa Hedman, who chairs Växjö’s International Committee, arrived in Oxford accompanied by five other members of the Committee. They were a mixture of lay-people and clergy, united in their commitment to building bridges across national boundaries, and with a particular interest in issues of aid and development. Maria Hagander, the vice-chair of the Committee, currently works with asylum seekers in Högsby, a few miles inland from Oskarshamn on the Baltic coast.  Before taking up that post she worked with local government in Kalmar.  Five years ago she spent three months in the Philippines.  Elsa Jönsson is a retired teacher.  She has been involved in local and national politics for over thirty years as a Social Democrat member of Växjö city council.  She became active in the anti-apartheid movement during her student days in Lund.  She has lived in Växjö since 1969 and sits on the Cathedral and Pastoral councils.  Elsa has been involved with the link through her work as a member of the diocesan board (roughly equivalent to Bishop’s Council) and is vice-chair of the stifstfullmäktige, which equates roughly with the Diocesan Synod.  In 2012 she visited this diocese with Bishop Jan-Olof Johansson.  Ulrike Kylberg is married to a retired priest and lives in Gränna at the northern tip of the diocese.  She trained as a nurse and has taught nursing at university level. For the past six years she has been working with Verbena Consulting in the area of leadership development and mentoring for young women.  As well as being active in her local church, she is involved with Soroptimists and Inner Wheel.  Joakim Larsson comes from Nässjö in the west of the diocese.  He is a layman, married with two girls, and is active in the local church, where as vice-chair of the church council he played a significant role in transforming the parishes of Nässjö into a single “major benefice”.  He is also actively engaged in local politics.  Kristina Torin was ordained to the priesthood five years ago.  She works as komminister (roughly equivalent to “associate priest” or “team vicar”) in Villstad, which is part of the Gislaved pastorate in the far west of the diocese.

The group came to England to find out how this diocese tackles a number of issues relating to work with mission agencies, migration and asylum, and fair trade, and to explore different styles of liturgy. After an initial briefing from Maranda St John Nicolle, our diocesan adviser on World Mission and World Development, on their first evening, they spent Friday, 18th November in Oxford, meeting representatives of the mission agencies, discovering the Fair Trade shop at St Michael’s Church, and receiving an overview of concerns arising from the current migration crisis.  In the evening they had a working dinner at The Mitre with Tony Dickinson (representing the Oxford-Växjö link committee) and Margot and Martin Hodson.

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The group with Michael Bowker, Hugh Ellis and Toni Brodelle at All Saints, High Wycombe.

Margot is Rector of the new Wychert Vale benefice, centred on Haddenham, where she has been vicar since 2009. She also has a keen interest in environmental theology, which she teaches at Ripon College, Cuddesdon.  Martin is an environmental biologist, and operations manager of the John Ray Initiative, a leading Christian environmental think-tank named after a seventeenth-century priest and biologist whose studies influenced the later work of Gilbert White in England and Carl Linnaeus in Sweden.  Not entirely by coincidence, Martin has recently returned from a visit to Växjö to learn about environmental work in the diocese, and in the city which is reputed to be “Europe’s greenest city.”

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Members of the group getting stuck into Christmas crafts with the Messy Church congregation at St Francis Church, Terriers (High Wycombe).

On Saturday 19th November the group travelled down the M40 to High Wycombe, with the aim of learning about the work of the Wycombe Refugee Partnership.  They were met at All Saints, the town’s mediaeval parish church, by the Team Rector of High Wycombe, Revd Hugh Ellis, and by Toni Brodelle and Dr Michael Bowker, two of the other key figures in setting up the partnership in the aftermath of the local district council’s decision not to accept refugees from Syria.  After a pub lunch in the town centre, with Toni Brodelle and Tony Dickinson, the group travelled up the A404 to Terriers, on the north side of the town, where Tony Dickinson is vicar, to share in the parish’s monthly “Messy Church”.  Messy Church is known in Sweden and the members of the group took little persuading to join the adults and children in getting enthusiastically stuck into the various Christmas crafts that were on offer.  They also took the opportunity to satisfy their curiosity about Christingle (which is not at all known in Sweden and which they had seen advertised at All Saints).  In the evening the Swedish visitors shared a Chinese meal at Terriers Vicarage, before returning to Oxford.  The next morning they split up to take part in the worship of three of the city’s churches (St Andrew’s in Linton Road, St Mary Magdalene’s, and St Michael’s, Summertown) before driving back to Heathrow for their return flight to Copenhagen.

A Shared Pilgrimage, Voxtorp and Witney

In September 2015 a group from Voxtorp with their Komminister Ulrika Zwaard visited the parish of Witney for a long weekend covering the busy time of the annual Witney Feast.   We shared some walks in the Oxfordshire countryside, and our visitors played a lively part in the Feast programme.  Ulrika preached at the traditional fairground service, with our choir gathered behind her on the gallopers.   On the Monday many groups of schoolchildren visited St Mary’s Church, and our Swedish visitors acted out the story of St Lucia with them.

During this visit we talked of what next for our friendship link.  Ulrika opened out an invitation from Kyrkoherde [Pastor] Magnus Hullfors; that up to ten people from Witney might after Easter 2016 join members of the Swedish parish on a pilgrimage to Assisi.  We responded with warmth.

Magnus has led frequent pilgrimages with his parishioners: to Assisi several times, to Rome, and to Santiago de Compostela among others.   He has a special love for Italy, and for St Francis and St Clare.  Visitors from Witney spent a week in Sweden in August 2014 when the programme included prayer walks led by Magnus in the countryside around Voxtorp.  On a previous visit to Witney, Magnus has shared with us his way of walking and praying together.

In some years, a spring Swedish party to Assisi has included young people, pre or post confirmation.  Ulrika had planned this for 2016, but in the end this did not work out.  So the party that arrived at Rome Fiumicino on the Wednesday after Easter, March 30th, comprised Magnus with ten parishioners from Sweden and eight from Witney.  We were a little disappointed not to be a Witney party of ten.  Various keen people couldn’t make the particular dates.  Our team vicar Neil Trainor came with his wife and eight year old daughter.

Each party arranged its own travel to Rome.  Magnus organised the rest.  We travelled by coach to Assisi and back to Rome.  Magnus has long been friends with the Brigidine Convent in Assisi just outside the city wall, so only ten minutes’ walk from the centre.  Sister Marcellina and her fellow sisters were kind and capable hosts, and the convent is lovely, its rooms, its chapel, its dining room, its setting.

pilgrims together wiith our host Sister Marcellina, in front of the Suore S Brigida

The pilgrims together wiith our host Sister Marcellina, in front of the Suore S Brigida

Magnus had worked out a draft programme in advance and shared it with all who would be coming.  The programme bore in mind that some of us, both Swedish and English, had visited Assisi before, some of them with Magnus; but there were many first timers.  Magnus invited Neil to prepare a scheme for daily prayers, morning and evening, including two Eucharists for the Convent chapel.  He suggested that Neil base the prayers on Common Worship Morning and Evening Prayer, in English.

We arrived on the Wednesday after Easter.  On Thursday Magnus led us on a tour of the city “in St Francis footsteps”.  Magnus would stop and tell us the story at key points, and we would often pause to pray. On Friday we visited the great Basilica San Francesco (where he was buried), and spent time with the wonderful frescoes.  Our Swedish guide then led us through the upper parts of the city.  Saturday we left Assisi by coach to visit Norcia, the birthplace of St Benedict, where a Benedictine brother spoke to us in the convent.  We went on to a mountain village, Castellucio, in whose valley famous organic lentils are grown, and we enjoyed the soup in a restaurant there.  Sunday we were back in Assisi and went to the Anglican Eucharist at the Church of St Leonardo – a packed church, with expatriates from the wider area, and another large group of Swedish young people.

Walking on Mount Subasio (where Francis spent much time later in his life) and hearing from Magnus of his love for this mountain.

Walking on Mount Subasio (where Francis spent much time later in his life) and hearing from Magnus of his love for this mountain.

We had a splendid afternoon walk on Mount Subasio, enjoying the lovely flowers and the broad vistas.  Many of us felt particularly close to Francis here, his life and his world.  The walk led us to the hermitage Eremo delle Carceri where we reflected on Francis’ prayer and retreats in his later years, and on his receiving the stigmata.   On Monday we had a longer walk down from the city into the plain: to San Damiano, where Francis received the call “Rebuild my Church”, and which later became the home for St Clare and her sisters: then to Rivotorto: finally to the Portiuncula, preserved within the magnificent Church of St Maria degli Angeli.  On Tuesday morning we said farewell to Sister Marcellina and her sisters, boarded our coach back to Rome, and with more farewells went our separate ways.

Sculpture at Rivotorto: Francis surrounded by children and birds, and our youngest pilgrim.

Sculpture at Rivotorto: Francis surrounded by children and birds, and our youngest pilgrim.

Magnus’ programme gave us good free space, early evening and some of the afternoons.  Each evening after supper we met in the convent common room for “conversations” to

reflect and to share our feelings and experience.  Some evenings a speaker joined us, including a lively Danish Franciscan from The Basilica San Francesco.  Another evening Sister Marcellina talked about her order, and their ministry of hospitality in Assisi.  But always Magnus invited us each in turn to say something about the day and about whatever concerned them.

cross before which Francis prayed as he sensed the Lord calling him, and waited for Him.

The cross before which Francis prayed as he sensed the Lord calling him, and waited for Him.

On our final evening in the convent chapel we blessed tau crosses and each received one.

The pilgrimage was a rich experience in many ways, for the walk with St Francis, of course, and for our walking and talking and praying together, Voxtorp and Witney.

Martin Peirce

Växjö Visitors at Bishop Steven’s Inauguration

Among the many guests at the new bishop’s inauguration, were the Bishop of Växjö, Fredrik Modéus and his wife Carina, his chaplain, Rickard Bonnevier and Carin Frennevi. Tony Dickinson took the opportunity to take a few photographs for the record!

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Dinner at Christ Church – Bishop Fredrik (left side of table, fifth down) engages with Dean Martin Percy. On the bishop’s left is Hugh White (Växjö link Projects Officer).

 

 

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Choir from Jönköping visits Oxford Diocese – again!

Lucia 2015 (1)

Lucia procession in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford

Sofia Youth Choir spreads the Lucia atmosphere in England – for the third year!

In December 2015 the Sofia Youth Choir travelled to Deddington and Oxford in England.  Deddington, which is part of Oxford Diocese, is Sofia’s twin parish and is the basis of the joint activities  that take place.  During four hectic days the choir travelled round and presented the Lucia programme in both churches and schools.  One of the high points was the concert in the cathedral in the university city of Oxford.  In the course of their four days the choir managed to perform no less than six concerts.

In spite of the fact that this is the third year, the interest in their visit had increased.  On Sunday 13 December the choir was back in Jönköping and offered its customary traditional concert in Sofiakyrkan at 8 o’clock in the morning.  At this event the people of Jönköping were able to hear the same programme that the choir performed on their tour in England.

Sofia Youth Choir consists of 20 young people aged between 14 and 25.  They regularly sing in services and concerts at Sofiakyrkan.  This time, 14 year old Maria Bengtsson took the part of Lucia.  She has been singing in the choir since she was 8.

The choirmaster and cantor in Sofiakyrkan is Pär Hammarlund and it is easy to see how proud he is of his choir and of his assignment as a whole.

“Of course I think it is great to have been invited to Oxford Diocese for the third year in a row.  On this visit, as well as singing, the choir members  explained our Swedish Lucia traditions and the deep Christian symbolism of St Lucia and her martyrdom.”

The message of a light in the darkness feels more relevant than ever at the present time”, says Pär.

This article is adapted from an article posted on the Sofiakyrka web site at the time of the visit.

New Cathedral Centre in Växjö

The History of the Cathedral Centre

From Guardhouse to Cathedral Centre

In the Cathedral Centre we find ourselves in one of the oldest places in the history of Växjö, the Cathedral.  The Sigfrid legend, the diocese and its bishops have contributed to the transformation of medieval ‘Wexio’ into the modern city of Växjö that we knowDomkyrkan i forntiden today.

The history begins as far back as the 11th century when a wooden church was built beside the northern shore of Lake Växjö.  In the middle of the 12th century the Diocese of Växjö was formed and the wooden church was replaced by a stone cathedral.  Guldsmedsbäcken (Goldsmith’s Brook) ran through the city of Växjö, forming the boundary between the church land and the rest of the city.

In the 13th century the stone church was extended.  A farmyard was added on the north side of the church and the remains of the farm well can be found on the spot which is today the Cathedral Centre’s Lilla torg (Little Square).  Forges and ovens in the area of the farm’s workshop were located approximately where the residential property known as Strykjärnet stands today.  [‘Strykjärnet’ translates as ‘The Iron’, as used for pressing clothes after washing.]

Pilgrim badgeIn the 15th century the cathedral was rebuilt on gothic lines with high vaults and large windows.  The area around the cathedral was developed into a place of pilgrimage and a new half-timbered house with stone cellars was built as a facility for [lit: ‘to represent’] the church.  There were probably also shops where pilgrim badges and other necessaries were sold.  The pilgrim badge found during the excavation for the foundations of the cathedral centre dates from that time.

In the 16th century the road from the east into Växjö was constructed.  The cathedral and the surrounding buildings were burnt down by Danish soldiers in the 1570s, but the restoration of the cathedral and buildings was carried out immediately and the cathedral was ready for use again by 1577.

At the beginning of the 17th century a school was built on the plot and in 1690 it was decided that a new grammar school should be built by the old school building.  The house built in the 16th century was demolished to make room for the grammar school.  The building should have been completed quite quickly but, due to a combination of war, failed crops, insufficient finance and nepotism it took 30 years.  The grammar school building, or as we say today, ‘The Carolinian House’ (Karolinerhuset)[1], was not ready until 1715.  When the new building was brought into use, the old school building was demolished.

The Carolinian House had no heating whatsoever and the 90 to 150 pupils who had their lessons in the big school hall at the right end of the building  had to warm their quill pens between their hands so that the ink would not freeze.  On the upper floor there were two auditoria, the bigger one at the right end of the building – this is now the Tegnér Room.  In the attic an anatomy room was fitted out where Carl von Linné later gave his first lessons in anatomy.

When lightning struck the cathedral in May 1740 a large part of the cathedral and and parts of the Carolinian House were destroyed.  The repair of the cathedral took a long time and the Carolinian House had to be used for church services.

During the 19th century substantial renovations were carried out both to the interior and exterior of the cathedral.  The Carolinian House had over time become too cramped and out of date, so in 1859 the school was moved to a newer building on Norrtull.  The old Carolinian House was renovated, among other things being equipped with heating, using tile ovens on the lower floor, and it began to be used as a library.  The double doors in the entrance to the Carolinian House derive from that renovation as well as the curved staircase in the hall.  Between 1954 and 1975 the library was a so-called diocesan and community library which was a cross between between a research library and a public library.

From 1971 to 2000 the house functioned as a meeting place for the cathedral chapter, and as offices for the bishop and diocesan secretary.  In 2006 the Carolinian House, being close by the cathedral, was bought by the congregation of Växjö Cathedral to Domkyrkocentrumbecome an important venue for parish activities.  The renovation took about 9 years, during which period the cathedral parish was merged into Växjö Pastorate [analogous to a United Benefice].

The Cathedral Centre was ready in the summer of 2015 and now provides a meeting place for all the parishes in the pastorate.

This article was published in Swedish on the Växjö diocesan web site.  Translation: Michael Nunn

23 November 2015

[1] The word ‘Karoliner’, or ‘Carolinian’ relates to the period of the reigns of Karl X, XI and XII, from 1654 to 1718.

Bishop Fredrik Modéus is welcomed to his diocese

Welcome, Bishop Fredrik!

Växjö Diocese welcomed its new bishop Fredrik Modéus in a moving and joyful service in Växjö cathedral on 19 April 2015.

After a long process with voting, appointment and consecration to the office of bishop, Fredrik Modéus was able for the first time as bishop to meet fellow workers and parishioners in the diocese.

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Dean Thomas Petersson (left) and the new bishop (centre)

During the service, Fredrik Modéus delivered his first sermon as bishop.  An address which was personal and warm, but also challenging.  He mentioned among other things the words of recently deceased Tomas Tranströmer: In the middle of the forest there is a glade that can only be found by someone who has lost his way.

Extract from the sermon:

I sometimes think that the church is a place, not for the sheep-like, but for we normal lost people who seek the warming sunlight in life’s glades.    A place for all who rightly expect to be able to encounter a credible interpretation of what it is to be human – and to get this in the light the Easter gospel of the Risen One.  And all of it is clearly also relevant to us who have special responsibility in the church.  For a priest, deacon or an elected representative [to a church body] too can go astray.  And a bishop who walks with the shepherd’s crook.  That is why there are ‘glades of grace’.

Read the whole address.

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The recessional – Bishop Colin Fletcher (centre) represented Oxford Diocese

At  the service of welcome, the diocese prayed for Fredrik Modéus and blessed him in his new ministry.

Representatives from the entire diocese took part in the service.  The St Sigfrid Chamber Choir and the Cecilia Choir, representatives from the Swedish church youth and link dioceses, the Dövkyrka (Church for the Deaf) in Växjö Diocese and also area deans  also played their part.  The service was led by Cathedral Dean Thomas Petersson.

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After the service – the bishop’s autograph is in demand!

Article translated from the Växjö Diocese web pages.

Bishop Fredrik Modéus – Consecration at Uppsala

Bishop FM Consecration (4)

Photo: Magnus Aronson/IKON

On 12 April 2015, Fredrik Modéus was consecrated as the 59th bishop of the Diocese of Växjö.  As bishop, his main task is to lead and inspire the church in the diocese.

Fredrik Modéus was born in 1964 and has his roots in Jönköping.  He was ordained as a priest for Växjö diocese in 1991.

When Fredrik Modéus was elected bishop he was working as a parish pastor in Lund Cathedral Parish.  Before that, among other things, he has been pastor of Helgeand Pastorate [Benefice] in Lund Diocese.  He has lectured and been responsible for conferences and seminars on the subject of working for change, building up parishes and the development of worship.  Fredrik Modéus was awarded a doctorate in systematic theology in the spring of 2015.

Modéus has published nine publications, among which are  Gudstjänstgemenskap i folkkyrkan (Worship Communities in the Folk Church), Konturer av tro (Contours of Faith), Längta efter liv – församlingsväxt i Svenska kyrkan (Longing for Life – Parish Growth in the Church of Sweden) and Mod att vara kyrka – om församlingsbygge och kyrkans identitet (Courage to be Church – on building up parishes and the identity of the church).

Fredrik Modéus is married with three children.

As his motto, Bishop Fredrik Modéus has chosen “God’s grace is all you need”.  This reminds us that the most important thing in life is free.  We receive it as a gift, of grace.

Read more on the motto and the bishop’s coat of arms.

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Photo: Magnus Aronson/IKON

The Consecration in Uppsala Cathedral was led by Archbishop Antje Jackelén in the presence of guests from overseas and the bishops of the Church of Sweden.  In her sermon, the archbishop turned to Fredrik Modeéus and touched on his motto, “God’s grace is all you need”:

“You have already had to reply many times to questions like “What do you want to achieve? What are your goals? How will you turn round negative trends?” There are rightly big expectations of a Bishop. You have spoken about living worship, the importance of education, and courageous pastoral ministry. Through your experience as a parish priest and through your work with and around parish growth you have been able to build up a competence that is good both for the diocese and for the college of bishops. And of course it is splendid that your doctoral dissertation in systematic theology about the worshipping community in the national church is now ready and will shortly be defended.”

Read the archbishop’s sermon in its entirety.

Bishop FM Consecration (3)Fredrik Modéus is 50 years old and moves [to Växjö] from his ministry as a parish pastor in Lund Cathedral.  Later this he is due to undertake his disputation in systematic theology.  Fredrik Modéus’ roots are in Jönköping and was ordained as a priest in Växjö Diocese in 1991.  Earlier on he has, among other things, been a pastor in Helgeands Pastorate [Benefice] in Lund.  He has lectured and been responsible for conferences and seminars on the subject of working for change, building up parishes and the development of worship.  Fredrik Modéus has published eight publications on, among other things, parish growth, building up parishes and the identity of the church.

“As bishop of Växjö Diocese, I will to the best of my ability lead the work of the diocese and support all the able people who make their contribution in the parishes of the diocese.  I want to listen to stories of sorrow and joy in the

parishes and create conditions for local development work based on the different situations in the town and country.  Living worship, sound teaching and courageous pastoral ministry help us in the fight for a meaningful life, a just world and a good life for all people”, says Bishop Fredrik Modéus.

The above is a translation of an article on the Växjö diocesan web pages.  The pictures that follow were taken by Tony Dickinson.

Pastiche - FM Consecration

Bishop Jan-Olof Johansson lays down his staff

Vaxjo15 082Consecrated as Bishop of Växjô Diocese in November 2010, only five years from reitrement, Bishop Jan-Olof Johansson was very much aware that his time in office would be short.  Time flies all too quickly and the bishop marked his relinquishment of office at a ‘Staff Laying Down’ (Stavnedläggning) service in Växjô Cathedral on 6 April.

When Bishop Jan-Olof first became bishop he published a book of ‘postcards’ (see this link). In his Easter message, Bishop Jan-Olof sends us another postcard with an image of the Church of the Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which has a gloomy interior, but light shines in from the apex of the dome. The message of Easter, he says, is that the light overcomes the darkness.

A translation of the full text of the postcard is given below:

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Postcard with picture

 Oxford Diocese’s Tony Dickinson was at Bishop-Jan Olof’s farewell service and associated events with his camera at the ready.  Here is a selection of his pictures:

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