Reaching Men Wantage (1 with caption)During informal discussion at a meeting in October 2010, it was recognised that Växjö and Oxford Dioceses shared a common concern about the need for the church to engage with men.

As a consequence, in February 2011, a group from Växjö Diocese paid a visit to Oxford Diocese especially to take part in a ‘Reaching Men’ event run in Wantage under the auspices of MATCH.

Those who came over were:

The Revd Johan Lindstrand

A senior priest in the diocese, who was at the time acting head of the diocesan department for Advice, Support and Supervision and responsible for Training, Development and Recruitment

The Revd Dr Katarina Toll Koril

Diocese of Växjö Chief of Staff (equivalent to the Oxford Diocesan Secretary).

Carin Frennevi

Diocesan adviser in the department for Training, Development and Recruitment with special responsibility for children’s work.

Reflections by Johan Lindstrand:

Reaching Men Wantage (Lindstrand)’’Reaching Men gave me a great deal.  I took the insights back to my department in the Växjö Diocese Secretariat, where we talked about it and obviously also into my present work context as a pastor.

One thought from the day’s seminar – even if it was a rough generalisation – was that for women it was important to ‘belong’ first in order to come to ‘belief’ and then afterwards ‘behave’ while, for men, it began with ‘behave’ and ‘believe and belong’ came later.

In Sweden we work very hard to make people feel included and involved in the church.  They are warmly welcomed – as a rule by female church wardens and the surroundings have to be pleasant and beautiful, with flowers and candles, etc.

I notice that my female colleagues often speak from illustrations (i.e. stories etc) in their preaching.  We rarely have challenges or ‘behave’ thinking; rarely clear directives, e.g. ‘this is what is relevant’.  We do not present frameworks or patterns.  We discuss or ‘chat’ a great deal instead of saying ‘Do it like this.’  There is too little that is concrete, resolves problems, or is competitive.

In the first half of the 20th century we had many men’s groups, so called ‘church brothers’.  In the 1970s and 80s they became known as lekmannakårer (‘laymen corps’) and women were admitted.  Over time, these groups were dissolved, not least due to a lack of new recruits. Perhaps other organisations have had the same experience.

Occasionally, I have invited single men over 65 to lunch meetings in the church hall – a completely different kind of conversation, even about deep questions.

I believe it is important that we give prominence to this discussion and make a special effort to have meetings exclusively for men.”

 

Johan Lindstrand’s reflections are translated