To distinguish Växjö News and Events

Växjö Diocese has elected its new bishop

Fredrik ModéusThe next Bishop of Växjö will be Fredrik Modéus.  He was elected today with a total of 58% of the vote, gaining 342 votes as opposed to the 248 achieved by Thomas Petersson.

Fredrik Modéus was born in 1964.  He lives in Lund , where he is currently “Canon pastor” in the Cathedral parish.  Before that he was team leader in Holy Spirit parish in Lund for 13 years.

He was ordained priest in 1991 in Växjö diocese, serving for a year in Värnamo before moving on to be “associate priest” in Hässleholm (1992-1994), and then Chaplain to the diocesan folkhögskola in Oskarshamn, in the north of Växjo diocese (1994-5).  After a year pursuing further study in Lund , he was appointed to the Holy Spirit Parish as “associate priest”, in which capacity he served for two years before becoming team leader.

He studied at Lund University , where he is currently a doctoral student, due to submit his thesis in an area of systematics in the spring.  He has written several books and is a regular contributor (as columnist and, more recently, leader-writer) to the Church of Sweden ’s newspaper “Kyrkans tidning”.  Last October he was one of the speakers at the Växjö clergy conference.  I was present at the session and attach the written-up version of his notes, which we used in Terriers as the basis for a background paper for our Mission Action Planning.

He is married to Carina. They have three children: Erik (20), Ida (18) and Arvid (15). His parents live in Jönköping. He has two brothers, and assorted nephews and nieces.

In his leisure time he likes to spend time with his family and to travel to new places.  He enjoys reading, listening to music and playing the piano. He is interested in sport and exercises regularly, preferably on his own on a running track.

Tony Dickinson

3 December 2014

Getting to know the Swedish Church 2014

SWEDES ARE GOOD FOR US!

 By Nick Hance TSSF

Our party of priests and LLMs from the Oxford Diocese visited Sweden under the Oxford – Vaxjo educational link during 22nd September and 1st October.  We were led by the Revd Hugh White, whose ability to speak Swedish helped us gain the maximum learning from our visit.

Getting to know SC 2014

The group with Bishop Jan-Olof Johansson

We stayed at St Sigfrid’s School near the city of Växjö, billed as “The Greenest City in Europe”.  The School taught Music and the Arts but also provided 50 students with a ‘second chance’ to gain qualifications after dropping out of education.  Our delightful hostess Åse is a teacher there and she organised Morning Prayer in the Chapel so starting each day perfectly.

Any stereotypical thoughts we had about Sweden and its people were shattered!  Yes, Sweden is full of trees, lakes and brightly painted houses.  It is twice the size of the UK; but it only has a population of 9 million people, consequently there is little traffic and life is much less frenetic.  Swedes are not cold and distant, nor do they shy away from having contact with strangers.  Surprisingly they do not avoid discussions about feelings and the deeper things of life.

We noticed a reverence for light and people used it everywhere in their architecture and homes as defiance against the five dark months of winter.  At sunset houses become ablaze with lamps set in every window.  Derek Lancaster said, “For me, the keyword of the trip was ‘beautiful’. We were in beautiful countryside and forest, we shared in beautiful worship and prayer and we encountered people whose calm, inner spirituality was beautiful.”

Visits were made to the cathedrals in Växjö and Kalmar, the Bishop’s palace, nearby parish churches – and an 8-mile pilgrimage along St Sigfrid’s trail through forests and hills.  We enjoyed deep discussions with our hosts comparing the Churches of Sweden and England.  We partook of Swedish “Fika” – a mid-morning coffee break augmented by a second breakfast and a mid-afternoon break of tea, pastries and fruit!

The main difference between the national churches was in the roles of priests and deacons.  The role of a Swedish deacon is not a step towards priesthood but rather one of pastoral care.  Priests do the sacramental work and manage the people paid by the Church of Sweden doing parish work.  Deacons do much of the day-to-day Parish work.

About 70% of the Swedish people currently opt to pay the Church Tax ensuring magnificent resources are available in every parish (most churches had suites of toilets) but only 2% of the people go to church.   We visited Mother and Toddler groups, homes for the elderly and a well-resourced drop-in centre for the poor and disadvantaged.  Linda West said, “It will be interesting to see how things develop in the Swedish church over the coming years as their tax funding declines and they are forced to rely more on volunteers – something which I think may be a good thing as it will encourage more discipleship.”

Sweden currently has a relatively liberal policy towards immigration with over one-tenth of the population being immigrants. The recent election has shown that this has become a topical issue in Sweden and our discussions reflected this.

Everyone found the Inclusive Mass (eg gay, transvestites etc) at the cathedral a moving and spiritual occasion and, as Barry Fleming put it; “We shared the peace with no language barrier and we all knew what we were doing – sharing our personal feelings and emotions together.”

Bishop Jan-Olof at the Grand Day Out

Bishop Jan-Olof Johansson, of the Diocese of Växjö, accompanied by Maria Kenstam, Diocesan Communications Strategy Officer, have been in Oxford Diocese to take part in the Grand Day Out and have also joined Bishop John Pritchard for part of his pre-retirement pilgrimage.

The visit is particularly symbolic as Bishop Jan-Olof is also on the cusp of retirement. The link, now 10 years old, will however go on!

 

GDO 7

The Växjö-Oxford link was represented in the Grand Day Out Market Place, offering information about the link and copies of the recently published Växjö history.

GDO 8

 

 

 

Cycle Pilgrimage – a first?

Jönköping Station

Jönköping Station

Can you do a pilgrimage on bicycles – a proper pilgrimage, that is?  This was the question Ola Isacsson, pilgrimage officer in Växjö diocese, was trying to answer by organising a cycle-pilgrimage from Jönköping to Växjo at the end of May.  Going by bike would mean the problems occasioned for walking pilgrims by the long distances between shops and places to stay in parts of Småland would disappear – no need, certainly, for support vehicles to carry food and baggage.

The 100 mile route was to be covered in three days with stops for buying food and for praying and resting at the churches en route.  There’d be a communion service at the Pilgrim Centre at Nydala, where the remains of a Cistercian Abbey still accommodate regular worship, and the pilgrimage would culminate with a special Pilgrim Service in Växjö Cathedral at which other pilgrims would join the cyclists.  One night would be spent at Tallnäs, the diocesan conference centre and another at Asa Youth Hostel.

Tallnäs

Tallnäs

Accordingly, a group of seven cyclist-pilgrims (another joined later) assembled at Jönköping railway station on the morning of Ascension Day.  It was an ecumenical group – Church of Sweden people, priests and laity, men and women, a Church of England priest (male) and a Roman Catholic layman.  The weather was set fair and the climb up from Vättern lake out of Jönköping after morning prayer in the Sofia Church proved easy enough.  Food was bought and eaten, further churches were visited and further prayers said, rest was taken, the sunlit countryside appreciated and conversation, on and off the bicycles, enjoyed.  (Conversation: there was a question answered – there was plenty of opportunity on smaller Småland roads to talk to a companion riding alongside; equally, if some meditative, quiet space on one’s own, as it were, was sought, it too could be found as one rode.)  When the going got tough and the sense of physical effort dominated, one could think of oneself as ‘praying with the body’, offering the effort to Christ.  We reached Tallnäs with the sense of an experiment successfully conducted (for all the occasional recalcitrance of bicycle chains), happy to cool feet in the lake and with appetites in good condition to make the most of the excellent supper provided. A minor snag: Tallnäs was hosting large numbers of confirmation candidates and these lively fifteen-year-olds saw to it that the night’s rest was not all it might have been (the bells! the bells!) but we survived and were eager to get on the bikes the following morning.

Tofteryds kyrka

Tofteryds kyrka

It was a short stretch to Tofteryd Church where we said Morning Prayer and not far from there to Nydala where we celebrated a Pilgrimsmässa, a style of Holy Communion currently rather widely used in Sweden, where pilgrimage is so popular.   It’s a moving experience to worship in this ancient Cistercian place and to sense its growing importance in the revival of the classic medieval spiritual practice of pilgrimage – a number of pilgrim trails now converge on Nydala.  (Opportunities exist to join the staff at the centre during the summer to help with pilgrimage and related activities – and if anyone has a million pounds or so to spare, the old manor house is crying out to be developed for some kind of shared Lutheran-Anglican endeavour cognate with pilgrimage.)  After lunch we continued south along Rusken lake until the turn off for Gamla Hejlmseryd Church where, needing to get back to England for the Sunday, I had to go on back to Växjö on my own.

Ice cream break

Ice cream break

So was it a proper pilgrimage? From my admittedly truncated experience, I’d say so.  Time out of the everyday routine, formal prayer, meditative attentiveness to God, closeness to the natural world and renewed appreciation of it, companionship, journeying unhurriedly towards a goal and the sense of achievement on reaching journey’s end and of God’s help in making it – such characteristic components of pilgrimage were all part the experience.  If anything, I’d say we had it too easy; there wasn’t much of what I tend to find on foot pilgrimages – those passages of the journey, perhaps boring, perhaps physically uncomfortable, that just have to be got through but which help validate pilgrimage as a metaphor for the journey of life.  But did I feel blessed? Yes.  Had I come closer to God?  I think perhaps I had.

Nydala

Nydala

Ola hoped the cycle pilgrimage idea might be useable on people’s home-ground, wherever that might be.  Oxon, Berks and Bucks are perhaps too car-ridden to be absolutely ideal territory for this mode of pilgrimage – even in the much emptier Småland the distracting cry of ‘bil’ (‘car’) went up more frequently than one would have wished.  But, still, it might be worth trying to link up our official Oxford diocese pilgrim places into a route which opts as much as possible for the back roads and testing the experience of riding it.  Or maybe something a little less ambitious first time round?!  In any case, preferably with Swedish friends.   Do be in touch if you’re interested.

Hugh White

vicarhugo@gmail.com

Try This – a Youth Event on Öland

A view from Oxford

A view from Sweden

In the Norra Öland benefice – or more precisely in the Köpingsvik parish centre – from 9 to 11 June 2014 – we have carried through a project we call ‘Try This’.  It is what it sounds like – a chance to test something!  Young people who have just completed the second year of school were invited to three days of trying something out – in camps the week before midsummer, as preparation for next summer’s confirmation studies.

18 Swedish young people took part this year.  There were three youth leaders from the Diocese of Oxford: David and Alice Benskin and Olly Shaw.  The Swedish speaking leaders were Simon and Linnéa Leander and Magdalena Ordell and associate priest Julle Lund.

The days were intensive for everybody, for both participants and leaders!  Various forms of “getting acquainted exercises” built up the group-participants’ reliance on one another, the idea being that this was laying the ground for next year’s longer camp. Group discussions were mainly in English with some Swedish.

In the evaluations the participants were unanimous in the view that what made the strongest impression was taking part in worship and listening to personal testimonies about the meaning of faith, what answers to prayer were – that sort of thing.  The contribution of the young leaders from Oxford has helped to bridge the language barrier and given access to the personal encounter where faith is born and grows.

The idea of the ‘Try This’ project was to awaken the interest  of young people in a three weeks long bilingual camp next summer (2015), but also to give the leadership teams from Sweden and England the opportunity to get to know one another and find ways of working before next summer.

We can affirm that the project has worked out well.  Both the leadership team and the young people are looking forward to the continuation next summer!  We are very happy about the link with Oxford; it has enriched us personally and given an extra glow to us in our work.

The Swedish team would like to send a big THANK YOU to our friends in Oxford, to the three who took part and to those at diocesan level in Oxford who have coordinated the work.

Try This  Aktiviteter

Anna Lundin Leander

Pastor, Norra Öland Benefice

Swedish Bishops on Climate Change

Swedish Bishops May 2014

The bishops of the Church of Sweden have written an open letter on climate issues.  It is a theological contribution to the discussion on climate and sustainability in Sweden, challenging clearly, among others, Swedish and international decision makers.

The bishops’ text “A Letter from the Bishops on Climate Issues” is introduced by a summary of the state of knowledge [about the subject] and ends up with concrete calls to the Church of Sweden and churches all over the world, to decision-makers in Sweden and on the international stage, to businesses and organisations as well as to individuals.

The bishops of the Church of Sweden call for …

  • The Church of Sweden, parishes and dioceses to continue to work for a sustainable lifestyle and ensure that the stewardship of the church’s assets demonstrates how a theological view of creation can facilitate a change of position in regard to climate.
  • All people in Sweden to reflect over their own responsibility and use their rights as citizens and voters to work for a powerful change in attitudes to climate issues.
  • Swedish decision-makers to introduce guidance [or requirements] so that Sweden’s internal emissions reduce to one metric ton per capita by 2050, to work for a raised level of ambition in the climate politics of the EU and support work on climate issues in developing countries over and above the aid target of 1% of Sweden’s Gross National Income.
  • Businesses and organisations not to wait for international agreements or national guidance [or requirements], but from the standpoint of their own roles and from their own resources invest in renewable energy, energy efficiency and business strategies that contribute to the development of a sustainable community.
  • International decision makers and organisations to act expeditiously and constructively so that globally binding climate agreements can be achieved, as soon as in Paris in 2015, which are sufficiently ambitious to prevent dangerous climate change.
  • Church leaders all over the world to strive to strengthen the contribution of churches and religions to justice and a change of position in relation to climate issues and make international ecumenical and interfaith cooperation an effective resource in the work.

(From the Växjö Diocese web pages – translated and used with permission)

[The official English translation of the bishops’ letter can be viewed or downloaded here.]

Bellringers protest against neo-Nazi demonstration in Jönkoping

Sofiakyrkan 2006 (small)

Follow this link for a report in the Swedish English newspaper ‘The Local’ on how the Sofiakyrka in Jönkoping successfully disrupted a neo-Nazi demonstration on 1 May by delivering a prolonged peal of its bells.

This aroused much international media interest and Växjö Bishop Jan-Olof Johansson, who was in Turkey at the time, wrote on Twitter:

“The sound of the church bells of Sofia in Jönköping reached me as far away as Istanbul.  Strongly!”