As well as being linked with Oxford Diocese, Växjö Diocese has a link with the Lutheran Church in Costa Rica and also a historic link with the Pomeranian Evangelical Church in Greiswald, formerly part of East Germany (GDR).
The information about these links which follows is translated from articles on the Växjö Diocese web site.
Partnership with Costa Rica
During Världens Fest (The World’s Celebration) in June 2010 and in Costa Rica in September 2010, an agreement was signed between Växjö Diocese and the Lutheran Church in Costa Rica, as well as an agreement between that church and the Church of Sweden at national level. The aim of the cooperation agreement is to strengthen the mutual relations between the churches and in future to develop and deepen cooperation. This can happen through, for example, parish partnerships and the exchange of personnel.
Having a partner diocese in the global south had for a long time been a subject of discussion in Växjö Diocese. The first contacts with Latin America were through the exchange programme “Youth in the Worldwide Church”. We sent young people to Peru and Costa Rica and received young people from El Salvador and Costa Rica.
In November 2006 a three week trip to Costa Rica was undertaken to discuss the possibility of future cooperation. The meeting broadened and there was a great desire on the part of ILCO (Iglesia Lutherana Costaricense, Costa Rica) to have a relationship with Växjö Diocese. In May and June 2007 Melvin Jimenéz and Xinia Chacon visited Växjö Diocese and attended the Diocesan Synod in Kalmar, during which time was found for a meeting between Bishop Sven Thidevall and Melving Jimenéz, ICLO’s President.
In April 2008, Bishop Sven Thidevall, with Rita Fröberg and Anton Härder from the Standing Committee of Synod took part in the consecration of Melvin Jimenéz as bishop in Costa Rica and a delegation from ILCO took part in an ordination of deacons in Växjö Diocese. In autumn 2008 there was an ‘Agents of Justice’ youth exchange with youth from ILCO and Växjö Diocese.
The relationship became formalised later in a statement of intention which was signed at Världens Fest in June 2010 in Växjö. The statement was also signed in Costa Rica in September 2010 during newly-elected bishop Jan-Olof Johansson’s visit there.
In 2011 a joint service was held on 25 September in both Växjö and San José to make the relationship public.
Working together with Costa Rica involves among other things regular and structured prayer for each other and the tasks we have as churches. In September 2011 Växjö Diocese had a ‘theme Sunday’ around the exchange with Costa Rica. We also share information with each other and will be exchanging people and pastoral experiences. In addition, we will continue to send and receive young people as we have done for the last five years. We will be sending newsletters in each direction to keep one another up to date.
Last year, as an important part of the partnership agreement between the Lutheran Church in Costa Rica and the Church of Sweden, there was for the first time a video conference in which a discussion was held about how the work-plan is progressing and what continuing development there will be.
Partnership with Greifswald
The relationship with the Pomeranian Evangelical Church has been a long tradition, but serious cooperation began in the 1960s. Over the years it has developed and in recent years there has been a high level of cooperation in the area of pastoral and social work (diakoni). In October 2011, the long-standing relationship with Greifswald was formalised when a partner diocese agreement was signed by both bishops.
The relationship with Greifswald goes back a long way, but serious cooperation began when Växjö Diocese built the Bonhoefferhaus in Stralsund during the period 1962 to 1964 as a gift through Luther-help. Then, when Archbishop Olof Sundby invited the evangelical churches in what was then the German Democratic Republic to Uppsala in 1975, the relationship took a significant step forward. Two delegates visited Växjö after the Uppsala meeting, as a result of which bishop Sven Lindegård took the initiative in ensuring continued cooperation. The first official Swedish delegation visited Griefswald in 1976 and a delegation from Greifswald visited Växjö Diocese in 1977. Växjö was the first diocese to establish a contact with the GDR. Between 1979 and 1984 Växjö Diocese took a part in the building of a church centre in Demmin.
Summer Churches were another context in which our two churches worked together. On the islands of Rügen and Öland Summer Churches were organised and priest couples were sent in both directions. That work began in 1983 and continued until 1989.
With the move from Communism to Democracy in GDR in 1989, the relationship with Greifswald and the whole arrangement changed, with delegations in each direction being replaced by more natural exchanges. It was now possible to travel freely from both sides. Relationships could be set up at parish level – something that could not have been done in the same way previously.
However, the major area in which we have been working together in recent years has been that of pastoral and social work (diakoni). This joint work has been ongoing and there is a lot of scope for the exchange of ideas. In the area of clergy training also there have been exchanges, with joint further-training days. Official exchanges and visits continue, for example at the consecration of bishops and the welcoming of the cathedral dean.
The long-standing link with Greifswald was formalised in October 2011 when the partnership agreement was signed by both bishops. Planning groups on each side of the Baltic Sea will coordinate the link, which will include liturgy development and educational methodology (pedagogik).
In the summer of 2012, choirs from Växjö Diocese will take part in the festival ‘Dreiton in Greifswald’ and church musicians will be able do have some weeks’ practice in the partner dioceses on each side.