The best part of my job is meeting so many different people. Being a Student Chaplain for International students you meet people from all corners of the world and people from very different background. I’m also privileged to work together with the good people at the External relations office at Lund University. These are the people handling all contacts with foreign students and contacts with Universities abroad. Twice a year they organize the General Information Meeting where newly arrived International students come to get information about Lund and the University. My job at these gatherings is to help Students with information about places of worship in Lund and around Lund. I’m a minister in the Church of Sweden, but since Students come from all over the world and have very different backgrounds when it comes to religion I help the University by being an “all religion consult”. What this means is that whenever the University needs information about religion in Lund or get questions from students regarding religion I help them out. For some Student I act as a religious detective. Say you are a Quaker looking for a community to belong to or are a Muslim wondering to pray – if you study at Lund University I am your man. I am myself a Christian and work as a minister in the Cathedral, but as a Student Chaplain working in collaboration with Lund University I am a Multi-faith consultant. Sometimes standing in front of 2000 students it is hard to know if someone is listening – in the beginning I felt out of place. This has changed however, as Students have helped me to understand how important my job is in this respect. First there was the Student from India whose first priority was to find a Church to belong to while she was here in Lund. Her whole family was praying for her, that she would find someone to guide her right, and she was herself quite worried. How on earth was she going to find a religious community to belong to in this strange land? Later she told me how happy she had been to see me at the General Information Meeting. In her eyes I was an answer to her own and her family’s prayers. It is not a bad feeling to be the answer to someone’s prayer! Recently another thing happened. A few days after GIM I was walking in Lundagård as a young man from China called out to me – Excuse me Sir! I recognize you – you are the one in charge of religion – I have something to ask you. Yes! I am the one in charge of religion!
All my colleagues working with Swedish students are jealous of me! Working as a Student Chaplain with International students is so much easier that working with Swedish students. As a Student chaplain working with Swedish students you are often met with suspicion. What is a religious person doing here amongst us normal people? Faith is almost regarded as a dirty word and religious belief as a contagious disease. I know, I have written about this many times before, but I am always reminded of this at the beginning of the term. I meet International students and am greeted with curiosity or gratefulness depending on if they are religious or not. I have never been treated by International Students like I am a strange creature from outer space. When it comes to Swedish students however, it is a different story. At hälsningsgillet tomorrow at AF borgen I know from experience that some students will avoid me like I am a dangerous madman. Why? – Because Swedish students are among second or third generation secularized Swedes. Their parents and even grandparents were secularized and all their friends are all secularized. They often don’t know a single person who believes in anything. So what they know about religion comes from what they have read about it in school and in newspapers. They have no first hand experience of what it means to believe in something, because they don’t know anyone who has religious beliefs. This opens up for a lot of prejudice when it comes to religion. It is also a growing problem since more and more people living in Sweden are religious – people like International students or immigrants. What can we do to bridge the gap? Start talking to each other, which, of course, is much easier if we all treat each other with respect.
Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
This parable always comes to mind around this time of the year. The last couple of weeks I have spread lots of information about our Holy Communion Services in the Cathedral. I have visited and e-mailed all the different International Coordinators at the University. I have stood in front of all 1800 International Students at the General Information meeting. I have guided 250 Students through the Cathedral telling them about the Service at 5 pm. Paula, Abi and Martina did a really excellent job helping me reach out to students at the Lund Information. And finally tomorrow, me and my colleagues will greet 600 students to the Cathedral during the University Treasure hunt. I really believe that every single International Student who has come to Lund this term has been reached with our information. So the seed have been sowed. Now all we can do is to wait – or not really. I know from experience that some students won’t be interested at all, others might seek out other churches, but over the next couple of weeks quite a few will come to our services to check them out. And here comes the most important part. They will all be looking for a spiritual home and a community to belong to during their stay here in Lund. If we, as a congregation can make them feel welcome, chances are that they will stay with us. So let’s do our very best to welcome them! Greet them, see them, welcome them and involve them. It is good for us and really important for them!
The last couple of weeks or so, we have noticed more and more tourists visiting the Cathedral. Tourist season is once again upon us. I still remember the chock when I first started working in the Cathedral. In June, when I left for my vacation, I left a Cathedral. In July, when I came back, I came back to a tourist attraction. The whole Cathedral was flooded with tourists – everywhere you looked it was just tourists, tourists. Even when there was a Service in progress there were tourists milling around. The attendants have a tough job trying to keep the tourist at bay so that we can actually use the Cathedral as a place of worship. Sometimes it borders in the absurd – like the time when I was preparing for the Midday Holy communion service only to find that a tourist had used the chalice on the altar to prop up his camera!
It is easy to get irritated at everyone sightseeing in the Cathedral. Can’t the show some respect? Why are they here in the first place? I think it is important to focus on the latter question in our attitude towards this. What drive people to visit Churches as soon as they go abroad? Because it is the same everywhere, where ever you go people flock around the Churches – in Prague, Paris and London. What drive people to do this? Well, to some degree historical interest and the beauty of the architecture. But to some degree, I’m willing to bet that, there is also a spiritual side to this. Somewhere deep inside there is a yearning, a hidden connection, that drive people to visit churches. These buildings represent something different, a side of life that is there, but not always recognized. Swedish Nobel prize winner Thomas Tranströmer captures this beautifully in his poem “Romanesque arches”:
Inside the huge romanesque cathedral
the tourists jostled in the half darkness.
Vault gaped behind vault, no complete view.
A few candle-flames flickered.
An angel with no face embraced me
and whispered through my whole body:
“Don’t be ashamed of being human, be proud!
Inside you vault opens behind vault endlessly.
You will never be complete, that’s how it’s meant to be.”
Blind with tears
I was pushed out on the sun-seething
piazza together with Mr. and Mrs. Jones,
Herr Tanaka and Signora Sabatini,
and inside them all vault opened behind vault endlessly.
As usual we will hold Holy Communion Service in English all through summer at 5 pm every Sunday. The order of Service is shorter during summer, but it is still a opportunity to meet God and other people every week. Just follow the tourists and you will find us!
The worst time of the year is upon us! This is the time of year when many members of our congregation leave us to go back home. Many of you have been a part of our lives for a year, two years or even longer. We have seen each other on Sundays, we have had coffee together, and we have talked and laughed together. We will be sad to see you go and we will miss you! As a minister I really hate to say goodbye. Since I started as a minister for ministry in English in 2010 I have lived through this time of year 3 times – this will be my fourth. It does not get better with time! As usual my end of term/beginning of summer depression started already in the beginning in May, as I started to tally up people who were going to us leave soon. But starting this year it will be different. If you are leaving to go back home – please tell me – because we would like to give you a little something to help you remember us and we would really like to send you on your way properly. From now on everyone who has been with us for a time and who is leaving will get a small wooden cross which is the cross of Lund’s cathedral. As I hand over the crosses at the end of the servicewe will also sing this traditional Irish blessing together: “May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine upon your face, may the rain fall softly on your fields until we meet again may God hold you in the palm of his hand”. Hopefully this will ease the pain of having to say goodbye a little bit.
The Student Carnival is upon us!
It is a tradition going back to the beginning of the 20th century that this occurs every 4th year. The amazing thing is that it is run entirely by volunteers – 5000 students that do this just for fun! You might have seen them queuing up to volunteer early this spring. This is a major event in Lund. It will attract visitors from all of Southern Sweden and student from all of Sweden.
Police estimate that close to 500 000 people will be here during the weekend – that is 5 times the population of Lund so it will be crowded. So what is it all about? Well the thing most people come to see is the parade on Saturday and Sunday. It starts at 12 o clock and goes on to 15. People will start lining up from 11 – so be there early to get a good view. The parade is filled with trucks with different scenes – all of them humorously commenting on current event in Sweden or in the World. Sometimes the message can be hard to understand – so concentrate instead on students having fun, being dressed up singing and laughing.Also student bands from all of Sweden will play in the parade – and there are lots of them.
Other things that is going on are the Carnival fair – an area in the middle of town surrounding the University building. Here you can go to listen to music (free concerts all weekend) and visit different tents with different activities – all of them with a humorous twist. If you are lucky enough and have gotten tickets – you can also go to Spexet, Revyn, Circusen or some other main events. Basically shows put on by students with lots of jokes in them.
So what about security? Well it will be crowded, but the atmosphere is very friendly. The aim is that everyone, even small children, should feel welcome and feel safe. There is hardly ever any trouble, but just to be on the safe side the Police are out on force during the weekend.
Also the Students themselves take security quite seriously. There are over 50 doctors and nurses at hand – all of them volunteers. There will also be security guards and fire fighters all over the place. The security detail of the Carnival has even asked for the Student chaplains to be on hand – should anyone need counseling for some reason. So look for the Student Chaplains in their bright green jackets. We will be walking around the Carnival fair from midday to midnight all three days! All in all the Carnival should be the safest place to be this weekend.
When I last wrote something about lent I wrote about going out in the desert.
Often we associate lent with abstaining from things. We say no to cookies or chocolate, don’t watch TV or stay away from Facebook. But really Lent should have much more to do with things we do. Lent should be a time when we focus less on ourselves and more on God and the needs of others.
To give some examples: If we decide to give up cookies, the money we save not buying cookies can be given to charities instead. So, we give up things in order to give our money to people who need our help. If we don’t watch TV or spend time on Facebook we have time to give to others instead. Is there someone who needs a visit? Is there any volunteer work to be done? Also if I don’t spend time watching TV – I have more time to spend with God, reading the Bible or praying.
To me this is the true meaning of Lent. It is not mainly about not doing thing, but about doing different things!
All of you have probably seen the labyrinth on the square between the Cathedral and Domkyrkoforum – but what is it for? Well, this Sunday you’ll have the chance to find out. Our very own minister in charge of Pilgrimage, Anna Alebo, will talk about the labyrinth and guide us through it at 4 pm on Sunday. Afterwards there will be the Holy Communion Service as usual. Beneath is an article I found on the internet about labyrinths in this context:
“Prayer through Walking”
The labyrinth is a sacred pattern that leads you on a prescribed path to its center and back out again. Walking the labyrinth is a way of praying with the body that invites the divine presence into an active conversation with the heart and soul. By engaging in this walking meditation, we are fully engaging our minds, bodies, and spirits at the same time.
The earliest known Christian labyrinth is located in a church in Algeria, with the words Sancta Eclesia (holy church) inscribed in its center. As early as A.D. 350, worshipers entering the church would trace the labyrinth with their finger in order to focus their thoughts and open themselves up to the presence of God. In the Middle Ages, many cathedrals in Europe began to construct larger labyrinths. Christians who could not make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem would instead travel to these cathedrals to walk the labyrinth as a spiritual pilgrimage, symbolizing the journey to the Holy Land
Guide to walking the labyrinth
There is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth. Some people walk with the intention of addressing an issue in their lives, others to pray and meditate. It is helpful to pause before you enter to center your thoughts on your intention. Walk between the lines of the circuit, being aware that you are sharing the labyrinth with others. You may pass other walkers, or let them step around you. When you reach the center you have entered the most sacred space in the labyrinth. The center is a place to pause, reflect, and receive insight. Walking the path back out of the labyrinth is a time for deep reflection and a chance to consider what it might mean for your daily living. Once you have completed your labyrinth walk, you may want to find a quiet place in the nave or Cathedral chapels to sit and reflect. Our hope is that you will leave with renewed vision and a refreshed spirit.
Lent is upon us! This coming Sunday we will read about how Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the desert. When we talk about lent, we often talk about giving up something like alcohol, sweets or rich food. But Lent can also be about going into the desert. By this I mean spending time during Lent actively trying to distance ourselves from the hustle and stress of ordinary life in different ways. This can mean different things for different people. It can be about abstaining from Facebook, the internet or television for a while. It can also be about spending more time church – in the cathedral there are over 20 services each week. And – you don’t need to go to a service to spend more time in church. The Cathedral is open everyday from 8 in the morning until at least 6 in the evening. The part of the church where we hold our services is reserved for quite meditation and prayer during the day. Why not enjoy some peace and quite for a small part of your day. If you want go even further in this direction there is the Taizé service every Thursday at 6.30 pm and silent contemplation at Liberiet four times every week. If you like an introduction – just ask me, or just come on a Monday at 12.15. For those who really want to experience what it is like to step out of your life for a while there are retreats. During a retreat you go away for a couple of days to a monastery or a retreat centre to spend a couple of days in complete silence. You spend time with yourself reading or praying and take part in several small prayer services during the day. There are several places locally, in Sweden and Internationally where you can go if you want to experience this. If you are interested – ask me and I will point you in the right direction – into the desert!
I have always loved to go to the movies. My taste in film is very varied, but a really great film is a film that gets my thinking and stays with me long after I leave the cinema. The last two years I have volunteered at Kino here in Lund. It is a cinema ran mainly by volunteers that shows movies that otherwise wouldn’t be shown – European movies, independent films and other films from all over the world. These films often get the best reviews, but since they are not backed up by advertising campaigns, they are usually not blockbusters. As a volunteer I can see as many movies as I like for free and in the last year I have really taken advantage of this. I have seen many great movies, and some that wasn’t so great. Some have been interesting just because they exist at all – like a film from Saudi Arabia made by a female director. One or two movies in the last year have been real revelations – like Francis Ha, which we showed last time the Student chaplaincy had a free showing for students. The movie we are going to show on the 13th of March at 7 pm moved me to tears. Since I see so many movies it doesn’t really happen very often that films affect me that deeply – but this one really did. Based on a true story “Last stop Fruitvale Station” tells the story of the ordinary people behind tragic headlines like “Man shot by police at station”. As usual admission is free and you can bring as many friends you like. If you want to see a trailer of the movie go to – http://kino.nu/last-stop-fruitvale-station