That is probably the most common question I get as a minister in the Cathedral. The simple answer is that the Church of Sweden is a Protestant Lutheran Church. But even knowing this you might get confused when you visit the Cathedral and the Holy Communion Service in English. If you are a Methodist you might for example recognize the first part of our order of worship as taken from the Methodist church. If you are a Catholic you might notice the statue of Mary in the corner. If you are an Orthodox you immediately see the Icons in the middle of the Church. If you are an Anglican you are probably familiar with the way ministers dress. Visiting the Cathedral you might even come across the smell incense and see service that follow the Liturgy of the hours the same way it is done in convents. So what is going on here? There are several answers. First; when the reformation came the Swedish king decided that the whole of Sweden would follow the teachings of Luther. There was no Catholic opposition. In other places, like Germany and Holland, the Lutheran church met constant opposition from the catholic church and therefore felt the need to distance itself from everything Catholic. In Sweden, and the same goes for England, there was no such need, so the Church of Sweden keep certain things that Lutherans in for example Germany associate with the Catholic church. That is why protestants from mainland Europe often find the Church of Sweden and the Anglican church to be slightly “Catholic” when it comes to how ministers dress and other things. Another part of the answer is that our Church is a Cathedral – a building that by definition is “All-Christian” or ecumenical if you will. We like to bring in many different parts of our Christian heritage into our church to point out our connection with all of Christianity. That is also why last summer I had a wedding together with a Catholic priest and this summer together with an orthodox priest. So the best answer to the question – what kind of Church is this – is probably; We are a open church welcoming everyone!
About two weeks ago I stood in front of 2000 International students during GIM – the General Information Meeting that Lund University arranges for the newly arrived. Afterwards I got to hear the usual reactions – most where surprised, some even chocked, that a religious representative was present at this event. What does the Church and the University have in common? But from experience I also know that for a number of students my presence at this event was very important. Out of those 2000 students hundreds come from backgrounds where faith is an important part of everyday life. For some of them finding a community to belong to and a place to worship is very high on their list of priorities. As a student chaplain it is my job to help those students to find a spiritual home away from home regardless of their faith. Most are Christians from different denominations but I also get e-mails from Buddhists, Hindus and Jews looking for places to worship. I help everyone to find a place. Some of the students wind up at the Holy Communion Service I have every Sunday at 5 pm and that is of course very rewarding, but when it comes to my work at the University that is not my first priority. Working with the University it is necessary for me to be multi- faith, even though I myself am a Christian. Recently the Student chaplaincy in another town here in Sweden was thrown off Campus because the University was supposed to be independent from all religions and political ideas. My colleagues there hadn’t misbehaved in any way – the University had just decided that they didn’t want to have anything to do with religion – any religion. I am extremely pleased that Lund University has taken a different approach – they invite all religions not favoring anyone. That’s why, at my presentation during GIM, there is contact information to all denominations and religious bodies that can be found in the region. At a meeting the Vice Chancellor of Lund University has said that the University wishes to help students with every aspect of their life during their stay here, and since many students have a faith, the University want s to help those students to find a place to worship – regardless of faith. To me that is the best possible way to handle religion in a secular context – favor no one, but let everyone in. It is not a question of churches or religions doing missionary work. The students in question already have a faith when they come here. Helping them with information so that they can continue their spiritual life in Lund is not evangelizing, it is just providing them with a service, just like telling them how to contact the hospital if they need to is a service. Like the Vice Chancellor said in an interview – “Lunds universitet står heller för mångfald än för enfald”. It is hard to translate this into English – but he is basically saying that it is studip to ignore the fact that for many people religion is a part of life . I agree!
Last week before my vacation starts and I’m preparing for the arrival of 2000 International Students in August. In cooperation with Lund University all Students are invited to a free guided tour of our Cathedral. These guided tours have proved to be very popular. Last year about 1000 students took us up on the offer. At one occasion about 200 students came at once so this year we’re introducing a system with free tickets.
This will be my last blog post for a while and I saved the best for last. My favorite part of Sweden during summer is without a doubt Österlen – the southeastern part of Skåne. The scenery is amazing and the atmosphere relaxed – it has been compared to the South of France because lots of artist have chosen to set up shop here. If you go by car you will see lots of signs where artist invite you to visit their studio. This part of Skåne is perhaps best explored with a car (or a bike), but as always the summer jojo card will get you there. Here are some of the highlights.
1. Kåseberga and Ale stenar. A small fishing village on the eastcoast which is invaded every summer by tourists. The reason for this can be found on a hill nearby – Ale stenar – the Swedish equivalent of Stonehenge. Also the view from up there is gorgeous. Go on a weekday to avoid crowds and bring a pick-nick or buy smoked fish in the village.
2. Ystad, small town on the South coast. Nice atmosphere and home of Kurt Wallander – the antihero cop in Henning Mankell crime Novels.
3. Stens huvud and Café Annorlunda. Nice nature and great views AND an all-you-can-eat cookie smorgasbord!
4. Kivik – a town filled with apples! In September they have a harvest feast. Also during summer home of Kiviks marknad – an outdoor festival that attracts a lot of people.
5. Brösarps backar and Haväng. Spectacular scenary! This is for those of you who like to walk. Also nearby there is a old fashion Stem engine that takes passenger during summer.
Extra: For those of you who prefer to spend your summer in a chair with a mystery book. Check out the following Swedish crime writers:
Sjövall&wallöö – these books are classics. Set in the 60`s and heavily influence by the thinking of that timeperiod they are nevertheless very readable.
Leif GW Persson – professor of criminology that writes really good novels. He really knows what he is writing about – my favorite.
Henning Mankell – Kurt Wallander!
Steig Larsson – Lisabeth Salander!
Have a great summer!
Next week should be the last week in Lund filled with activity before everything settles down for summer. If you hear a lot of ruckus – loud music, car horns, singing – it will be graduates from Lund’s “gymnasieskolor” celebrating. Like I said in my last blog, after this week Lund will be a ghost town (except for the Cathedral which will be completely taken over by tourists!).This is not necessarily a bad thing. For once there will be plenty of room in restaurants and you won’t have to book in advance if you want to see a movie. For those who like to relax – Stadsparken and Botan are calm oases during summer. Sunday the 16th of June we will start to use our shorter order for the Holy Communion Service. The communion part is intact, but homily will be much shorter. There is two reasons for this: 1. During my absences people from the congregation will do the homily and they are not suppose to spend too much time working on a sermon. 2. During summer I will be working much more in the Cathedral filling in for colleagues on vacation. Because of this I won’t have much time to work on my Sermon in English. In the middle of August things will be back to normal.
More things to do if you are stuck in Lund during Summer:
1. Västra hamnen in Malmö. Take the train to Malmö central and then take buss number 2 to Västra hamnen. When you see Turning Torso jump of the bus. If you haven’t seen Turning Torso up close this might be worth the trip in itself. However if you go here during warm summer days there be lots of people and a nice atmosphere. The architecture in the area is also really cool. If you have kids – Swedish television will produce its most popular children’s show here between 9-11 every morning. Lots of families with children will pick-nick nearby to watch this. Every Friday famous Swedish artists will visit the show.
2. Lilla Torg in Malmö. Take the train to Malmö central. From there it’s a short walk to Lilla torg where lots of people hang out during warm Summer evenings. In the middle of August Malmö festivalen is worth visiting – lots of food and music. Really crowded though, especially in the evening when popular artists are playing.
3. Copenhagen – obviously! Lots of things to do all the time and a beautiful City. As an alternative to Tivoli, consider Bakken. An old amusement park just outside of Copenhagen accessible by train.
In a couple of weeks Lund will be a ghost town. Most students will have left and when school is out lots of people living in Lund on a permanent basis will go off on vacation. But fear not! The Holy Communion Service in the Cathedral will continue all through summer and so will fellowship afterwards. During my vacation time some members from the congregation will step in to deliver a short homily and colleges from the Cathedral will do the Holy Communion part. I’m very grateful for this! Having members of the congregation fill in for me is an absolute dream and something you just don’t see in the Church of Sweden. If I don’t watch out they will probably take over completely! Any way, what to do when you are stuck in Lund over summer? Actually there are lots of things to do! First thing you should do is to get the Summer Jojo card which will give you access to public transportation in all of Skåne from June 15 until August 15 for just under 600 Skr. You can get the card in all the usual places. The next couple of weeks I will write about some of my favorite destinations in the region. Feel free to add to the list on our Facebook page.
1. Ven, an small island between Sweden and Denmark. Go to Landkrona by train and take the bus to the harbor. There you will find the ferry to Ven. On Ven rent a bike and bike around the island. There is lots to see and the scenery is stunning! Avoid sunny weekends – then everybody will go there!
2. Sofiero Castle. Take the train to Helsingborg and ask about a bus to Sofiero. This is for everyone who loves beautiful gardens. It was once the Summer resident of the King. Best time to go – early in June when everything is in bloom.
3. Helsingör – take the train to Helsingborg and the ferry to Denmark. Helsingör is a charming Danish town where lots of Swedes go to buy beer (as you will surely notice). There is a beautiful castle worth visiting (Hamlet was set here) and you can buy a special ice cream with whipped cream, jam and “flödeboll” in an alley leading away from the square just outside the train station. If you want to you can also stay on the boat and go back and forth between Sweden and Denmark while dining in the restaurang on board – this is known among locals as “tura”.
4. The museum of Modern Art – Louisiana. Take the train from Helsingör south and get off in Humlebaek. It is a short way to the museum and signs to show the way. Another way to go here is to buy a Öresund –runt ticket that will allow you to go in one direction on both the Swedish and Danish side of Öresund. You can get off and on whenever you like.
The term is coming to an end and as usual I’m feeling a little sad because people are leaving. Our congregation is special because many of our visitors come and go. Exchange students might stay for one or two terms, Master students for one or two years and people working on their doctorate for several years, but still it is a fact of life that most people coming to our services will eventually leave to go back home. I could fill this blog with names of people I miss and who have contributed a lot to our congregation while they been here. Because it is also a fact that even though some of you only stay here a short while each one of you contribute to our congregation with your presences. As a congregation we also rely on people to volunteer to help out with different thing. Without our volunteers we wouldn’t have any coffee after the Service or Sunday school. I worked for 16 years in a congregation in Malmö before I came here and finding volunteers was always a problem in that congregation – since coming here it hasn’t been a problem at all. In the beginning, when the first term was coming to an end, I was filled with sadness, but also with dread, because it seemed to me that everybody was leaving. Back then it was only a dozen or so people coming to our Services and at least half of them were leaving! Would there even be a congregation after summer? Since then I have learned to trust in God when it comes to the future of our congregation. People leave, but somehow (by the Grace of God) new people seem to find their way into our congregation. So as the term draws to a close I would like to thank all of you – thank you for sharing your faith and your experiences with us! Thank you for all you have done and for being who you are! And come back and visit us sometime – our doors are always open.
Last, but not least, a special thank you to all you who come back year after year because Lund or Malmö or Kävlinge is now your home. Without you I would indeed feel very sad and lonely right now. At least now I know that there are others out there who share my feelings of sadness because the ones leaving are also your friends. And, I know that will be people from the congregation there with me this fall when we get ready to welcome new members – and makes all the difference for me. Thank you!
“I’m all lost in the Supermarket, I came here for a special offer – guarantied personality”
The last month I have been working on an address about the role of consumption in modern society. My interest in this stems from the fact that the church in Malmö where I used to work was located next to a shopping mall. Every Sunday I would stand in the church watching how the parking lot outside the mall filled up. Why has shopping become so important in our society? Well, economic reasons alone can’t explain why most people spend a lot of time in shopping malls nowadays. Turns out there are lots of research about this. It used to be we would buy products because of its function. We still do, but now we also buy stuff for its symbolic value. Research in sociology show that we often buy things that are consistent with our identity or the identity we strive to have. We use products to show who we are and what group we belong to. In the U.S.A. it is now possible to be buried in caskets with a Harley Davidson logo. But it goes further some philosophers claim that shopping also is part of our search for meaning. According to them we live in the age of the empty self where it is necessary for us to fill the void with different product. We do our existential choices in the shopping mall. And here is where it gets really interesting – is shopping the religion of modern society? Some anthropologists claim that some iconic brands are implicit religions. That means that the behavior people show when shopping is similar to that shown by religious people. Neurologist in the UK have even shown that the same parts in the brain are active in people having an “religious” shopping experience as in people having a spiritual religious experience. So I wasn’t wrong when I stood in my church in Malmö looking at people driving their cars to the temple of consumption next door. But, to paraphrase a Swedish bishop when she talked about the meaning people attach to brands in comparison to Christian faith– you can certainly build your life around brands, the question is if they are any comfort to you when you are about to die.
I couple of times every term I visit KRISS, a Swedish Christian student organization. KRISS is run by students for student and arrange weekly meeting where students meet and talk about faith. Sometimes they invite guests to talk about different topics. There are other Christian student organizations in Lund also – Dominio for Catholics and Credo. They are all doing a really great job. I know that a lot of International students visit these organizations, but, with the possible exception of Dominio, they are run by Swedish students and the language is for the most part Swedish. When thinking about this, it occurred to me that we would really need a Christian student organization run by international students where the common language was English. It should be an organization where student from all countries and all Christian backgrounds should feel welcome. Maybe it should not even be a new organization, but an international group within one of the existing Christian student organizations. Now, I am not a student, so I can’t start a student organization, but I could help out with a place to meet and other practical things. I could also help out with contacts and advice. Lunds Kristna Råd, the organization that organize all Christian churches in Lund, could maybe also help out and I also think that the University would like there to be such an organization. So all we need is a student or a small group of students who also think that this would be a good idea. Could that be you?
A spiritual advice that I try to follow is to give thanks everyday. One of my favorite Christian authors, the Swedish Bishop Martin Lönnebo, recommends writing down one thing one is thankful for every day. After one year one has a book filled with things to be grateful about. To end every day in this way is also, in my experience, a recipe for a good nights sleep. Actually modern science is saying the same thing. People, who focus on thing they are grateful for, instead of thing they are not satisfied with, are more harmonious and healthier. In short, being grateful and giving thanks is good for us, both in a spiritual sense and when it comes to our health. Apart from my children, who are my greatest joy and for whom I am eternally grateful, I find myself most often being grateful for the people I meet everyday through my work as a minister. People often thank me for listening to them. Often I don’t think people realize how much them sharing their experiences with me means for me. I feel truly blessed! To my few things are as rewarding as listening to people talking about their life experiences or their ideas about life. Sometimes I can’t believe I get paid for doing this!
Another thing that fills me with gratitude is all the wonderful people I meet through my work as an English-speaking minister in the Cathedral. Not only is it often the best part of my week to meet them on Sundays, but I am also extremely grateful for their help and their commitment to our little congregation. Without them leading the Holy Communion Service would be much harder and there wouldn’t be any coffee after our Services and no Sunday school. So this week I want to say a big THANK YOU to everybody who helps out in different ways. And most of all – THANK YOU for being who you are and for sharing that with me!
Last spring an international student from France talked with me about having an ecumenical Taizé meeting here in Lund. She had been in Taizé several times and used to attend services in the spirit of Taizé here in Lund. Herself a Catholic, she found it odd that the people who participated in the two different Services (there is one in the Catholic Church and one in the Cathedral) never met. She used to go to both services. So, she approached me and Brother Björn, who works with Domino – the Catholic student group, with the idea to have a Taizé meeting where everybody met. Last fall we had the first one in St Thomas Catholic Church. For me it was one of the highlights of last fall. There was about 50 people present from different backgrounds and different nationalities. We worshiped together, shared a meal and talked our life and our faith in God. It was a truly great experience. The 16th of March between 3.30 in the afternoon and 9.30 in the evening we will have a second Taizé meeting in Lund Cathedral. This time we are also joined by the Pentecostal Church here in Lund. If you have never attended a Taizé meeting before this is a great opportunity. I can really recommend it. There is more information on Facebook – Taizé day in Lund.