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Migration conference

IN early December, a conference, entitled ‘Discerning a Path on Migration’ will bring together UK and Swedish Christians to reflect on five key questions, including border policies, integration, identity, access to services and the language used around migration. The conference is being undertaken by the Diocese of Oxford and Diocese of Växjö in response to the needs of congregations in both places – and in the hope that the diversity of experiences from within our dioceses will enrich our reflections.

Working groups, convened in advance, will be producing short papers on these questions. The papers will, following the conference discussions, be edited and gathered to form a resource that helps members of our churches to undertake similar reflection. The endeavour is being chaired by Michael Taylor, the former Director of Christian Aid with support from the Department of Mission and the Council of Partners in World Mission. The Revd Tony Dickinson, the Chair of the Växjö link, said: “This is another example of the way in which the similarities and differences between our two situations enriches us both as we strive towards God’s kingdom of justice and love.”

If you have experience in issues around migration get in touch with bethan.willis@oxford.anglican.org. A resource for parishes will be produced in 2018.

Swedish priest, Fr Dag Bjärnhall leads a Sankta Lucia (St Lucy) celebration at St Paul’s, Wokingham tomorrow

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St Paul's, Wokingham

Fr Dag is visiting the parish of St Paul, Wokingham during October and November, as part of his sabbatical, and the service celebrating St Lucy will be part of a cultural exchange between his Swedish traditions and those of the parish.

 

Sankta Lucia is a Swedish national festival – a Christian feast day normally celebrated on 13 December commemorating St Lucy, a Third Century martyr who, according to legend, brought food and aid to Christians hiding in the catacombs, wearing a candle-lit wreath on her head to light her way and leave her hands free to carry as much food as possible.  Today, the food is represented by a special baked bun, Lussekatt (St. Lucy Bun), made with saffron, and gingerbread.  Like our own seasonal delicacies, Lussekatt is often in use as early as November, and is a very popular Christmas tradition.

There will be an opportunity to make gingerbread from 4.45pm in the Parish Rooms and volunteers, who have been busy learning to make this Swedish delicacy, will be bring their own home-made Lussekatt to be served with lemonade and Swedish refreshments after the service, which starts at 6.15pm.

Fr Dag serves the city-and-cathedral parish of Växjö city as a komminster in a team, working mostly with adult education and development, with respect both to growth in faith and opening up the faith for newcomers.  He finds using meditative services, pilgrimages, retreats and dialogue groups very helpful. The Diocese of Växjö is linked with the Diocese of Oxford.

To find out more about what else is happening at St Paul’s, go to www.spauls.org.uk or call the Parish Office on 0118 979 2122.

New Bishop of Växjö

by Hugh White

ON 12 April in Uppsala, Fredrik Modéus will be consecrated 59th Bishop of Växjö, Oxford’s link diocese in Sweden. Bishop Andrew will be among those laying on hands.

Fredrik Modéus, the new Bishop of Växjö, Oxford’s link diocese in Sweden.

Fredrik Modéus, the new Bishop of Växjö, Oxford’s link diocese in Sweden.

Fredrik Modéus was born and brought up in Jönköping in the diocese of Växjö. He studied theology at Lund University and was ordained priest in 1991, serving in Värnamo, Hässleholm and Oskarshamn before settling in Lund where he is currently in charge of the cathedral parish. He is 50 years old and married with three children. A sports fan, he lists running among his leisure activities. He also enjoys literature, history and travel.

Modéus is the author of several books and is about to be examined for a doctorate. He has a particular interest in the dynamics of church growth. His experience as a priest and his scholarly research into congregations lead him to believe that more important for church growth than programmes of activity are caring personal relationships. He stresses the importance of listening to other people and taking their thinking and view of the world with the utmost seriousness. He is concerned about the cocksure certitude that simply writes off opinions and people it disagrees with.

Openness, though, shouldn’t mean lack of commitment: “It’s a pain when the Church is lukewarm,” says Modéus, who believes the Church should go deep in prayer and meditation and at the same time be right out there among the vulnerable of society.

We pray for God’s blessing on Fredrik Modéus in his new ministry as bishop and for Växjö Diocese and for its continuing relationship with Oxford.

Light in the darkness

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Luciauseby Hugh White

A HUSH of expectancy filled Deddington Parish Church in the middle of what had, until then, been a bustling Christingle service. A mysterious presence had been announced and the lights were out. Haunting music began and St Lucia with her white robe, red sash of martyrdom and her headdress of candles (Lucia, you could say, is a kind of living christingle) led in a procession of her maids and starboys’ to bring light and song into the darkness.

This wonderful enhancement of our Christingle service came courtesy of the Youth Choir of the Sofia Church in Jönköping, Deddington’s link church in the Diocese of Växjö, Sweden. St Lucia’s day, 13 December is hugely significant in Sweden, marked by ceremonies in families, schools, churches, clubs and work places and the Sofia Choir had flown in to us on the feast day, having begun very early with a Lucia ceremony in Jönköping.

St Lucia was a Sicilian virgin martyr (283-304) whose cult spread north and in Sweden, in an extreme cold and a deeper darkness than we experience in an English winter, the ceremony of light into which Lucia observations developed (Lucia comes from the Latin word for light) is particularly welcome. In the old Julian calendar 13 December was the shortest day of the year.

The Sofia Choir also sang at our Sunday Eucharist and in the evening they took part in a lively England v Sweden skittles match held at our Royal British Legion Club. The day before they sang in Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral. On the Monday before flying back to Sweden, they gave a Lucia performance for our Deddington CE Primary School.

The Revd Canon Hugh White is Vicar of Deddington. See page five for more stories from around the Deddington Deanery.

Reflections from Växjö

by Alastair Baine, Kevin Beer, Margaret Dixon, Cassa Messervy and La Stacey

A GROUP of curates have described their recentexperiences to our partner diocese of Växjö in Sweden.

The lake at St Sigfrid's. Who wouldn't want to swim in there?

The lake at St Sigfrid’s. Who wouldn’t want to swim in there?

St Sigrid’s is a ‘folkhogskola’ – an educational establishment which has no parallel in UK. It provides education for adults to help them change their lives. We met a girl who had twice failed in mainstream schools and was now enjoying her classes; and an immigrant from Afghanistan who had arrived in the country and was now starting sixth-form education having completed his missing secondary education in one year. The Christian influence in the school was palpable, not just through daily Morning Prayer and the presence of a remarkable school chaplain, but in the ethos of the school. One pupil commented that since coming there they felt like a human being again.

One of the most memorable pieces of work were year long confirmation classes for people aged about 14 at the cathedral. They had the opportunity to use the building in an inspirational way, learning about faith, trust, and listening to Bible stories. In Växjö about 80 per cent of young people attend these classes and are confirmed.

Deacons in Sweden have a permanent and distinct role completely separate from priests. Before they begin their year-long theological training they have to be qualified social workers or nurses. They fulfil a pastoral role, working with various groups and individuals. Växjö Diocese is creating a Diakonicentrum (Deacon Centre) to work with people with drug problems, the homeless, immigrants and others.

At diocesan level, Växjö has adopted our ‘Living Faith’ strategy as ‘Til Tro’ (Towards Faith), with a minor but perhaps significant change: ‘Making Disciples’ has been adapted to ‘Discipleship Today’. An exploration of this change revealed a significant difference in our understanding of mission: the Swedish Church reflected the established state church model whereby everyone was presumed to be a signed up member, despite the continuing decline of around one per cent per annum from today’s membership of 67.5 per cent of the population.

The Swedish church also operates as an institution for developing musical skills. Each church we visited had at least one full time musician who would lead a variety of choirs, teach instruments and compose music.
On the Thursday evening our group was invited to join with members of St. Sigrid’s School for their regular communion service. A ‘scratch’ choir was made up of students in the community and able singers from our group who sang a hastily practised piece beautifully. People from each group, wrote and led the intercessions, address and blessing.

Our chance to experience something of Swedish spirituality came on Friday afternoon with canoeing on the incredibly beautiful still lakes near St Sigfrid’s school. It was truly an opportunity to say thank you to God for the beauty of the creation in Sweden!