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söndag 27 november 2016

Rejoyce - it's Advent Sunday!!!

Happy New Year!!!

Daughter of Sion, lift thy forehead, Heavenly Kingdom is near. Sing aloud your Hosanna, for your King is now here! God his Son to earth now has sent,  so rejoyce, it is Advent!!!"

This was one of the very songs that brought me right into the lap of God, my first year in the churchchoir, I was 17 and agnostic. Since then I have sung this with several different churchchoirs and it's always fantastic and uplifting and sends shivers down my spine of joy. It's a swedish song by an old churchmusician called Otto Olsson.  It's called "Advent", simply. Here sung by the Sofia chamberchoir in Stockholm, a clip from Youtube. I don't have any means of bringing you our choir!!!

 We light one candle at the time, for every sunday. But we also turn on the electric lights and stars in the windows.   
The friday before Advent Sunday we go by boat out to the small island that is a part of our parish, and the small chapel there. I tend to do that trip quite reluctantly since I often enter the chapel with a greenish complexion...luckily it wasn't my turn this year!! Not the sundayservice either, I was on the organloft with the churchchoir, looking down at the herd!!
Our large church can take about 600, but this sunday it's not so crowded, however, most people prefer sitting further back, so them you can't see at all!!! Up in front the candlestick with the four candles can be seen, but the flame is drowned in sunlight! And we sing our songs and hymns, we read the Prophet and the gospel about the king on his donkey. This morning several hundreds of thousands candles were lit, 1st of Advent. Many have no clue to what it all is about but the tradition lingers on, even if you never go to any service during this period. I do wish more could be reached by the message of mercy and the Kingdom of God!

 I also add some pictures from the small chapel or Missionhouse, later this afternoon, quite different in character that service is, plain wooden benches, children singing, homebaked cookies and coffee afterwoods.

All set for the advent festivities today, here many many children had their sundayschool, in the back a large furnace, no running water, outdoor loo. In one hour from now there will be people in every corner and the heat will cloud the windows. 9 children talked , sang and lit the candles, Rolf played his violin, another Rolf sang the songs he has sung here the last 50 years or so,  Annies Quartett sang the songs we have been singing for 16 years, the ladies served a great coffeetable with homebaked cookies, we all sang the traditional hymns, I held a sermon and then we all went home in the darkness, but with bright hearts.

The elderly gentleman doing this beautiful decoration has done so for God knows how many years!

And this is the last thing I see, leaving the chapel, the moist on the windows and the electric candles barely showing through.
The chapel was built 1921. I love it.
One hymn we always sing, in every swedish church, is this one:
The choir leading the congregation in this Youtubeclip is Maria Magdalena and Youth Alive gospel.  The lyrics: "Hosanna, Son of David, blessed be the one that comes in the Lords name, Hosanna in the highest"  Voglers music this is.

The trees surrounding the square are filled with lights!!
In the Frogpark ( well, I didn't name it!!) the lights are transformed into hearts. It does make me feel rather good, actually.
If you want, you can buy your christmastree already, they sell them outside every store and gas station, we have large plantations all over Sweden.  When the season is over, they go for recycling or simply in to the furnace!!! We never buy before the 20th, but that's us!!

The mainstreet lights up when the sky is darkening, shopwindows filling up with seasons decorations and exposing Christmas gifts of all kinds. Christmas market is held in the old barns by the castle. And in every village, more or less. The season starts earlier and earlier, some stores start already in the beginning of october!!! Me no like!!

Every year the children gets a calender, I know many of you have the same traditions. The calender, a german idea from the beginning, just like the ornamented christmastree, was meant to bring children one step closer to the holy birth, day by day, with nice and sparkling pictures. Soon it became filled with chocolate and today you can buy these calenders filled with everything from perfume to whiskybottles. Oh, and chocolate..... the pictures inside has silently passed from stars, candles and mangers to snowmen, skates and presents.

The swedish national television is broadcasting since 1958 a Christmas calender for children, with a short story every day from 1 to 24 of december, not from Advent anymore. The stories are greatly varied from goblins and elfs to babies being born in a garage in the suburb or tales of christmases in the past or stories about anything but christmas. Very seldom the issue is the birth of our Saviour. So some churches make their own calender , and some even have a live calender, with actors telling the gospel. 

May your days of the advent season be blessed , thoughtful and bright!!!

måndag 21 november 2016

Where there used to be life

A very good night to you!!

I thought I'd just wanted to share something that has nothing whatsoever to do with Trump, Erdogan, french election or climatechange.
I wrote a shortstory called House abandoned, in my other blog. That blog is gaining a bit, you have been visiting, thank you!! It's mostly fiction but in that blog but the truth is very close at hand.  Anyhow, I have now visitors from all over, like Singapore and such a delight that is!!

Now for the subject, speaking of abandoned houses, yes, I also wrote a post here, called Empty room. I have a soft spot for old houses, especially empty ones. I grew up in the city and when a house was empty, they tore it down. Often very violently and with great thunder and dustclouds. A treat for us children.  But as I know live in the countryside, old houses stay put long after they are abandoned, the owner moves out or dies and there is no one to take over or even sell it. No one to pay for the destruction so there it stands.  I am sure you can tell me one or two things about that in your own neigbourhood, be it Trelawnyd or Dalamory or a dale in Yorkshire! Or Nice. Or Prague. How has things changed??
Here, we have a county consisting of several small villages and a community that is the place where our local politicians are housed, it's the town with one trafficlight, you remember I said that, Chris?
I get around quite a lot and see many traces of life that used to be. Abandoned schools, closed shops, plain little cottages that used to be filled with a family of twelve and so on.
When I went to pick up my car from the mechanic, I passed this:

Alright, you say, she's gone all barmy.  Gateposts. So?  Well you see, these are not just gateposts, this is where the school used to be!! This village is today so small that it's hard to believe its former greatness, but once, you see, once it was alive and flourishing . But it isn't emptied,many live here!!! When the school was torn down, yes it actually was, auntie Svea started to collect the brickstones, washed them, tied a ribbon around and a note and handed them out to people so that the school would not be forgotten!! She did the same when the small railway was taken away, took the large nails, polished them and gave them as presents to people.  What a cultural deed from  Svea, who was the wife of a much beloved churchmusician and choirleader here.

One of the bricks, and a key, is stored in church!

And this??? Well of course , it's a grocery store!! Millbournes grocery store!! It wasn't even the only one, most villages had two or three and bakeries and buthchers. Today there is nothing in most of the villages. What can you tell about your villages??
Beside this old shop there is an old chapel or Missionary house as we call them. Used to be very much alive along with the two or three others in every village. Today it's owned by a local Harley Davidson club called.......The Heathens. It's no joke!  I didn't take any picture of that......
Next post will be about the coming season, Advent. But please, do tell me some stories about what used to be where you live. 

söndag 6 november 2016

Darkness will not prevail - stories from the dusk in november

Slowly the lightglobe in our smaller church is filling up.

As I am watching a documentary about the road to the White House,  my thoughts are wandering rather far away from the dirty campaigning and the hidden skeletons in wardrobes .  This week has been quite unusual. Pope Francis was here, making many people happy and hopeful and others angry and grudgy. Halloween passed unnoticed because of the evil clowns roaming the country, nobody even dared to dress up.
Since that date also is Reformationday we told our girls there was no need for candy ...

This week , finally, is the week for All Saints day and All souls Day.
What it actually means is that people gather from all over, they take their flowerpots, their candles, their rakes and shuffles to take care of familygraves and honour their loved ones by decorating and cleaning up.  We open up the church for coffee, candlesticks and quiet conversation.   People come back, year after year to come in and have a chat and some coffee.
In the evening, the church fill up for the services.
Rather hopeful services with a lot of music, singing and a will to speak of death without fear. We have dealt with the gospel about salt and light,  we have spoken about the seed that needs to die.  There are hugs, laughter and tears when we meet like this.

But to prepare myself I take walks among the visitors in the churchyard, where the conversation takes many forms, not always related to the gospel or even the church.
Many many different stories are told in those meetings, stories about people I never met, stories about people I did meet but never got to know and stories about people I thought I knew.  The tellers are widows, children and grandchildren, brothers, cousins, neighbours and schoolmates. Both the tellers and the long gone person grows as I listen, into much more than just a person, they become what we really are: Gods image, created earth to earth, dust to dust, with a clear hope of eternity and while living; an endless story in many chapters. It is well worth it, freezing in the cold wind, to hear the story long forgotten or never told.

As the dusk is slowly falling, the lanterns on the graves creates beacons of light and hope. On the headstones you can often see the image of the lighthouse or the rising sun of Resurrectionday, but those images get blurred in the darkness.

While there is still light, I walk along the row of headstones, taking in the names, the occupations , the village names, biblequotes and the images chosen. In Sweden there was, for some decades, a habit of mentioning peoples livelyhood on the headstone. Further back and in current time, there are only names and years, sometimes in goldwriting, or just plain black.
On the stones dated 1450, 1570, 1720 and so on, there is often an entire familyhistory, with titles and all.
Some graves are very large , some headstones are gigantic and some very small.  There I find farmers, fishermen, captains, wardens, ministers, bankers, landowners, carpenters, painters and teachers.  Some of them I have heard of, their stories, many I have no clue about. 

Sometimes , on some large familygrave, you trace a sad story,  small headstones with just one name on it, and perhaps years, 1943 to 1949,  april to september, long forgotten tears.
Some rest alone, no trace of husbands or wifes, children or others, some stayed on the farm with the parents, and now they rest side by side. Further away is a heap of pebbles, marking a place where we can light a candle and remember those lost at sea.

And I walk slowly , stopping by headstones with names of people I held the service for. Some families I remember clearly, some I never had so much chance to talk to. I have been here eleven years,  many stories have been given me, sometimes in the direct meeting, sometimes afterwards, preparing the service with the families. I should be grateful, I suppose that is why I'm writing this.  The darkness that falls over the world today reminds us of what we loose during a lifetime, the people , the childhood, adventures and struggling, holidays and workingdays, neighbours, friends and foes. We keep the stories written in our hearts for as long as we live, sometimes they can be recovered in letters and diaries as I have written in an early post, Tresures of the written word, february this year.. Some people actually becomes chapters in a real book, becoming fiction or actual local history.  The farms around here have chapters way back in time, some are abandoned, many are not, there are still lights in the windows.

When we gather like this to remember and mourn, it's a comfort to see the others sitting next to me in the churchbench. Its a comfort to hear the churchchoir, sing the hymns and listen to the word of the gospel. Yes we are flesh and blood, but the promise of eternity speaks of a new creation where we still are those we were meant to be, but death has been defeated and darkness overwhealmed.  We light candles both outside and inside to make this message one we can hold on to.  We need it both in our own lifes and for the sake of the world that makes us worried.  The outcome of tomorrows election holds many in great suspence, fear even. I don't know what to make of it, the fate of the world is not even in the hands of a president.  Whatever comes next, darkness will not prevail,  and hopefully, that hope will keep us warmhearted and brave. That promise will strenghten us to keep meeting, keep telling our stories and keep sharing life.
What did we make of Halloween??? Nothing ,nothing and nothing. I did carve a pumpkin though, it's here on our doorstep flashing the word "Peace" and then stars on the sides.  It scares no one and will hopefully stand upright for a couple of weeks, frost is approaching.

Peace be with you!!

tisdag 1 november 2016

St. Francis came to visit!!! The Pope was here!!!


The historical visit is actually happening: il Papa, the Pope, S.t Francis arrived in Sweden yesterday morning. He was greeted by the swedish prime minister, and later had a meeting with the king and queen.  Since the world Lutheran conference had its origin in Lund, that was the natural spot to have this meeting.  There has been plenty of disagreements and fighting over the centuries, and so many tears have been shed over the broken bonds. Reformation gave common people a bible to read, a church open to everyone and a new hope for sinners, so it seemed. What was lost was the unity of siblings and the sharing of the holy communion. That has caused so much pain and that pain lingers on. Yes, there are many wounds to heal, but Luther never meant to cause pain, he just wanted people to get closer to the gospel.What the Pope Francis now does is to come here and speak about the blessings of the reformation and the great need to forgive and embrace those who are no enemies but loved brothers and sisters. He is the heart and center of the worldwide catholic church and have to hold together the many branches. Still his choice is to take part of the celebration of Martin Luther! 

Thousands of young catholics came to see their big boss, their hero, hoping to get a selfie, thousands of other catholics but also thousands of protestants singing, praying and talking together. He was also greeted by the archbishop Antje, a woman!! And the bishop of the swedish catholic church, Anders Arborelius. A convert, actually.
 Last time a pope was here was 1989 but that was nothing like this. Mind you, John Paul was also loved and respected among protestants.

The visit began in the cathedral of Lund, my dioces that is, where Johan Tyrberg is bishop. There he celebrated an eccumenical service with about 400 invited guests from all over the world. The head of LWC, Martin Junge, was there as well as LWCs bishop Munib Younan. It was a moment of great joy when they signed the agreement that actually started to grow 50 years ago!! To unite the churches and seek common goals, for the sake of hope and mercy! Because we all gather around the same Saviour. There was singing, dancing, praying and preaching during that service.

The event was broadcasted live on tv and radio as well as large screens in town. 
After the service the Pope took off to Malmoe to join the party with 10.000 people waiting there for him to arrive. There he spent a few hours, enhancing the joy!! After that I gather the old man was a bit tired and so the brothers in a small monastery housed him for the night.
Early this morning he went to celebrate mass with the swedish catholic church, busloads of people came from everywhere to celebrate with their beloved Papa.

We were planning to take part of this historical moment, we really wanted to see this with our own eyes but personal reasons have prevented us and so I have no pictures of my own to present to you. Regrettably.  I borrowed a small clip from Youtube. You see the university and all the people around. First the king and queen arrives at the "Kings house", then the Pope Francis arrives. After that meeting they hurried up to the cathedral close by.
And yes, I really wish I was there.

This Pope has brought the church closer to people and their everyday life. His focus has been the poor and small, his focus has been reconciliation, to recognize the wounds caused both by the church and others, and speak out about the way to mend. He  has been called progressive and liberal, but there is still much to do.  He is opening up for a greater understanding, he wants to start with the importance of love between human beings, rather than moral impacts. The question of women priests, abortions, divorce, and many other theological and moral issues are being dealt with, very very slowly but in earnesty.  He has to step very carefully and not rush. But the movement is on.

The fact that he has his roots in the latinamerican context, with a background f.i as a guard, makes him easier to approach and he has shown a warm and very real interest for the life of the less fortunate and for the environment. He also has his favourite football team! 

I am not a catholic but I do think this Pope is a sign of light and strong hope for the future. His approach is warm, open and loving, he is willing to listen and he has also been very determined to clear out old skeletons from the vatican wardrobes, in order to restore faith. He has apologized to many abandoned groups of people, and he keeps doing it. 

 The world needs a church united against evil, even if we still have many unsolved problems between us. 2017 will be a year to remember what Luther really wanted to achieve and we have a responsibility to keep the church open, truthful and bright like a lantern of hope, God knows this world needs it! 
I'm not defending any of the bad things that has been done in the name of either catholics or protestants, I just wan't to see a trace of the Lords footsteps, heading through the crowds, urging us to forgive each other and keep following, together. I never claimed to hold any answers, I just wanted to write about at least one, bright and hopeful thing among all these dark and malvolent happenings hammering down on us. Hope prevails!!!