SUOMEN EKUMEENINEN NEUVOSTO

EKUMENISKA RÅDET I FINLAND

FINNISH ECUMENICAL COUNCIL

Living water – Sharing the Treasures of our Traditions, Lund 5.-9.6.2013 

 

Gathering of the EFECW around the Baltic Sea in Rögle Klostret, Lund, Sweden. Outi Piiroinen-Backman participated the meeting representing Finnish Ecumenical Council/Women’s Committee. Outi shares hereby the topic points of the meeting.

 

We were 18 women from seven countries: Estonia, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden and Russia. We were Lutherans, Reformed, Roman Catholics, Baptists, Orthodox and Ecumenical Church in Sweden (Equmeniakyrkan) by confession. And we were very different from our backgrounds and experiences.

 

The most interesting thing and the starting point for this gathering was that this group was just now in the same place, eager to start to discover, what might unite us and by doing that, ready to share whatever was asked by the means of sharing the ideas of living water and our treasures of faith. The setting was very interesting when looking back and reflecting the events and experiences of those days.

 

Rögle Klostret is a Roman Catholic monastery of St. Dominican order with seven sisters. The monastery has existed from the end of 1940’s and lives on a former farm. The sisters used to grow apples and the rest of the apple gardens are still to be seen in the environment, a very beautiful landscape with peaceful paths to walk along. Nowadays the sisters earn their living by keeping the guesthouse for visitors and retreats of different types. Both the spiritual atmosphere with good cooperation with the sisters and the pleasant, convenient physical space for the gathering added very much for the wellbeing of our seminar and was very much thanked for!

 

The Program

 

Annika Damirjian, Else-Britt Löfdahl and Karin Boberg from Swedish Forum had worked as a planning group and were responsible for the outline of the program. Since Annika has collected all the material we produced and she will be making the summary of the content of our work in seminar, I am primarily just telling what happened.

 

Worship life

 

Outi was leading a morning prayers according the Orthodox tradition. Karin’s morning prayers introduced us to the theme of the waters by the Bible texts of Psalms 104 and 107 and particularly Mark 4:35–41, which is the story of Jesus calming the storm. Biruta added to the theme “Francis’s of Assisi Eco Decalogue” used in Poland. Kristina was leading morning prayers in Lithuanian Lutheran way including a touching prayers for a deceased Forum friend. Petra was leading the first evening prayers in Free Church style. Else-Britt had Roman Catholic evening prayers to conclude the Swedish national Day. German group of five Lutherans took responsibility for two evening prayers, including the thanksgiving for our gathering on the last evening. Karin had prepared the Travel Blessings on Sunday morning.  Each time before lunch and dinner a prayer was read either  by Annika or some other participant.

 

We participated in Complines with the Sisters in their Chapel on Friday evening and some of us stayed for the Sunday High Mass after having finished the seminar. We had a chance to go to Lund and participate in the Lund Cathedral Pilgrim’s Centre Historic Walk through Lund (in shortened version) led by pilgrim pastor Anna Alebo. This was very interesting way to learn about the town and also very touching spiritually.

 

Bible study

 

Professor Agneta Enermalm Tsiparis led us in the Bible study on the text John 4:4-42, encounter of Jesus and a Samaritan woman by Jacob’s well. The interpretation she gave us from the text was inspirational and opened our eyes to look at the situation in different ways as we have used in the past. We worked in small groups: one group was comparing the text with John 1:35-51, two groups were looking at the text through images (one from the book “The Bible through Asian eyes” and the other one was the painting of Lucas Cranach) and the fourth group had a poem “Talking back to Jesus” by Carlisle, which was reflected together with the text. Very warm thanks were expressed for this Bible study, for the interpretation of the text, for group works and for the discussion on them. There was a wish, however, that we could have had even more time to really concentrate on the actual text and talk more about it.

 

Working with the themes

 

We worked in small groups of two to four, which was quite effective and made creative innovations possible. With our treasures we worked based both on our individual faith questions, thus learning to appreciate each other and other faiths alongside our own, and on our experiences of water, linked with ecology and the Baltic Sea. It was possible to get fairly deep in personal relations through these methods, but on wider scale we were not able to get away from the individual perspectives to more complex universal church or environmental questions and matters. Many new friendships got started, though!

 

Torrid Bengtsson, Bishop’s Advisor in Ecological Matters from Lund, was our speaker to introduce the theme Around the Baltic Sea – Water, Ecology and Christian praxis. We learnt about the dimensions of the Baltic Sea (1600 km long, 193 km wide in average and 55 meters deep in average with a maximum depth of 459 m near Sweden). There are about 90 million people living in and around the Baltic Sea. The problems of this sea have been known for 40 years, but political fragmentation and short term interests are sabotaging the efforts to rescue the waters.  In groups we built rescue boats: men created the problems, so men can also solve them; together ecumenically minded and in cooperation with others in each country; in the name of Christ, we proclaimed “don’t agonize, organize”.

 

We had a chance to go on a field trip in the surroundings of Rögle together with Torrid and her husband professor Sven-Axel Bengtsson. He is specialized in birdlife, but he could tell us also much more about the nature and the ecology of the region and especially of the nature park of our visit. It was a lovely afternoon walks with inspiring environment and much talk, questions and answers, on nature and its ecology and meaning for the wellbeing of human beings.

 

Something else we did

 

Because our working methods were quite intensive and demanded honesty, openness and commitment to our common tasks, we also grew as a group to be relaxed and fairly open. The Swedish National Day, June the 6th, for which our Swedish hosts had prepared a nice program with songs, quizzes and a fancy cake, added a very special and joyful event into our seminar. Also the music of the last evening, performed by a Swedish couple, singing and playing various instruments and teaching us to dance Swedish dances was very much appreciated and created a good feeling. The food treasures from each country were available in two occasions and created a real feast, as always in EFECW meetings, as did the songs and performances from different cultures and language areas!

 

Follow-up

 

In the feed-back discussion these things came up:

  • Thematic work on the Baltic Sea was too superficial and vague; expectations were higher what comes to the knowledge of the state and condition of the sea at the moment, and what has been done in various countries by the states, but especially by the churches
  • Sharing the treasures of our traditions was kept more on individual level rather than having been shared on church or denomination level in connection to ourselves, as some of us had visualized and planned to do in preparation for this seminar.
  • Johanna from Germany asked whether we by now would be ready to handle also the problems or difficulties we have and of which we might suffer in our churches. This topic was seconded by some participants, but it was also realized that in order to do that we need a good preparation for the topic and people around, who could deal with consequences perhaps arising of this on mental/spiritual level.
  • The organizers, our Swedish hosts, were thanked with full heartedly for choosing a very good place for this seminar, because both the spiritual and physical environment strengthened and made it easy for the group to work with all the topics inside and outside.
  • All the participants strongly supported the idea of continuing these gatherings of the countries around the Baltic Sea and EFECW was asked to support this effort also in the future.
  • The both themes or any one of them could/should be the theme also in the next seminar in two years’ time in 2015; it was hoped that next seminar could be held in Finland, but if this is not possible, Germany will consider having it, with the condition that they know about it in good time.
  • It was agreed by all the participants that the gathering had been very rewarding, informative and inspiring both on personal level and in connection with the work back at home, in relationships and for the actions. The results are not to be measured, but to be accepted with thanks and joy and to be lived in our everyday lives! Our task is not to agonize, but to organize, in the name of Christ and with God’s help.

 

Outi Piiroinen-Backman

Finnish Ecumenical Council

 

Foton: Annika Damirjian. Klicka foton för att förstora dem.


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