Helen hanging out in churches

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The Swedish Church, despite often being critized, seems to combine several characteristics that very much appeal to me and make me feel at home. That’s why I hang out in Swedish churches whenever I get the chance. The fact that, during July and August, most churches offer “music on a summer evening” only adds to the attraction that drew me to Brännkyrka Church, Blidö Church, Norröra Chapel, Norrtälje Church, Djurö Church. I got to swish my offerings, experience my friend Henrik playing live, introduce my mother to Evert Taube on a tribute evening, listen to an uncommon pastor, find a forgotten leaflet from a wedding the day before with a wonderful song, and just last night, I listened to a harp concert, reminiscing about my 6th grade music teacher because the harp played “The Carnival of the Animals”, that she introduced us to.

Hanging out in churches – very worth it.

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The most simple House of God I visited was Norröra’s chapel

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In a Swedish church, it is not uncommon to have a children’s corner

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Also, you can donate money by Swish (an app that lets you text money)

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Blidö Church

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My friend Henrik who played a concert at Brännkyrka church where I showed up as a surprise fan/groupie

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Brännkyrka Church

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Djurö Church

Release the grief

The Swedish Church is an instutition that is remarkably good at reacting to changes in its target society. This shows both in their attitude toward e.g. women’s rights and homosexuality, the programme in their churches and their take on digital life and social media. The head of the Swedish Church, German-born Antje Jackelén, twitters like a pro and -of course- has her own podcast; the Instagram account is curated by alternating church staff and the Facebook account is flawless in terms of social media evaluation.

And this time of the year, the Swedish Church helps an Americanized country remember what this weekend is originally about in Sweden and Germany. (No, Halloween is not a long-standing tradition in those cultures.)

The weekend serves as a time to remember the deceased and the annual celebration is  held on 2 November and is associated with All Saints’ Day (1 November) and its vigil – you guessed it – Halloween. People go to their relatives’ graves and light candles. The Swedish Church probably realized that many people don’t live close enough to the graveyards anymore. So they introduced the Digital Light Trees. You can go online, choose where you want to light a candle (from Kiruna to Berlin, there are participating Swedish Churches), enter who you wish to dedicate your light to, and click on “send”. The website then shows you the webcam of the tree – that actually exists, I passed one last year on Östermalm -, and your light that just has been physically lit by your digital click. There are speakers next to the trees where you hear famous bloggers and writers talk about their experience with grief.

Once you have lit your candle, you can share it on social media with the hashtag #mittljus (#mylight). Of course the whole theme of light is complaisant for a Nordic country in which darkness and light is a central theme. Countless people light candles at the Woodland Cemetry in Stockholm in November and most hymns are about light. Still, I personally think reaching out digitally and combining the old ritual with new cultural techniques is brilliant.

The campaign goes under the name “Release the grief” and the Church writes, “”We rarely talk about grief, neither our own nor others even though we all have a need for it. But during All Saints we want to release the griefby talking about it or lighting a candle for someone we miss sadly. Together, we can light up the dark“. I lit my candle at Junibacken, the Astrid Lindgren museum.