The Ven Christine Allsopp shares her reflections on a recent visit to the Diocese of Växjö, linked with the Diocese of Oxford and part of the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church in the south of Sweden.
It was planned to celebrate Växjö diocese’s 850-year anniversary in 2020, then 2021, but finally the celebrations have taken place.
It was a great delight to visit Växjö with the Revd Canon Richard Lamey to take part in the celebrations in September. I am a member of the Oxford - Växjö Diocesan Link Committee so this was not my first visit and I have long been a fan of diocesan and parish links with churches in other parts of the world.
All dioceses in the Church of England are encouraged to have more than one diocesan link, but why bother? Haven’t we got enough to do in our own little part of the world?
Yet engagement with another church, in this case, a church of a different denomination, can give us a new perspective on our own beliefs and the outworking of our faith. We have much in common, but clear differences due to our history and our current contexts.
It is when we get together, either in person or through the wonders of Zoom that the reality of being part of the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church hits home. As separate entities whether at diocesan or parish level we can feel quite fragile, but together we are part of something so much greater. Our unity in Christ overrides any differences when we pray together; the opportunity to discuss our differences can enrich us and also challenge us. Even if we never visit another country our links can inform our intercessions and our understanding of the church and the world.
Our recent visit to Växjö gave us the opportunity to visit both urban and rural parishes, organised by Link Officer, Mattias Östborg. We were able to meet for conversation and food in clergy homes as well as in the aptly named “Bishops Arms” close to Växjö Cathedral. We found parishes wanting to form a link with a parish in the Diocese of Oxford. The parish of St Paul’s Wokingham has had a link with the parish of Mariakyrkan in Växjö for about seven years. Richard Lamey has come back from our visit with renewed enthusiasm for this parish link, describing it as one of the best things they do as a parish:
“Generosity and hospitality are at the heart of a link. Our link teaches us more about God’s welcome and God’s inclusion and God’s call to be hospitable. Having a link helps you to see your own situation and your own challenges in a new light because the things you take for granted and never explore are held up to the light by supportive questions and conversation. Our link makes us a more reflective and a more dynamic Church.”
Visit the World Mission pages to find out more about sharing God's mission with our partners across the world. Interested in forming parish links with Växjö? Email theVäxjö Link Chair, the Revd Hugh White.