The communion between the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht and the Church of Sweden was officially sealed at a special service in Uppsala on Wednesday 23 November 2016. The ceremony marked the end of a process of dialogue and decision-making that started in 2003. Now begins a future of cooperation and a deepening of our relationships.
Archbishop Joris Vercammen and dialogue commission members Harald Münch and Peter Feenstra from the Union of Utrecht travelled to Uppsala on Monday 21 November. The office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sweden had planned an extensive programme for us. First we visited the Swedish General Synod, which was in session. Antje Jackelén, the Archbishop of Uppsala, welcomed us, and Archbishop Vercammen gave a greeting. The next days were full of rich and stimulating encounters. Among the people we met were the president of the Church of Sweden’s youth organisation, the ecumenical officer, the bishop responsible for contacts with the Old Catholic Churches, a group of young theologians, and the head of the department for mission and diaconal ministry. We also visited the grave of Dag Hammarskjöld (1905-1961, UN Secretary-General, Nobel Peace Prize winner and mystic) and enjoyed a comprehensive tour of Uppsala Cathedral and its treasury.
On Wednesday the dialogue process was sealed when Archbishop Jackelén signed the communion agreement. It was a moving moment followed by spontaneous applause. In his sermon, Bishop Johann Dalman (also a member of the dialogue commission) emphasised how it important it is for people, especially Christians, to discover what they have in common and thereby find a new “togetherness”.
All of the members of the dialogue commission were invited to dinner with various leaders from the Church of Sweden at the Archbishop’s residence. Bishop emeritus Jonas Jonson talked about Nathan Söderblum, who had lived in that house for many years. Söderblum was a pioneer of the ecumenical movement who identified closely with Old Catholics because they embodied an evangelical Catholicism that corresponded to his own church ideals.
Now that communion has been officially established, a new phase of our relations with the Church of Sweden begins. There are many opportunities to grow together despite the geographical distance. We can each learn a great deal from the other, invite members of the other Church to our own, work together, and inspire each other.
Photos © Magnus Aronson:
1. Joel Ingmarsson, Chaplain of the Archbishop of Uppsala; Elise Bertilson, Chaplain of Bishop of Strängnäs; Johan Dalman, Bishop of Strängnäs; Peter Feenstra, Vicar of Magden (CH), cosecretary of the former Dialogue Commission; Joris Vercammen, Archbishop of Utrecht; Antje Jackelén, Archbishop of Uppsala; Jenny Sjögreen, Chief Ecumenical Officer; Harald Münch, Vicar of IJmuiden (NL), member of the former Dialogue Commission; Annica Anderbrant, Dean of Uppsala
2. Dinner at the Archbishops’ residence