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Bishop Graham’s recent tour of the Diocese of Luleå

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Luleå diocese is the northernmost of the Church of Sweden’s 13 dioceses, covering a third of Sweden. The diocese supports the 55 parishes in the counties of Norrbotten and Västerbotten.

Accompanied by his Chaplain the Revd Canon Sally Theakston, they began their visit in Umeå where they met employees in Ålidhem Church and Hospital Church. In Lövånger, they learned about the parish’s integration work. Bishop Graham explained that this is not the first time he had visited Sweden. As a young scout, he participated in a camp in southern Sweden, but this was his first time in Luleå diocese, a visit that has been long awaited, but postponed due to Covid.

“Day two of Bishop Graham’s tour of the diocese has included a meeting with the diocesan board and the cathedral in Luleå in connection with the archbishop’s election. Several of us have been to Norwich and were able to reconnect with good memories. Both they and we work purposefully with sustainability and climate, so that became the theme of the afternoon’s conversation at the diocese office,” said Bishop Asa, the Bishop of Luleå.

That evening saw them all at Luleå Domkyrka Cathedral where “We marked 20 years of the link between our dioceses and look forward to our continued partnership in the Gospel”, said Bishop Graham.

Thursday was a “day hearing Sámi people speaking about their culture, history of exclusion of their languages & educational conformity, and last year’s apology from Church of Sweden,” recounts Bishop Graham. “One said, ‘I refuse to carry bitterness as that would be too heavy for me; I want to be recognised and be a part.’” Despite having Christian traditions woven into their nomadic lifestyle of following reindeer, Sámi culture was looked down upon. Now the Sámi people are valued, their language is included in liturgy and their habit of blessing and thanksgiving in all kinds of situations is encouraged.

The day ended with a guided tour in the midnight sun by Commissioner Lars Jarlemyr. “In the company of the Midnight Sun our Swedish hosts have trekked with us in the Arctic tundra, bringing wood and fire, as well as dried reindeer meat. I bring Compline to pray at this thin place.”

Following a short night’s sleep, bright sunshine and the Kiruna pastorate’s church council chairman Lennart Lantto met the company on Friday morning. “An interesting morning in Kiruna, which is dominated by its iron ore mine. A third of the town is moving 4km from its current position due to the mining operations. This includes transporting the church and other historic buildings on lorries down the road to the new town being built.”

The afternoon offered church visits for the guests, both in Kiruna and Jukkasjärvi churches and in the evening saw them boarding the night sleeper train for a 14-and-a-half-hour journey back to Stockholm for their onward passage back home to Norwich.

Bishop Graham summed-up: “It was a wonderful opportunity to see the work of our Lutheran companions in the Gospel and experience the sunning landscapes of the Artic tundra.”