Being church in our time: negotiating vision, organisation and marketing in a Swedish setting
Barbro Blehr (Stockholm University)
Paper short abstract:
What is it like to be a church for a mainstream majority in a secularised country? This paper explores that issue mainly from the perspective of a local congregation of the Church of Sweden, paying attention to activities and commitments as well as difficulties and challenges.
Paper long abstract:
In an international perspective, Sweden stands out as a secularised country, not least as regards its Christian heritage. The Lutheran Church of Sweden, the former state church, has lost 1,5 million members during the last forty years, and seen its share of the population shrink from 94 to 63% in the same period. Furthermore, vast amounts of these members declare in surveys that they do not identify as religious, and/or do not believe in traditional Christian tenets. In such a setting, what can it be like to uphold a church for the mainstream majority? How can its mission for the future be envisioned, and how can one try to fulfil it? This paper will address those questions mainly from the perspective of a local congregation and its staff, through the lens of their weekly meetings. Those meetings are the arena where activities are planned and coordinated, events are evaluated, and everyday routines are organised and honed. Thereby, the meetings can serve as a window into the complexity of the commitments and activities of the congregation. But they also make palpable a range of difficulties that come with the task of being church in our time. The paper will reflect upon the various activities and their reasons why, and comment upon some of the challenges involved. One such challenge is to reconcile - or at least manage the combination of - vision, organisation and marketing.