Stavanger And The Gentle Gospel

The Sarn people (once known as Laps) have a Church of Norway centre among the forest mountains and lakes at Nydlys, near Sandnes. The Bishop and Deans of the Stavanger Diocese held their annual retreat there. About 10 deans each have oversight of 9 to 15 clergy. I was invited to lead the retreat on the theme 'Sources of Spiritual Renewal'.

Why? Norway has a pattern of revivals. It sends out more missionaries than most countries. Its Stavanger Mission School makes a priority of church growth and church planting. In spite of these good things, however, one issue remains unresolved. When church people have deep disagreements that cause hurt and anger, which of these two actions is a sign of the Gospel: to split or to love the brother with whom you disagree? Is healing for past expressions of the Gospel which were incomplete or forced still needed so that the Gospel relates to social, financial and ecological as well as personal and church life?

In our retreat we explored how we may meet Jesus in the desert and in nature, in the poor and in sorrows, in poetry and silence, as Scripture reveals. I also told the story of how Aidan and Hilda evangelised the pagan Anglo-Saxons who became the English. In contrast to other forms of evangelism, their approach was like that of a mother who puts the milk from within her into her infant. The milk of the living Word and the milk of human kindness became one blend, and the ordinary people received it into themselves.

The deans were excited. 'We have connections with this more gentle approach. There are early Christian and Celtic crosses and gravestones in various parts of Stavanger Diocese'. They thought it would be good to learn more about this heritage and reflect it in the way Norway's Christians preach and live the Gospel in the coming years. Movements such as Anamcara believe this too. The next blog will tell about Anamcara's gathering.

Posted at 00:26am on 5th September 2013
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