NSUK Nordiska Sjömans- och Utlandskyrkorådet – Council of Nordic Seamen’s Churches in Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, Norway and Sweden

Uppsala, Sweden 9–10 June 2017

written by rev Jaakko Laasio, FSM

The Nordic council gathers every second year. This year it was hosted by the Church of Sweden and its international department, the Swedish Church abroad. Present were delegates from Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, Norway and Sweden, in total 17 people.

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The two day seminar started with two presentations of Christian Calling and Interreligious Dialogue. Formal meeting and members’ reports filled the other day. Sweden and Uppsala was in full summer bloom and all delegates could enjoy the atmosphere of the old university town just north-west of the capital Stockholm.

The Christian Calling leads to a Social Responsibility, was one of the theses of the Very Rev Pernilla Parenmalm from Torshälla, Sweden. She has written a study around the theme for clerical meetings in Church of Sweden. Revd. Parenmalm took us to a personal journey on Christian calling and what it means for each and one of us.1

Professor Mikael Kurkiala from University in Uppsala, Sweden enlightened his subject with personal experiences from various periods lived in a native American reservation in South Dakota, USA. He studied the culture in an anthropologist’s perspective, but as a “natural culture” religion is constantly present. We discussed the importance of understanding different religious languages and even meanings on expressions in relations to different cultural backgrounds. Both themes are familiar to international seafarers’ missions.

Day 1 ended in a delicious meal in a top-floor restaurant with view over all Uppsala. After a peaceful night, it was time to meet again.

Members’ reports were given by the delegates.

Denmark was this time represented by the Danish seamen’s mission and church abroad (DSUK). They have activities around the world in 53 locations of which 22 are in Danish speaking areas in Northern Germany. DSUK has two main tasks: 1. to serve the Danish speaking minority south of the Danish-German border 2. to work elsewhere in the world (with Danish people and seafarers)

Faroe Islands has a seamen’s mission with 36 years of existence. Today it is a church with no priest and no church, but with an administration and active volunteers. They do fundraising by volunteers and are able to serve Faroe seafarers abroad in Iceland, London (UK) and Esbjerg (DK). A growing group of Faroese students living abroad is demanding more attendance.

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The Finnish Seamen’s Mission has worked with a renewed strategy now a year and a half. Service is given to seafarers and Finns abroad. The strategy includes also a plan for economic reform with a goal of no deficit by 2018. A deep cooperation with the Church of Finland continues especially on FSM stations abroad, but also with local parishes in Finland.

Earlier this year same sex marriage became legal in Finland, but not in the church of Finland. FSM reported that it made a bold statement to the church council urging it to change the church legislation. This statement raised positive reactions in the church and among Christian organizations working close to the church.

The Norwegian seamen’s church and church abroad, NSUK has recognised a new security situation in the world. It has connection with a new economic situation dictated especially of oil price, but also increased mobility of people. The organization is working for Norwegians abroad and seafarers. One of the challenges is to find right places to be. “Less cathedrals but more tents” is the line to follow now. With light constructions is easier to react on the movements of people. NSUK has worked with mobile chaplains for several years. They are totally 18 of which 10 serve on oil rigs at North sea, 5 for students around the world and 3 for Africa, Asia and South America.

Also NSUK launched a new strategy recently. It describes three signs of what it is to be NSUK: 1. close to life, 2. church searching for people and meeting them where they are, 3. caring for people

The Swedish Church abroad, SKUT is in the middle of a legal review of the whole organization. It has activities around the world and all stations are also local parishes connected to the diocese of Visby in Sweden. The structure is not compatible with local legislation in all countries and therefore a deep analysis is needed.

SKUT provided church and parish services for Swedes living abroad. The basics of the work are more or less the same than in other Nordic organizations.

Three other organizations belong to this group, but were not represented at the meeting: Indenlansk Sømandsmission (the Danish domestic seamen’s mission), the Seamen’s missions in Sweden and Finnish church abroad.