Now here is a good pub-quiz question: What is the fastest growing religious group in Finland? Well, the answer is: the Church of England! According to Assistant Area Dean for Finland, the Revd Tuomas Mäkipää, our Anglican numbers in that country have grown over the past year by 20%. Our numbers are small to begin with, of course, compared to other religious groups, including our sister Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. But nevertheless, the graph is moving in the right direction.
But there is worrying news associated with this statistic: Much of this growth is as a result of continuing arrivals of refugees, including many from Sudan and South Sudan, many of whom are Anglican by tradition. Aid agencies warn that the upsurge of fighting in South Sudan will see the humanitarian crisis affecting millions of civilians worsening. The Finnish Government, working with the UN, continues to offer settlement to Sudanese/South Sudanese fleeing the violence and war.
As a consequence of this, the Revd Amos Manga, priest-in-charge of the White Nile Congregations, which are part of our Anglican Church in Finland finds his priestly work growing. Our Church is fully engaged in many parts of this Nordic country in providing care, a spiritual home and pastoral accompaniment to the new arrivals. Last Sunday in Helsinki Fr Amos presented several candidates for confirmation along with some from St Nicholas's Helsinki itself. The fellowship and joy in the congregation was infectious as the young people renewed their baptismal vows, were chrismated and received the Apostolic Rite of the laying on of hands. The service was in English, Arabic and Finnish. The priests assisting me were Finnish, Sudanese and Nigerian in origin. Yes, this is the Church of England!
Photos courtesy of Kaihsu Tai