[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Church of England is the fastest growing religious group in Finland, growing by 20 per cent over the past year; the Suffragan Bishop in Europe, the Rt Revd David Hamid, has said. But, writing on his Eurobishop blog, Bishop David explained that much of the growth is the result of the continuing arrivals of refugees – many of whom are Anglican – from Sudan and South Sudan.
“Aid agencies warn that the upsurge of fighting in South Sudan will see the humanitarian crisis affecting millions of civilians worsening, he said. “The Finnish government, working with the UN, continues to offer settlement to Sudanese [and] South Sudanese fleeing the violence and war.”
As a result of the new arrivals, the priest in charge of the White Nile Congregations in Finland, part of the Church of England’s Diocese in Europe, finds his 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,” Bishop David said during a visit to Helsinki where he was confirmed a number of candidates at St Nicholas’ Church.
“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,” Bishop David wrote.
“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!”
The cross used at St Nicholas’ Church in Helskinki, proceeding the ministers as they process at the start of the service, was originally used at the Anglican church in St Petersburg.
“The last members of that congregation brought it with them when they fled to Helsinki in 1917 at the outbreak of the revolution in Russia,” Bishop David said. “Thus our congregation in the Finnish capital is reminded week by week that it was founded by refugees.
“Today, St Nicholas’s continues to serve those fleeing for their lives, many of whom come from Sudan and South Sudan.”