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Two papers presented at the Society's Annual Meeting in 2009.

Anglican-Lutheran Relations : An Update by the Rev Dr Charlotte Methuen

Anglican-Lutheran Relations in Tanzania by Bishop Michael Westall



These three papers were presented at the Society's Annual Meeting in 2008.

Hallgrímur Pétursson´s Passion Hymns

Hallgrímur and his Literary Context

The Church of Iceland among all the Other Churches

At the Annual Meeting in 2006 two papers on ethical issues were presented.

Must Ethical Issues be Church-Dividing?


Hallgrímur Pétursson´s Passion Hymns

The Anglican Lutheran Society, London March 8, 2008

Dr. Einar Sigurbjörnsson

Ladies and Gentlemen. I thank you very much for the invitation to the Annual Meeting of the Anglican-Lutheran Society to speak to you about the Passion Hymns of Hallgrímur Pétursson. I divide my lecture into four parts. The first part is on hymns as part of Lutheran spirituality. The second part is on the Reformation in Iceland. The third part deals with Luther´s Theology of the Cross. The fourth, and main part of my lecture, will deal with Hallgrímur Pétursson´s Passionhymns in the context of Lutheran theology and spirituality of the Cross.

Hymns and Lutheran Spirituality
Hymns are one of the main characteristics of Lutheran spirituality. In his book An Order of Mass and Communion in July 1523 (Fomula missae et communionis) where Luther proposes an order for the mass in Latin, he says:

I also wish that we had as many songs as possible in the vernacular which the people could sing during mass, immediately after the gradual and also after the Sanctus and Agnus Dei. (LW Vol 53, p. 36) At the end of year 1523 Luther wrote to court chaplain George Spalatin where he asks him to write hymns and help Luther to provide for hymnographers and says:

Following the example of the prophets and fathers of the church, I intend to make German Psalms for the people, i.e. spiritual songs so that the Word of God even by means of song may live among the people. (LW 53, p. 221)

When this letter was written Luther had begun writing psalms or hymns in German. He wrote about 40 hymns, ten of which are Psalm paraphrases. He did not write any hymn on the Passion of Christ but he wrote hymns for Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. The first Lutheran Hymnbook was published in 1524 and others followed.

In his German Mass and Order of Service (Deutsche Messe) from 1526, Luther proposed hymns for some of the ordinary parts of the mass such as the Creed – We All Believe in One True God (Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW) no 411) – and the Sanctus – Isaiah in a Vision Did of Old (ELW no. 868).

Biblical poems were one genre of Lutheran hymns. In his letter to Spalatin Luther asks him specifically to turn Psalms unto hymns. In his preface to Burial Hymns published in Wittenberg in 1542 Luther says:

But if anyone should have the gift and desire to put these verses into good rimes, that would help to have them read more gladly and remembered more easily. For rime and verse make good sayings and proverbs which serve better than ordinary prose. (LW 53, p. 330)

Lutheran poets soon began writing hymns which were paraphrases not only of Biblical psalms and canticles but also of stories from the Bible in order to instruct the people and make the biblical stories known.

The Reformation in Iceland
The Lutheran Reformation spread to Denmark very early and already in 1528 the first Danish, Lutheran hymnbook appeard and the second in 1535. Yet, the Reformation was not officially established in Denmark until 1537 with the inauguration of the Church Order for Denmark whose main author was Johannes Bugenhagen from Wittenberg who also crowned King Christian III and consecrated the first Lutheran bishops in Denmark.

Iceland was at the time of the Reformation a part of the Danish-Norwegian Monarchy and the Danish Church Order was ratified by the Althing in 1541 for the southern diocese in Iceland and ten years later for the northern diocese.

One can certainly say that the Reformation was forced upon the Icelanders by royal decree. Yet, we had our own reformation leaders or reformers who had become convinced Lutherans and undertook to establish the Reformation in the country. One of them translated the New Testament into Icelandic, and it was published as early as 1540, and another translated the Church Order into Icelandic. These first translations enabled that Icelandic became the official language of worship in Iceland. This was different from the other parts of the Danish Realm, Norway and the Faroe Islands, where Danish became the official language of the Church.

Very soon, Icelandic church leaders began shaping the worshipping life of the church in Icelandic. The first hymnbooks were published in 1555 and 1558 consisting of hymns that were translations of German and Danish hymns.

The person who consolidated the Reformation in Iceland was bishop Guðbrandur Þorláksson (1542-1627) who soon after he became bishop in 1571 began publishing books in Icelandic for instruction and education. In 1584 the Bible was published, in 1589 the hymnbook appeared with 330 hymns, mostly translations but a few by Icelandic poets. In 1594 he published a Gradual, which contained the ordinary and propers of the mass and was the official book of worship of the church in Iceland until the beginning of the 19th century.

Luther´s Theology of the Cross
“True theology and recognition of God are in the Crucified Christ,” says Luther in the Heidelberg Disputation of 1518. There Luther develops his Theology of the Cross as opposed to the Theology of Glory. The theologian of glory seeks God apart from Jesus Christ. The theologian of the cross knows that God is only revealed in and through the cross of Jesus Christ:

19. That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened [Rom. 1:20].
20. He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross. (LW 1, p. 40)

The passion and cross of Christ had had a prominent role in Medieval spirituality and theology mainly through the works of St. Bernhard and Franciscan spiritual writers. It resulted in the Passion Mysticism of the late Middle Ages. Main emphasis of this spirituality was imitation and suffering with Christ through ascetism.

In a sermon on the right meditation of the Passion of Christ held during Lent 1519 Luther criticized the spirituality of imitation and ascetism. Instead Luther emphasized that the Passion of Christ reveals God´s love. Christ suffered and died for us.

Ten years later, in his Holy Week sermons of 1529, Luther emphasized this again and rejected false notions of the Passion and suffering of Christ and maintained:

In the Passion of Christ all wisdom and pertinent pieces have been written for our instruction. These things were not heretofore dealt with when one used to preach on the Passion. Instead of these things they worked at moving old women to tears and even to pointing out the wickedness of the Jews. But that is not the main point. Rather one should consider the prophecies of the holy prophets, especially Isaiah, that the Passion of Christ is a punishment for our sins. And this is what one should consider and emphasize continuously. (The 1529 Holy Week and Easter Sermons, p. 89f)

Criticizing passion mysticism he admonishes us to distinguish between Christ´s suffering and our suffering:

Therefore make a distinction between the suffering of Christ and our suffering, just as one must make a distinction between the work of Christ and our works, between those by which we should serve our neighbor and that through which we become righteous. Our works should remain on earth. We become righteous by faith alone.
[...]Your suffering is an earthly suffering and a work to mortify your flesh. Christ´s suffering is a heavenly suffering and a work that makes you righteous. (The 1529 Holy Week and Easter Sermons, p. 90)

The Passion and suffering of Christ manifest Christ as the Lamb of God who was offered once and for all and takes away all sins:

For this reason Christ´s Passion must therefore be preached so that each person considers it true for him or herself. If you look at Christ hanging on the cross with his wounds, then consider: These are my sins! and do not think about your suffering!
[...] this is the greatest article of faith, to believe that no one should nor can take away our sins but Christ alone. (The 1529 Holy Week and Easter Sermons, p. 92f)

The Passionhymns of Hallgrímur Pétursson
The Passion Hymns of Hallgrímur Pétursson express faithfully the Lutheran theology and spirituality of the cross. They are a collection of 50 hymns and their title is: The History of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ with Its Proper Articles of Doctrine, Admonition and Consolation together with Prayers and Thanksgivings, composed and written in hymns adapted for singing, with various musical settings in the Year 1659.

According to this title the hymns tell the History of the Passion and expose it or interpret for instruction in faith, for admonition in right living and for consolation in suffering and in hope for eternal life.

This structure of the hymns corresponds to the interpretation principle of the fourfold sense of Scripture, the literal, the allegorical, the moral and the anagogical.

The hymns are meditations in the sense that they penetrate deeply into the text and draw from them, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, what can be learnt from the story in order that we may lead a righteous life in faith towards God, in good works towards the neighbour and in hope towards the future glory.

Luther himself had defined meditation thus in his exposition of Psalm 1:

To meditate is to think carefully, deeply, and diligently, and properly it means to muse in the heart. Hence to meditate is, as it were, to stir up in the inside, or to be moved in the innermost self. (LW 10, p. 17)

The Passion hymns are 50 in number. The reason for that may be that one hymn was meant to be read for each weekday from Monday in Septuagesima to Holy Saturday and these are 50 week or ordinary days.

It is also possible that fifty has a symbolic meaning. Psalm 50 according to the Septuagint and Vulgate numbering of the Psalms, but 51 in the Hebrew Bible, is the psalm of meditation par excellance. Therefore, the number 50 became symbolic for meditation and we recall the 50 beads of the Rosary and Johann Gerhard´s Meditations which are 50 in number.

The Passion Hymns are based on a synopsis of the History of the Passion from the Manual for priests which was originally composed by Bugenhagen. Other sources of Hallgrímur while writing the hymns are i.a. Soliloquium animae de passione Christi by the Lutheran mystic Martin Moller and Johann Gerhard´s Sacred Meditations.

The first 8 verses of the first hymn serve as a preface to them all and verses 5 – 7 express some theological ideas on the contents of the hymns and the significance of Jesus´ death. In quoting the Hymns here I use a prose translation by the American professor emeritus Michael Fell who has translated several Icelandic religious works into English. In his prose translation verses 5-7 of Hymn 1 are:

1.5: My soul, let us ponder on the sweet sacrifice by which we, once condemned, have now been reconciled to our Lord God. What rapture it is to dwell on this!
1.6: What can better calm the heart´s anguish than our Lord´s sacred torment and sufferings? What can hold sin and disgrace in firmer check than the bloodstained image of the Lord Jesus?
1.7: Where, my soul, can you perceive better and more clearly the true character of God´s loving heart, bestowed on me by the Father of mercies, than here in the anguish of Jesus?

According to these verses the significance of Christ´s suffering and death is that it is the sacrifice which reconciles us sinners to God. Christ´s death calms all anguish and holds sin and disgrace in check and, finally, Christ´s death manifests God´s love in the surest way.

The metaphors used to describe Christ´s death are all classical and Hallgrímur uses different imagery in describing its benefits and significance: Jesus´ death is ransom, it is vicarious suffering, satisfaction, punishment for our iniquities, it is reconciliation and atonement. A very prominent image is that of Christ´s victory over death, sin and the devil. Hallgrímur also emphasizes Christ´s example, not that we are to follow his way of suffering but that we learn from him to endure our sufferings, always hopeful in the belief that He is there with us and sustains us.

The Passion of Christ is described not as an isolated event in history but as an eternal event. The Passion is a cosmic drama where God himself fights with his enemy and the enemy of all creation, the devil, and wins the final victory which is still valid and beneficial to all. Hallgrímur follows Jesus step by step and meditates upon the events of the Passion and each event manifests, as it were, the whole drama of salvation. I myself am part of the story. It is my sin, my wrongdoing, which cause the agony and suffering of Jesus as Luther had emphasized in his Holy Week sermons of 1529.

Hallgrímur addresses his soul in the hymns. This is a biblical imagery, cf. Psalm 103, and very common in Lutheran hymns and meditative litterature. Besides being biblical this also has a sacramental significance. In the Small Catechism Luther describes the meaning of baptism for our daily life in this way:

Baptism means that the old Adam in us should be drowned by daily contrition and repentance, and that all its evil deeds and desires be put to death. It also means that a new person should daily arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
Meditating on the Passion emphasizes very strongly what it is to die and rise with Christ. The soul is my innermost self whom Christ, my new being, addresses, calls to faith, new living, renewed hope.

In the remaining minutes, I want to dwell on some topics which are characteristic of Hallgrímur´s theology.

In the first Hymn, On Christ´s Walk to the Garden of Gethsemane, Hallgrímur emphasizes that we in our lives shall focus on Christ as the one who leads the way. The hymns then can be described as walking with Christ on the Via dolorosa from Gethsemane, through Golgotha, to the grave in the hope of the Resurrection.

In the Second hymn, On Christ´s Suffering in the Garden, Hallgrímur refers to the fact that Christ took with him the three disciples into the garden because he did not want to be there alone. From this we can learn that in serious temptations we should never be alone:

2.10: If grievous temptation assails you, at such times avoid being alone. Seek most of all the company of those who fear God, for they will always give you the best counsel. Man receives consolation from man; God´s mercy has ordained it so.

This refers directly to the church. The Christian community is a fellowship of brothers and sisters where people console each other. Thus religion is not a private matter between the individual soul and God but communal reality.

In the third hymn, on Christ´s Mortal Agony in the Garden, Hallgrímur uses a classical metaphor when he says that since Adam fell in a garden, Christ had to begin our redemption in a garden. Adam´s fall brought curse upon the earth, Christ´s sweat and blood cleansed the earth so that it will forever be fruitful.

When Christ suffered in the garden he fought a battle with death and won:

3.8 This was the spot and the hour when Jesus´ battle with death finally took place. And on that very night my deathbed sufferings too were made a blessing to me. The Lord conquered and death was defeated; and that glorious victory he gave to me.

This is what Luther referred to as fröhlicher Wechsel – the joyful interchange: Christ takes upon himself what is mine, my sin, my punishment, my death, and gives me what is his, his justice, his innocence, his life. This is a very common theme in the hymns: Jesus is punished, I am free, Jesus is condemned, I am acquitted. Hearing the story in faith gives me all the benefits of Christ´s suffering and death.

Also in the third hymn the communal and sacramental aspect of faith is very prominent e.g. in verse 13:

3.13: When grief pierces my heart, I betake myself straightway to Your garden. There, my Lord, I gather up the drops of Your blood into the treasure-house of my heart. That payment alone is acceptable before God to atone for my vile offenses.

This does not refer to subjective contemplation but to the fellowship of the Church where the Gospel is preached and the Eucharist celebrated:

The fourth hymn, On Christ´s Discourse with the Disciples, builds on the fact that Jesus had gone but a stone´s throw from his disciples and that little distance resulted in that the disciples fell asleep. This leads to a meditation on the fellowship between Christ and the believer. The garden symbolizes the Church and there Christ calls us to stay awake:

4.8 My dear Redeemer has brought me into the garden of His grace so that I might keep awake here. Of this my baptism bears witness.

In the same way as the disciples I am prone to fall asleep if Christ does not constantly wake with me and call me to stay awake. This leads to the admonition on prayer [Glæra]:

4.22: Let prayer never fail you! With manifold trials poised to assail you, even when body and soul are afflicted and worn out, prayer is the key to the Lord´s grace.

Without prayer the soul is dead as a lifeless dead body:

4.23: A lifeless corpse is good for nothing; it is dead to all sight, hearing, and speech. Likewise without prayer the soul is destitute, without perception, cold, numb, and utterly lifeless.

This leads to the beautiful prayer which still today is used as an evening prayer by many:

4.24: Keep watch, my Jesus, keep watch within me! And let me likewise keep watch in You! May my soul be keeping watch when my body falls asleep, in the safety of Your care forever.

Here Christ´s presence is also his presence within which is a common theme in Hallgrímur´s meditations both in the Passion hymns and in his other religious poems. It was also a prominent feature of Lutheran spirituality at this time, often combined with bridal mysicism. Luther uses this image in his A Freedom of a Christian and it plays a major role in Johann Gerhard´s Meditations.

Jesus is the high priest who intercedes on our behalf. This is prominent in the fifth Hymn, The Jews Come Into the Garden, where the poet meditates on Jesus´ answer: I am He! This answer manifests Jesus as the eternal mediator in heaven when God judges me for my transgressions and within myself when my conscience accuses me. This leads to this beautiful confession:

5.10: This is my response: “I am he who loves You, Jesus, from my heart!” Let your word to me be the same; tell me: “I love you too!” May this be our eternal dialogue, beginning here on earth. This is my prayer: amen, so may it be!

The intercession and mediation of Christ in heaven is a very common theme in the hymns. In the 34th hymn, on the first word on the cross, Hallgrímur meditates on Christ´s prayer as high priest in heaven.

The hymns emphasize very strongly the real suffering of Jesus. In the seventh hymn, On Peter´s defense and Malchus´ Wounded Ear, Hallgrímur admonishes us not to take revenge. He also teaches on how we in our own sufferings can trust that Jesus is with us and has himself endured a greater part of suffering than we:

7:15 Jesus calls His torments “a chalice poured out for Him.” You too should give the same name to your cross and to all your miseries here. For the Lord drank to your health when He was tortured for your sake. For your salvation, my soul, do the same gladly for Him in return.
7:16 Let this be your consolation that He knows the weakness of man. He is well aware of your struggles. You need not be apprehensive about His portion of the draft; He Himself drank the bitterest part. It is the gentler share, smaller by half, that is allotted to you.

Jesus´ suffering and torment is very real, there is no trace of docetism in Hallgrímur. And Jesus´ suffering is also God´s own suffering. In Hymn 41, Christ´s Fourth Word on the Cross, he says in the third verse:

41.3: The sun was ashamed to shine brightly when it saw its Creator suffering, though we know that it was not responsible for this terrible outrage. O, how mortified should that creature be, how overcome with sadness and dismay of heart, who intensified the Lord´s suffering!

Jesus felt himself abandoned by God. Therefore, God will never abandon me:

41.9: The Son of God declared Himself abandoned when His bitter torments assailed Him. Therefore, for His sake, the eternal God will never abandon me. Because of the Lord´s cry of distress the supreme Godhead will assuredly answer my tearful supplication.

But we are not called to feel sorry for Jesus but to tread our way in the certainty that Jesus is there with us and has been there before us:

30.12: Christian soul, if you are subjected to a bitter cross, heed this advice: When the flesh begins to grumble and wrangle, remember where your duty lies; think to yourself that you see Jesus walking ahead of you.

I shall end my talk by referring to the 25th Hymn which by many is regarded as their peak. Its subject is Jesus is Led Out from the Assembly Hall, and Pilate proclaimed, Behold the Man – Ecce homo! He was led out tortured but the torments which Jesus endured were what I had deserved. Christ´s going out opened the way for me into the Kingdom of God (verse 9).

The meditation leads Hallgrímur before the throne of God where the angels proclaim, “Behold this man!” “Through the blessed blood of the Lamb his warfare is finished, and he rejoices in victory!”

The answer of the soul is to praise the Saviour who has granted victory to his servant and joins in with the heavenly host in praise:

Son of God art Thou truly.
Thou hast, Jesus my Lord,
Thy sonship´s legacy fully
On sinful man outpoured!
Thou only-begotten Word!
With holy exultation
By men of every nation
Be ceaselessly adored. (Michael Fell translator)

This verse is very often sung at the end of mass and the congregation remains standing. It has, therefore, become a creedal formula.

In conclusion, I say that the Passionhymns of Hallgrímur Pétursson are a faithful expression of Lutheran spirituality and have provided the people with prayers, praises and supplications. Often children learn as their first prayer a prayer by Hallgrímur.

Hallgrímur Pétursson is generally recognized as one of the best poets of Iceland even by those who are not professed Christians.

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Hallgrímur and his Literary Context

The Anglican Lutheran Society, London, March 8, 2008

Dr. Margrét Eggertsdóttir

The manuscript tradition, preservation and edition of Hallgrímur Pétursson’s poetry.

Thank you very much for the invitation. As a research Professor at the Arni Magnusson Institute in Reykjavik I am, together with my colleagues, working on a complete edition of the works of Hallgrímur Pétursson. The edition we are preparing will be a textually critical one, which means that all preserved transcriptions of each poem will be examined before choosing the text that will be edited. It is, in other words, based on the rules of traditional textual scholarship, which means that all versions of a text will be taken into account when drawing a stemma that shows their relationship. It will hopefully be a reliable record of the manuscript tradition and the basis for both popular and student editions, as well as translations.

Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614–1674) is without doubt the most important poet of early modern Iceland. Some thirty years after his death, the manuscript collector Árni Magnússon referred to him in a letter as a ‘national poet’ (þjóðskáld), suggesting that the poetry of Hallgrímur had in some sense become public or national property. This manuscript collector goes so far as to say that Hallgrímur's Passion Hymns “surpass most or even all other poetic works of the northern part of Europe." Hallgrímur’s reputation has indeed always been closely connected with his Passion Hymns, 50 poems in different metres on the passion and death of Christ. It soon became the custom in Iceland to sing or read these Hymns as part of devotional practice, and they are still recited on the Radio during Lent. They have been published over eighty times - more often than any other Icelandic work - and have been translated into various languages.

The Passion Hymns are preserved in one autograph manuscript together with two separate hymns, one of which is sung at almost every funeral in Iceland. Apart from this manuscript, and another one in the British Library in London, containing Hallgrímur’s commentaries on the skaldic stanzas in Ólafs saga Tryggvasonar, Hallgrímur's poetry is known to us only in manuscript copies. These exist in amazing number, testifying to the popularity of Hallgrímur Pétursson’s poetry, both religious and secular. There are doubtless more transcriptions extant of Hallgrímur’s poetry than of any other Icelandic poet. Manuscripts containing poetry attributed to him number at least 600. In comparison scholars have identified some 250 manuscripts containing poems by his famous near-contemporary in England, John Donne (1572–1631). In the middle of the eighteenth century (about eighty years after his death) the first printed editions of Hallgrímur’s poetry were published, but nevertheless the copying of his poems in manuscripts continued as before. The manuscript copies and the printed editions overlap, and the two traditions influenced each other. Thus the text was, for example, sometimes copied by a scribe from a manuscript, without taking into account the printed version; the printed text was not necessarily regarded as more authentic. The editions from the eighteenth century are not what we would call critical, even though the editor, a headmaster at the cathedral school in Hólar, was very ambitious, and claimed that he would not print a poem unless he had at least three manuscript copies of it. On the other hand, the headmaster did not have the same access as we have today to information about extant manuscripts, preserved in different collections, some of them abroad. Modern editors of Hallgrímur’s poetry have to choose between transcriptions not made by the author himself, and which are thus usually, to a lesser or greater extent, corrupt. Indeed, this textual instability is in itself interesting, and new approaches to textual scholarship suggest that changing, correcting and emending texts in earlier times was a natural thing.

Another difficulty with Hallgrímur’s poetry lies in the question of authorship. It is very common that texts attributed to Hallgrímur Pétursson are also attributed to other poets. The same is true of John Donne, who is supposed to have written all kinds of poetry he never actually did; the names of famous poets seem to have attracted the works of other authors.

As the bulk of Hallgrímur Pétursson’s poetry cannot be dated reliably, his poetry has in the new edition been arranged by themes, although this too is not entirely an easy task. It raises questions on classification and genre, questions which also have to be considered within a European context.

Iceland and the outer world in the 17th century; baroque (and other) influences from Europe; Germany and Denmark.

What was Iceland like in the 17th century? Does Icelandic literature have anything in common with literary texts written and composed in Europe at the same time? The two centuries following the Reformation are traditionally referred to as the Age of Learning (Lærdómsöld). This is an appropriate term in that the Renaissance humanism which made its way to Iceland in the wake of the Reformation (rather than the other way around as was the case in many other countries) brought with it, as elsewhere in Europe, a renewed interest in the learning of the past, in Greek and Roman antiquity. In Iceland this humanism was particularly characterized by a resurgent interest in the country’s own history, as well as its topography and natural and cultural phenomena, reflecting contemporary European scientific developments and the study of man and his environment.

At the same time, the epithet reflects the fact that, during this period, the majority of Icelandic poets were members of the educated, official classes (clergymen, magistrates etc.), and representative of an attitude toward poetry itself: that learning was necessary in order to write it. Ideas of individual creative genius and originality of expression were not to appear until much later.

Iceland was a remote island, far away from royal courts and urban civilization, but it was nonetheless a society which exhibited the same cultural patterns as other parts of the Danish realm. On the European continent the seventeenth century is associated primarily with the baroque; in England it is the age of the metaphysical poets (with great poets such as John Donne, George Herbert, Andrew Marvell and Henry Vaughan), and the Icelandic literature of the period reveals many of the same themes and ideas that were prominent in neighbouring countries. In Iceland the educational system and culture were closely tied to Denmark, where the Lutheran church was extremely powerful and played a shaping role in all cultural activity. The literary genres that were cultivated in Iceland were to a large extent the same as those which were prominent in Denmark. Some of them were more tied to certain classes than others: occasional poems, for example, were composed for the upper class; wisdom poetry directed its advice at particular classes and groups, while hymns were designed for everyone, both high and low.

It has been a subject of debate as to whether it is appropriate and relevant to apply the concept of ‘baroque’ to 17th and 18th century Nordic literature in the way that it is done in relation to other European literatures. There is a consensus, however, that the courts of Copenhagen and Stockholm at the time were under the extensive influence of German baroque literature. The 17th and 18th centuries are the period of baroque music, baroque churches and palaces. But what does the word baroque mean?

Louis L. Martz (a popular English professor at Yale for more than four decades, whose greatest impact was on the study of 17th-century metaphysical poetry) suggested the term ‘the meditative tradition’ for what is usually called the ‘metaphysical’ in English literary history (Martz 1954). But in his article ‘The Concept of Baroque in Literary Scholarship’, René Wellek (Postscript 1962; Wellek 1963:115-127) maintains that the term ‘baroque’ is the most appropriate designation for literature in the seventeenth century:

[baroque] is the one term for the style between the Renaissance and classicism which is sufficiently general to override the local terms of schools; and it suggests the unity of a Western literary and artistic period. (Wellek 1963:127)

Recently some scholars in Scandinavia have focused on the term ‘the baroque text’, which is a broad concept that refers primarily to a certain philosophical and aesthetic attitude toward the text and the writing of texts. Baroque styles are characterised by the use of elaborate and excessive imagery, allegory, wordplay, contrast, artificiality and extremes of expression. They usually flourish with the rise of absolute monarchy and an increasingly powerful church, their highly structured nature reflecting the underlying idea of a fixed, supreme order governing all aspects of life. Baroque genres include panegyrics on exalted individuals, hymns, and a great deal of occasional poetry.

Hallgrímur Pétursson’s poetry is varied, written in different genres, both religious and secular. His younger contemporaries in Scandinavia were Thomas Kingo (1634–1703) in Denmark and Petter Dass (1647–1707) in Norway, great hymnists and baroque poets. I think it is important to view Hallgrímur Pétursson and his works in the context of European culture and tradition, and more precisely in the context of a north-European Lutheran hymn-tradition.

In my opinion the term ‘baroque’ is a useful tool for highlighting the features which Icelandic literature of the seventeenth century shares with continental literature, as well as those which are particulary Icelandic. Hallgrímur Pétursson considered himself to be a poet in the same mould as other learned poets in Europe of his time. These poets - whom we can now call ‘baroque poets’ - regarded their profession as part of a long tradition of Christian culture and learning. A great deal of the cultural and poetic tradition of the seventeenth century had its roots in the Middle Ages or even the Classical era.

Hallgrímur Pétursson’s life history and social position.

Hallgrímur Pétursson’s background is unusual in many ways. He studied at the cathedral school at Hólar in the northern part of Iceland. After that it would have been easy for him to pursue further education; bright young men usually went to the University of Copenhagen to continue their studies in the hope of getting good positions, as officials or clergymen, when they returned to Iceland. For reasons not entirely clear, Hallgrímur was expelled from Hólar and travelled abroad. It appears that he took up with foreign seamen, and he was next heard from in Glückstadt (North Germany, but part of Denmark at that time), where he was employed by a blacksmith who treated him badly. It is said that Brynjólfur Sveinsson, later Bishop of Skálholt, had, by sheer coincidence, been passing by the smithy and heard someone denouncing his employer in a vigorous and not very pretty Icelandic. Brynjólfur found that the lad was good with words, although what he had heard was quite crude, and after talking to him decided that he was very talented. He arranged for him to attend the School of Our Lady in Copenhagen. There, a new chapter in the life of Hallgrímur Pétursson began. He quickly achieved good results and was soon counted among the best students.

Hallgrímur was around 22 years old when dramatic events occurred. A group of Icelanders who had been abducted and enslaved by North African pirates some ten years earlier arrived in Copenhagen. They had finally been ransomed by the Danish King, and Hallgrímur Pétursson was employed to reeducate them in Christian teachings. A member of the group was Guðríður Símonardóttir, a wife and mother from the Vestmannaeyjar who had been separated from her husband and child in the raid. Hallgrímur and Guðríður fell in love and soon she was pregnant with his child. Guðríður was 38 at the time, so there was a sixteen-year age difference.

Hallgrímur Pétursson abandoned his studies for the second time and the two travelled to Iceland. They learned then that Guðríður’s husband had died. Hallgrímur married Guðríður and provided for his family with hard manual labour. Times were difficult for the couple; they were poor and lost several young children. Again, however, radical changes occurred in Hallgrímur’s life and circumstances. For the second time, Brynjólfur Sveinsson, now Bishop of Skálholt, altered things, when he ordained Hallgrímur as a priest in 1644 and arranged a parish for him. Hallgrímur’s early years in the priesthood cannot have been easy for him; some people could not forget that he had been a poor labourer. An old source says people found it peculiar for the bishop to have ordained this poor fellow, but they changed their minds after hearing him preach. Only one of Hallgrímur’s sermons, a funeral oration, has been preserved, but it is known that he was considered a splendid preacher. Another indication of growing admiration for Hallgrímur is that when the much wealthier parish of Saurbær (north of Reykjavík) became available in 1651, it was granted to him.

The next decade was a fruitful period for Hallgrímur’s writing. His greatest work is from this period; all of it religious. There were two books of hymns, Samúelssálmar (Hymns of Samuel) from the Old Testament’s Book of Samuel, and the Passíusálmar (Passion Hymns). There were also two books on religious practice: Sjö guðrækilegar umþenkingar (Seven Pious Contemplations) and Diarium Christianum or Dagleg iðkun af öllum drottins verkum i.e.‘The Daily Practice of all the Lord’s Works with Comparison of the Ten Commandments of God to Creation, and the Memory of the Name of Jesus’. This work is thought to have been written in 1660, but it was printed at Hólar in 1680. The Diarium is a meditation, where God’s creation on each day of the week is linked with the day’s name and one or two of the Ten Commandments. The work makes it clear that the world has a natural order proscribed by God. The workings of the celestial spheres, for instance, suggest reasons for our own obedience to authority. The poet uses a variety of classical rhetorical devices and quotes several other learned authors. When discussing the creation of the birds, for example, he applies metaphors linked to birds and flying to people’s lives:

My Lord Jesus, make my heart fly up from earthly vanity to you in heaven … Do not let me become a disgusting carrion bird in your sight, nor have the bird of prey’s nature or the raven’s disposition towards my neighbour (182).

Based on the belief that an almighty God inspired everything with meaning and purpose, the dominant view was that everything in His creation was governed by a supreme order, that every object had its fixed purpose and role, and that natural phenomena had a symbolic meaning from which mankind might learn. Natural descriptions of the period, therefore, are usually mainly in praise of the Creator.

In 1662, the farm at Saurbær burned. This was a tremendous shock, although plans were immediately made to rebuild it. After this Hallgrímur’s health began to deteriorate. He was diagnosed with leprosy, from which he died in 1674, aged sixty.

The heritage of Hallgrímur Pétursson; religious and secular poetry.

The works written by Hallgrímur Pétursson include maxim poems, morning and evening hymns, quatrains and hymn-sequences. During the seventeenth century the governing view was that poetry was meant to educate, encourage, teach and admonish. Didactic poems for children composed by Hallgrímur have endured well and are still used in primary schools in Iceland.

Occasional poems played an important social role in the baroque period, not merely in urban centers and at royal courts, but also in rural Iceland, although there they were largely confined to the class of office-holders. Hallgrímur wrote many such poems for his fellow office-holders; these poems helped to solidify his position and build up his prestige. Occasional poems and hymns are two poetic genres which often merge into one, as can be seen in Hallgrímur's travel hymns, New Year's hymns, wedding poems and memorial poems.

Hallgrímur also composed three sets of rímur ("Rímur af Lykla-Pétri og Magellónu," "Króka-Refs rímur" and the latter part of "Flóres rímur og Léos"). The rímur were the people’s main form of entertainment and can be seen as a uniquely Icelandic genre. They consisted of a story of some sort, usually based on extant material, transformed into verse. One characteristic of the rímur is their use of the ancient poetic language of skaldic verse. The reciting of the rímur continued one evening after another and they were usually so long that they became a sort of serial. Although the rímur are a type of popular poetry, rímur poets came from all levels of society.

Despite this emphasis on moral instruction, poets did not ignore the lighter side of life in their works, evidenced by the many poems preserved that concern various pleasures of life such as alcohol and tobacco. The value of moderation in drinking is the subject matter of Hallgrímur Pétursson’s poem ‘Nú er ég glaður á góðri stund’ (‘Now I am Merry at a Delightful Moment’). His poem ‘Leirkarlsvísur’ compares a man’s destiny with a jug of wine. The poem is cheerful, but nontheless bears religious and philosophical thoughts and conclusions. Actually it can be read both as a jesting poem and a serious piece of worldly wisdom.

In the poem ‘Aldarháttur’ (‘Ways of the Present World’) we see the baroque view of the past as superior to the present, which goes back to the humanistic admiration for the classical world. It is a contemporary polemic in which Hallgrímur compares his own times to those of the Commonwealth, that is, in the period before Icelanders were ruled by a king. In those days, people were valiant, appreciated their freedom more than gold, and did not submit to oppression by threat. Here, Iceland’s medieval past is glamorised in Icelandic poetry for the first time. The poet criticises his own era for laziness, lack of solidarity, cowardice, and an unjust legal system. With a degree of certainty the poem can be dated to 1663, a year after Icelanders had pledged an oath to the King of Denmark as absolute monarch. This event probably inspired the poem. ‘Aldarháttur’ is written in a classical hexameter, a variation on leonic metre, the first example of its kind in Icelandic. In Germany and the Nordic countries poets were learning to use precisely this and other classical meters such as the alexandrine. At the same time it is interesting that Hallgrímur Pétursson directly imitates the poetic language of the dróttkvætt verses from Ólafs saga Tryggvasonar, but, as stated before, he had already written commentaries to the stanzas. The poem is, thus, remarkable in the way that it is constructed equally from the classical traditions of Europe and the indigenous traditions of Iceland.

In his other satires Hallgrímur attacked the latest fashions in clothing and other forms of vanity – these were favorite topics in foreign poetry of the time. In his ‘Oflátungalýsing’ (‘Description of a Dandy’) a man is described dressed in all the latest fashions. He wears floral gloves, four pairs of trousers, an open-neck shirt with a Danish silk scarf and Spanish boots and spurs. His whole attitude is arrogant, and when spoken to he reveals his stupidity and ignorance.

Hallgrímur also attacked materialism, greed and corruption of justice, but not in connection with specific persons or events; he preferred to set everything in the larger context of life and death and the eternal state of the soul. Seventeenth-century satire has a clear sense of the world as a carefully organized whole in which everything and every person has a well-defined place and role. Whoever disturbs this order, whether he be an arrogant laborer or a corrupt judge, acts counter to the will of God.

Funeral elegies were extremely widespread after the Reformation. As with other occasional poems, they are shaped by classical oratory and Christian ideas of virtue and salvation. Their purpose was to transform grief into celebration, and get people to come to terms with the loss of a loved one or of an important member of society. Hallgrímur Pétursson lost his daughter, Steinunn, when she was only three-and-a-half years old. He wrote two funeral elegies for her, which are among the most beautiful funeral poems in Icelandic. The initial letters of the second of these form the words: Steinunn mín litla hvílist nú (“My Little Steinunn is Sleeping Now”). Bright and beautiful images are drawn of the saved, who celebrate and sing in heaven, free of all grief and suffering, and the poet consoles himself with the thought of his baby being there now. Although she was only three when she died, the poet describes her as having been ‘sensitive, bright and sweet tempered’. Her illness is also described and although it was short, the reader feels the evident pain of a parent who watches over his dying child but cannot save her.

Reflections on the Passion Story

Hallgrímur Pétursson’s Passion Hymns is the best known work of Icelandic poetry of the seventeenth century. The suffering and death of Jesus is a major subject of Christianity and the pivot of Luther’s theology. It became a popular practice to reflect on the passion story, especially after the Reformation. Around forty reflections on the Passion exist in print in German, Danish and Swedish from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Besides Hallgrímur Pétursson's work, at least three other Passion reflections were originally composed in Icelandic, although they are now almost completely forgotten. In short, the difference between these three hymns and Hallgrímur's Passion Hymns is the absence in the former of dramatic staging and the lack of an effective mode of storytelling; they are mainly direct recapitulation without commentary.

As mentioned before it has become a tradition to sing one of Hallgrímur Pétursson’s hymns at funerals in Iceland. The hymn actually consists of 13 verses and very seldom are all of them sung; usually only the first and the last two verses are sung at the end of the ceremony. The hymn, ‘Allt eins og blómstrið eina’ (‘Everything like the One Blooming Flower’), which in the author’s manuscript bears the title ‘Um dauðans óvissa tíma’ (‘On the Uncertain Hour of Death’), is a reflection on death, and begins with a quote from the Psalms of David suggesting that the days of man are like the grass in the fields. In the first part of the poem there is a relentlessly developed metaphor for death, destruction and the impermanence of human life. In the second part, however, the belief in Christ brings light and hope to the poem. The hymn concludes with a beautiful and effective confession that, with faith, man has nothing to fear, not even death, and he can thus welcome its arrival at any time.

In conclusion

I have tried to convey an image of the poet Hallgrímur Pétursson and explain his significance to the Icelandic nation and its culture. I spoke of the importance of viewing him and his works in a broader context; of examining his world view in connection with European literature and culture. There may actually seem to be a contradiction in examining a national poet in an international light. By doing so, however, we can better see what Hallgrímur Pétursson shared with contemporary foreign poets; that he absorbed the most popular trends and was in many ways a child of his time. His popularity can, I believe, be explained by many different factors: among other things, the rather adventuresome course of events in his life, the romantic story of him and his wife Guðríður, and the fact that he belonged to both the upper class and the people, all endeared him to folk in all walks of life. His secular poetry reflects a popular tone and an attitude toward authority that appealed to common people. His religious verse is earnest, bright, and richly faithful, which touched people and continues to inspire them. Last but not least, it his command of the Icelandic language that explains his renown and influence.

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The Church of Iceland among all the Other Churches

Anglican-Lutheran Society Annual Meeting 8th March 2008

Bernhardur Gudmundsson

Our church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland, is a small church. That is the first thing we have to accept when we enter the international Lutheran scene, not to mention the ecumenical scene. Actually it was quite an experience for me when I travelled for the first time to a foreign country, France, at the age of 20 and discovered that there were no Lutherans there. Coming from a country where at that time more than 96% belonged to the Lutheran tradition and only a few foreigners to the Roman Catholic, I had unconsciously assumed that all Christians were Lutherans, that these two words had the same meaning. It was quite a shock!

All around us in the Lutheran community are the ‘big brothers’. Many of our young people have studied and visited in the United States where the Lutheran church counts 4.7 millions, and they have felt overwhelmed, not to mention those who have visited Germany where the German Lutheran churches count almost 13 millions. Even the Nordic sister churches count their membership in several millions; the Swedes are 7m, the Danes and Finns are 4.5m. - and the Norwegians are 3.8m.

But we count 250,000. Sometimes we say ‘a quarter of a million’, with a strong emphasis on the word million! That sounds a bit better!

These big brothers and sisters are very kind to us - for instance at the Nordic meetings, but they do not always see us even though we sit in their midst. A Norwegian may be describing a problem and add at the end; ‘Well that is how we deal with it, I don't know how you do it in Denmark, Sweden or Finland.’ If he stops there, it works well to kick his leg under the table, when he always adds hastily; ‘Oh, yes! And in Iceland!’

This is understandable. We are not always there - the air tickets are costly, we can not always afford to show up at all those Nordic Church meetings. But such experience does not embellish our self image. We must constantly interpret their information into our Icelandic reality which is not always very encouraging and even shows our inability to follow their path.

Small yet not so small

You will therefore understand my joy when I made an important discovery some years back. I was then on the staff of the Lutheran World Federation in Geneva and had been assigned to a working group which decided on financial support to the needy member churches. The group had to look squarely at each of the 140 member churches and the 10 recognized congregations and scrutinize their situation. And what did I discover? That the Church of Iceland is 29th in size among the LWF members, even when we count the different German Landeskirchen separately. That means that we belong to the top 20% Lutheran churches in size. If we count the countries with Lutheran member churches, we climb even higher, and are placed in seat number 20.

So, the small Church of Iceland is not so small if counted in the real, the global context!

It is also very encouraging to be here in Great Britain, for the Lutheran Church of Britain is only half the size of our Church. We should meet them more often!

I also discovered another fact about my church when we were investigating the member churches of the Lutheran World Federation. My church has both much longer history than most of them and a much more interesting history. History that I had always taken for granted.

The Sisters, Church and Theatre in Iceland

The theatre is an important factor in Icelandic culture. The interest and the attendance are simply amazing. Last weekend I counted the plays which are on the stage presently in the capital and its neighbouring towns. The population of this area is about 190,000. You can choose between 27 plays and one opera. There are two professional repertory theatres in Reykjavik besides all the independent playhouses.

As a young pastor, I served in a fishing village with 112 inhabitants. Many of the men were fishermen whose boats left at midnight and brought back their catch next day around suppertime. As in other villages, the people wanted to have their annual play performance on the stage in their small meeting house. I was asked to direct. How could I refuse? They selected a comedy by Molière. The rehearsals were every other night. So when the fishermen had landed their catch, they ran home to have a bite and to wash themselves a bit and hurried back for the rehearsals. There were five or six fishermen in the cast, and others did the settings, the lights etc. We had three performances, all to full houses, and most of the villagers went to two or even all three shows. The play became a part of the daily reality of these people.

Why this strong interest in theatre? We think that it has grown out of the strong story telling tradition which is common in sparsely populated and isolated areas, where guests are so welcome when they share the news and tell new stories. This storytelling tradition can be traced back to the settling time of the country and it developed into the Saga writing tradition in the 12th-13th centuries. This interest or, shall I say, this need to write and read texts is still prevailing among our people. In 2007 almost 1500 books were published and the average Icelander obtained 7 books. Books are still a common Christmas gift.

This interest in presenting dramatic events also found its outlets later near the 18th century when the so called Rimur became very popular. The Rumur involves chanting numerous verses telling the stories of heroes and Vikings and also Bible characters. Listening to that helped to shorten the long, cold and dark evenings in the wintertime.

But why is it that this tradition of dramatic expressions finds such fertile ground in our country, where it is seemingly more vibrant than in the neighbouring countries?

Again, let us turn to the present day theatre. One of the experiments so successfully done these days in our theatre is a kind of a monologue. An actor works with one of the old Sagas, retells its plot, explains the characters and their background, and then presents the discoveries of the scientists and academics about lifestyles and values in those times. The actor shows us the persons in their context and helps us to approach them from our own context.

I saw one such monologue last month. A young and gifted actress presented a personality, the slave Thorgerdur Brak, from Egla, in the story of Egill. The actress wrote the monologue herself after intense research. Egill Skallagrimsson (910-ca 990) was a rough Viking, sometimes a berserker, who killed for the sheer joy of revenging an insult. Once he slaughtered more than 20 persons single handed. But at the same time his is considered among the finest of ancient Nordic poetry, certainly he is one of our foremost poets

In the story of Egill, we hear about Thorgerdur Brak, his nursemaid, or rather surrogate mother, who stood by him in all his endeavours, whatever happened. She was a slave of Celtic background. To support Egill she even opposed his father which was forbidden for a slave, so that man killed Brak. But Egill gave his firstborn daughter the name Thorgerdur in memory of the slave Thorgerdur Brak, which was unheard of at that time. The actress made this all come alive for us in a fascinating way and made us conceive the richness of the story.

Now, why all this storytelling? What am I trying to tell you?

The settlers of Iceland came mainly from Norway from 874 to the middle of ninth century. The first settlers were mostly men who dared to sail into the unknown over the rough sea. But they often stopped en route in the isles near Ireland and Scotland and attacked the people in the Viking style and took slaves, both men and especially women, and brought them to Iceland.

It has been suggested that 65% of the women living in Iceland in the ninth century were slave women of Celtic background. And of course, these women brought with them their Celtic culture, storytelling, music, poetry and they simply brought up young Icelanders like Egill Skallagrimsson. Many of these women were Christians and they shared their Christian values as well as their cultural heritage of storytelling and poetry.

In the monologue, the actress/ researcher pointed out that this Celtic heritage makes the Icelanders somewhat different from their Nordic neighbours. This transference of Christian values to the young by the Celtic nurses may, or rather, must have had strong effect and impact on the Christianization of Iceland.

The Christianization of Iceland

In 996 Earl Hakon of Norway was dethroned and Olafur Tryggvason became the king. He had been in England where he was baptized into the Christian faith. He became an ardent Christian with a missionary spirit, so he sent several missionaries to Iceland. Furthermore, when young Icelanders came to visit their relatives in Norway, he often invited them to the court and had strong influence on them. In the year 1000, he asked two of the Icelandic leaders who had been staying at his court to go on a missionary trip to Iceland. They came to the annual meeting of the Althing and to make a long story short, the two groups met there, the Christians and the heathens. They decided to ask an old and wise man, a heathen, to make a decision. He came to the conclusion that if there were two religions in the country, there would be no peace. "Let us therefore become Christians," he said. But the heathens should be allowed to maintain some aspects of their faith in secret. Those present looked for the hot springs all around and got baptized in warm water! Not one drop of blood was shed at this event.

A few weeks later King Olafur died in the battle at Svoldur. Several of the settlers were Christians and King Olafur had been a strong influence on the faith of the young leaders, yet it is difficult to understand the process of this rapid Christianisation without taking into consideration the impact of the Celtic slaves, especially the nurses, like Thorgerdur Brak. They prepared the soil, and presented to the young the values and stories of the Bible through their storytelling, their music and their love and care as the disciples of Jesus. They formed the Christian values and attitudes within them.

Of course it took years to establish the church in the country, as there was no organisation, no pastors, no churches, no church law - no nothing! But in 1056 the first bishop was consecrated in Skalholt, where he opened a school to train pastors and the formal church came gradually into being.

The Church of Iceland Today

And now we are in year 2008. Some years ago we celebrated 1000 years of Christianity in Iceland.

Looking back it is striking how fast the church established itself in the country, how easily it became an integral part of everyday life. The bishops at Skalholt and Holar soon became national leaders both in secular and spiritual matters and poets and preachers like Hallgrimur and Vidalin formed and nourished the thinking and the faith of the nation so it could survive, despite hunger, exploitation and the extreme, hostile climate at times. The population in the 18th century dropped to 40- 50,000 people

The church owned many farms which provided livelihood for its pastors, as we were a farming nation until villages and later small towns came into being with increasing fishing technology some 200 years ago.

The Lutheran Church is a Folk church and as such has its foundation in the Constitution. There has always been very close cooperation between the church and the state. Until recently the Ministry of Church affairs had much power in the outward matters of the church, whereas the bishop led the inner matters. However, the process towards independence started some 25 years ago and it has now reached the point of practical independence. The Church Assembly decides on most Church matters. However some bills have to be approved by the Althing. The Ministry of Church affairs will soon be dissolved as the Church takes over its duties and services. On the other hand, the office of the Prime minister will take over the relations with the religious communities in Iceland, the Lutheran church included.

The church sold most of its farms to the state and the state agreed as payment to pay the salaries of the pastors. It was a contract signed by two independent parties, based on Icelandic law. The state also collects the church tax along with other taxes, also for other religious bodies. The separation of church and state has happened very smoothly compared with the experience in the other Nordic countries.

The church is always there, ‘like the clean water and the fresh air,’ our former president Vigdis once said. I think she expresses the attitude of most Icelanders. We take the church for granted but it is interwoven into the life of most Icelanders. Around 94% of us belong to Christian churches, and out of those 85% belong to the National church. This percentage however is on the decline with the increase of immigrants. There is shortage of manpower so thousands and thousands of foreign labourers have been imported which explains the growth of the Roman Catholic and the Muslim communities.

But the Church is a prominent factor in our culture and our heritage. A good example is Christmas Eve. There are hardly any movements in the streets, neither humans nor cars, between 6pm and 7pm that evening. The whole nation is celebrating Christmas. Being members of a national church, we have common background and traditions. That evening gives us a strong sense of belongingness.

So far most youngsters are confirmed, in 2003, out of 4498 persons born in 1990, 4304 got confirmed, we do not have new figures about baptism. It has been around 90%, but may be somewhat on the decline. In 2003 seven out of eight children were baptised or 88%. That year 1,619 church weddings took place, while 289 couples went to the judge.

What is very encouraging about the life in the church is the increase as participation in the Holy Communion is concerned. In 1988, 39,472 persons were there. In 2004 the figure is 99,691(from 40,000 to 100,000 in 16 years). Practically everyone is buried from a church.

These good figures do not apply to the Sunday Services, but are there any organisations which can collect large groups on Sunday mornings week after week, year after year? Our modem times have created new venues for encounters and communications, new lifestyles have been created that make older venues redundant. And the churches all over the world are looking for effective channels where the Good News can be encountered and received by the people.

New Areas of Concern

The invasion of immigrants is relatively new in our country, as the name Iceland has not been too attractive for those from the Southern hemisphere. Now we are getting more people from Eastern Europe. Those who come must have a work permit, which means that we do not have ghettos of unemployed immigrants as we see in the other Nordic countries.

The church ordained a creative Japanese theologian as a pastor for the immigrants and he has turned out to be an efficient bridge enabling them to move into the Icelandic society. Some congregations have also offered special services to immigrants. We have welcomed large flocks of Roman Catholics, mainly Polish people, who are using our Lutheran churches in the villages all along the coastal line. We also welcome the Orthodox brothers and sisters. Their young priest has enjoyed much support from our bishop and some congregations in Reykjavik. The ecumenical work is finally becoming a relevant issue for our church.

On the other hand, the increase of non-Christian children in schools has created an area of concern for the church. The easy and natural access of pastors and other church workers to the schools with their message, something we have had for centuries, has been questioned of late and even hindered. We tend often to bend over backwards in trying to be fair. Following that, we have experienced recently a wave of aggressive criticism from very loud and vocal club of non-believers. Fortunately they have also bent over - forward - and gone too far and lost some of their credibility. However, there is more discussion in society on faith, church and religion than before, perhaps less indifference than before.

A national church is always somewhat vulnerable in such situations. She represents the tradition, the majority, she is not exciting, she is perceived as resistant to change. At the same time people want her to bring stability and to nourish their roots, be true to the Bible and be the warden of traditions, whilst still being a part of a society in rapid change. This crystallizes in the discussion of the new translation of the Bible this year. Some complain that the beautiful text which they read in their grandmothers Bible is no longer there, whereas others complain about the highly literary and exclusive language. The whole debate on homosexual partnership or "marriages" is reflecting the same contradictory attitudes

For centuries, isolation was our enemy. But in our time the concept of isolation must be redefined. It is all here now at your fingertips. Now in the time of globalisation, some might even desire more isolation in our country. With the non -stop movements between countries, of information, of people, of ideas, we have to adopt a new lifestyle, a new sense of belonging.

Are we ready for that? Are we able to do so?

In a globalized world, we are all in the focus or rather nobody is. For many of us nothing is in focus, except ever growing greed and secularization. The overpowering greed is paralyzing the old values of love and honesty, which makes the world a colder place, a more insecure place.

What is the role of our churches now in the present world situation? How can they be the saving grace which is needed now, and they are intended to be? This applies to my church, your church, all churches, for we are all in the same boat. We may have different answers, but for me it is of major importance that our people are provided with a foundation, some solid foundation to stand on in this whirlwind, that nourishes our roots so we can better understand ourselves, our life situation, our hope for the future. And this foundation is plainly the Good News, the fact that you are loved, you are precious in the eyes of God, and that there, with him, is your place, wherever you may go. For he will always walk with us.

And how do we go about it, how do we pass on this truth, this aspect of faith?

There are surely many roads to the goal but in this group I will particularly mention the secret weapon, which is perhaps not enough in use nowadays but used to be the most effective way of transferring the Good News. That is, the Grandmothers – and, of course, the grandfathers too.

Christianization happens in moments of peace and stillness, where time passes lovingly with caring grandparents who share their experience with the young, share their joy and sorrows, tell the stories, sing the songs, like the Celtic slave nurses in the Viking time, like my grandfather did and your grandmother most likely did too - perhaps with the result that we are here. The secret weapon for the re-Christianization of our people is in us! It is ours to make the old prayers relevant and personal for the young in these strange and complex times, like the Celtic/Icelandic prayer which forms the end of this address - with thanks for your good listening.

May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always on your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rain fall soft upon your field,
And until we meet again-
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

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Must Ethical Issues be Church-Dividing?

  Lecture at meeting of Anglican-Lutheran Society
  11 March 2006
  Southwark Cathedral, London

  This paper is copyright : Kenneth G. Appold, Institute for Ecumenical Research,   Strasbourg

  The title of today's conference posed a number of problems for me. As I thought   about the question, Must ethical issues be church-dividing?, I was tempted to say,   simply, “no”. They are not inevitably church-dividing. If the church can find a way of   sustaining a reasonable amount of diversity in life and practice, they won't be. But, I   suspect, that is not how the question was meant. Couched within is a question of   another order, and I can hear the question posed in different tone, much like a   teacher scolding a wayward pupil: “Must you bring that animal to class?” In that tone,   the question has a different character—we are being asked not whether such   behavior is inevitable, but whether it is appropriate or legitimate. And that is how I   will approach today's topic. Is disagreement over ethical issues legitimately church-   dividing? And if so, when?    

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  Must Ethical Issues be Church-dividing? Homosexuality, Change and the   Anglican Communion

  The Anglican-Lutheran Society's AGM, 11 March 2006

  This paper is copyright : Jeremy Morris, Trinity Hall, Cambridge.

  This paper is a modified version of a paper I gave last July in Strasbourg, at the   summer conference of the Ecumenical Institute which was also devoted to the   theme of homosexuality and bio-ethics as church-dividing. It has been modified first,   because the discussion within Anglicanism has moved on a little since then, and   second, because my own thinking on this question has changed somewhat since   then - not dramatically so, admittedly, but enough to make me realize that I was   neglecting the question of moral pluralism, or rather, the doubt that moral pluralism   is an intrinsically coherent theoretical position. I've been involved over the last   eighteenth months in working with Professor Oliver O'Donovan on two responses to   developments within the Church of Sweden on the question of homosexuality, and   whilst the two of us undoubtedly come at things from contrasting positions, still I   have to acknowledge a greater force to the arguments Oliver has advanced on this   question of the incoherence of moral pluralism than I think at first I was prepared to   concede. It will be interesting to see what you think of all this! What I am going to   offer is not - it cannot be - a comprehensive survey of the state of the arguments   over homosexuality and bio-ethics in the Anglican Communion, and of their   ecclesiological implications. I am going to say next to nothing on bio-ethics, on which   I am woefully ignorant. Bio-ethics is clearly a question of considerable ecumenical   sensitivity, but it is not clear (yet, at any rate) that it is a question that in Anglican   terms alone is likely to be church-dividing. But even in relation to homosexuality, my   expertise is limited. I'm not an ethicist, nor a biblical scholar, but a church historian,   who is also actively involved and interested in ecumenical activity.

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