Young people reflect on life and faith

”Meeting places for reflection on life and faith” is a project focusing on 15 year old confirmands in the Church of Sweden. The church building becomes a meeting place between the young people’s questions of life and the symbols and illustrations in the church, that give room for reflection. The interior of a church are from various time periods. In this project we want to learn more about how people have expressed their faith in the church building and in what way this is relevant for teenagerof today?

The Church of Sweden confirms 30 000 15 year olds every year. Most of the confirmands go to church services at least 15 times before their confirmation. Unfortunately the stories of those who built, decorated and developed the churches seem to be lost for young people of today. Växjö diocese has started a confirmation project called “Meeting places for reflection on life and faith”. The confirmation team, that is the pastor, the pedagogue, the deacon and the musician, has worked together with Kalmar läns museum on “the Time Travel method”. The aim is to compare the confirmation candidates‘ own ideas about faith and life to what is expressed in the church building.

There are four pilot churches of different expression and from various ages, from the Middle Ages to the 1980s. Here is the example from the church in Kulltorp:

When you enter the church the most obvious are the paintings in the ceiling, paintings of angels, the Judgment Day and several medallions with sentences from the Bible and hymns on important aspects of your life. The paintings were made by the local church painter, Niclas Berg, following a decision taken at the parish meeting in 1768. What have those paintings and life slogans to do with us today? In Kulltorp we made a Time Travel to 1768 when the sentences and paintings were finalized in the church. In the scenario we say that two of the medallions are still not finished. The church meeting decides what life sentences to write in these medallions. The confirmands discuss and reflect. When you are 15, you think a lot about your own life, what is the right way to live and what is my responsibility. Finally they decide on two sentences from the Bible that mean a lot to them in their lives. In the Time Travel these quotations are written and illustrated within medallions and of course the confirmands explain what these words mean to them. We also made clothes and medicine for the poor in the Time Travel, to show that life is not only talking and reflecting but also doing something for the needy.

What life sentences did the confirmands choose? These two: Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32)

This pilot project has been quite a success and now is the plan to expand it to the national level within the Church of Sweden and include other parts of the country.

There is a short video in Swedish on the project: http://internwww.svenskakyrkan.se/vaxjostift/motesplatser

Teresia Clifford, Växjö diocese, Church of Sweden