In the years after World War II, Sweden’s
socialist leaders—men like Tage Erlander and his successor Olof
Palme—dreamed of creating a “great society”: idealistic, egalitarian
and prosperous. They saw no place for the Lutheran church in their
utopian vision. The state would look after everything.
in a Lutheran parish in the Kista neighborhood of Stockholm, Sweden,
buck national trends of falling attendance. Kista residents come from a
variety of countries and denominations, and 50 percent to 60 percent of
this parish’s worshipers are immigrants. This joint service with the
Salvation Army includes both ethnic Swedes and Eritrean Coptic
out very differently. Kista, a Stockholm neighborhood, illustrates why.
Built in the 1970s, Kista was to be Sweden’s Silicon Valley,
headquarters for a burgeoning information technology industry. Along
with factories, a “new town” was constructed with low-level
architecture intended to create a more human environment.
the utopian dreams are dead. An office high-rise in the factory area is
largely empty because, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, no one
wants to work in such a landmark. As for the “new town,” it’s looking
decidedly worn, home to large numbers of immigrants and plagued with
crime and vandalism.
Yet in this seemingly unlikely environment,
a Lutheran parish is thriving, bucking the national trend of falling
attendance and taking on an important role in the life of the community.
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