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30 BULLETIN OF FRIENDS' HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION FRIENDS IN SWEDEN By Emilia Fogelklou Norlind THERE WERE four of us, mostly settlement workers, who began to meet together during the war. After having talked through personal, social, and other problems we sat together in silence. As there were no Quakers in Sweden (except our dear English-born Friend, Walter Harlock, whom we did not then know), we did not realize that we met in the Friends' way. It just came spontaneously. Three of us in time became the first Friends in Sweden. Dagny Thorvall, B.A., the daughter of a state church rector, member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the first collaborator of N. Beskow in Birkagârden Settlement, the very soul of which she became, was one of them. It was in her room we usually met. No fear had hindered her from going to different groups and parties, most labour, helping them with addresses and otherwise, as the true friend of them all, communists, syndicalists, socialdemocratic study circles, and different kinds of religious groups. There was no "learnedness" about her, in spite of all her capacity; they all felt her as their human sister. In those days the abyss between "the two nations" (from an economical point of view) was much deeper in Sweden than now. She did much to bridge over the mental distances between people who comfortably believed in God without an urgent need to make society a better place to live in, and people who believed in socialism without any use for a God. Another of those four was Agda Hedvall, a true Franciscan, and an artistically gifted spirit, with a deep concern for the unemployed and for peace. Both these our "inaugurated saints" have now left this world. In 1931 we joined London Yearly Meeting, not knowing that it already counted a young Swedish member. Another, our present clerk, devoted to international work and co-editor of Mellanfolkligt samarbete, came to us from Geneva. Now we are about thirty, and many more "friends of the Friends." Not a few came to us from Dagny Thorvall's study circles with religious topics. Most of our men members are industrial workers, except FRIENDS IN SWEDEN31 the founder of Viggbyholmsskolan (where the Woodbrooke reunion took place in 1935). On the female side we represent social and educational work, nursing, or literary occupations. In 1935 we had our first Swedish Yearly Meeting, so we are only a baby among the national groups of Friends. In Sweden most members of the free churches nominally remain within our state church, in many respects a very liberal type of Lutheran church. In comparison with the Society of Friends its inner structure has a more patriarchal and generally less co-operative organisation. To many of our members this means that the membership of the church acquires a less active and responsible citizenship than that of the state or the political group. We talked these things over with the Swedish archbishop, Erling Eidem, who in a most friendly spirit came to see us, wanting to know the spiritual way into Quakerism of everybody present. We had hours together of very deep communion. We understood each other perfectly, and he blessed us for whatever way of service our conscience and love of Christ should lead us to, only asking us to make no hasty decisions and not to forget our old spiritual mother, the church. Two years later, in agreement with the archbishop, we applied to the government for having the Society of Friends recognised as one of those religious bodies to which transition from our state church is allowed. This petition, which follows in English translation, has passed the different authorities. It has been cordially received, some formalities only lacking for its realisation. Our meetings for worship take place in "the silent room" of Birkagârden Settlement (started by Natanael Beskow and Ebba Pauli, both friends of the Friends). There too study circles dealing with Quaker principles meet every other Sunday; a Monday circle, every other week, treats Quaker history; and several vital groups of Young Friends—mostly friends of the Friends—gather to discuss topics in connection with the Friends' World Conference syllabus. Two...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 30-34
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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