11th October 2011

The morning comes for me to leave Elisabeth and the country to spend time in the city of Växjö. I feel quite sad, and have a bit of a speech of thanks in mind to say, but it doesn’t really seem appropriate. This is a parting, a matter of fact, not without feeling, but that’s the way it is – and there is another day to engage with. We exchange some gifts and then set off so that I can catch the morning school bus into Ljungby and then the bus into Växjö. It’s another lovely morning and lovely journey.

After about an hour I arrive in Växjö, and hear I sound I haven’t heard in all the time staying in the country – a police siren. At the bus station Leif meets me. He is currently acting dean for Växjö cathedral and has worked either for the cathedral or for nearby parishes for over 20 years. . We go directly to the cathedral, which is a very distinctive building. Inside a school group of 13/14 year olds is gathering to have a story piligrimage. Cathedral clergy, staff and some volunteers act out stories from around the cathedral, using some of the amazing artwork that is part of the building. So there are stories about John the Baptist, St Sigfrid (who was a Benedictine monk, possibly from York and brought Christianity to Sweden) and Bible stories picked out from the glass triptych behind the altar. (Växjö is a national focus for glass sculpture and art, known as the capital of the ‘Kingdom of Glass’). The group get involved in a re-enactment of the Good Samaritan story.

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I’m going to stay in one of the diocese’s schools: S:t Sigfrid’s Folkhögskola http://www.sigfrid.se/1.0.1.0/106/1/, about 4 miles outside Växjö. It is a little like an adult education college, I think, offering education opportunities to young people and adults over the age of 18. St Sigfrid’s offers courses of different lengths including a focus on music and performing arts, as well as offering a ‘Consequences of Faith’ course, and a place for confirmation candidates to meet for summer conferences. The setting is beautiful, part of a farm, and there are pigs, chickens and ponies. I meet the headteacher and kind receptionist, who finds me a room.

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I enjoy an excellent lunch (great food in this place!) and more people watching – people of all ages, faces of different colour, sitting together in animated conversation.

Leif picks me up after lunch and we make some arrangements for visits tomorrow and go to the diocesan offices. I meet Carin who made some great suggestions to include in my visit to Sweden and put me in touch with Elisabeth and Leif. We have a friendly conversation over coffee with other diocesan staff. I’m often introduced as the woman who travelled by train to Sweden, and has been moose hunting! Many of them have been to Oxford for different events and shared learning. The diocese here has a good quality range of publicity material, and I have bags (Vi syns i kyrkan! – See you in church!) and a badge (Till Tro –  To Believe) given to me.

Afterwards I talk more with Leif, who clearly relishes his pastoral work in this place, knows that this is the place he belongs, where he knows the people. I soon see that a walk around the city with him with invariably includes many stops, conversations, and greetings because he is known by so many. He is a well travelled person, and has been to England, including Oxford, a number of times.

Leif has a funeral visit in the afternoon so I have a wander around before going to the bus station to make my way back  to S:t Sigfrid’s. (I’ve become pretty relaxed about getting another bus in a foreign land). It is quite a contrast here in the city from the country. It is busier (though not as packed as at home), there’s traffic, police, sirens, different countries represented (immigration is a sensitive issue here).

After my wandering, I return to the bus station to wait for my bus. I wait for ages but there is no sign of the right bus that will take me to Kronoberg where the school is. Eventually I get on to the next bus and ask the driver. He doesn’t speak much English and I don’t speak much Swedish, so it’s quite challenging. He shows me a timetable which says that the next bus going there is 21:15! He shows me on the map how far he is going, and shows me that I can walk a short distance to the school. So I get on the bus, and he keeps reminding me that he can only go so far and has to return to the station. Everybody else has reached their stop, and despite his protestations that he has to turn around (he searches for the English word, and I suggest ‘go back’ – he is delighted and thinks ‘back’ is a hilarious word which he repeats), he continues along the road, and takes me all the way to the Folkhögskola. He watches me cross the road to the school and sets out back, smiling, waving and calling out ‘back’ through the window! A real life Good Samaritan.

I am relieved to be back, and spend the evening in pleasing reflection at how much I have already fitted in to my visit, and looking forward to what is still to come, including the homeward stretch.

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