11th October 2011

After a sumptious breakfast from the buffet at S:t Sigfrid’s Folkhögskola (I told you food was good here!) I hear the chapel bell ring. The chapel was originally an 18th century granary building, and is described as the heart of the school, a place for peace and meditation. I can’t ignore the call of the bell and so join the ten or so people there that morning for a short time of prayer. It is truly a special place. I listen to words I don’t understand, spoken slowly and carefully, and then some music is put on. It’s a wonderful gospel/soul song called ‘Hold on to the light’, sung in English, and sounds like Stevie Wonder. (A bit of research later reveals it to be a Swedish Christian musician Samuel Ljungblahd http://www.samuelljungblahd.com) The music fills the chapel and the lyrics and rhythm fill our hearts giving us a great message to hold on to for the day.

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The plan for today is to meet Leif in town for lunch and then spend time with the storyteller in the local museum. Looking at the map it looks to me quite a straightforward walk into Växjö, so off I go and I am soon lost (why is it that the real world never seems to coincide with the reality pictured on a map?) So I get to practise one of my few Swedish phrases:  

Talar du engelska? (Do you speak English?)

and eventually a pre-school teacher points me in the direction of the nearest bus stop.

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Over lunch and conversation with Leif we discover a few more connections: at a cathedral music conference in Norwich Leif met the dean, Graham Smith, who was formerly at Kidlington. From our work with young people we both know Jim at Christ Church cathedral, Oxford, who does a great line in showing young people around and getting them interested and involved in the stories of the place.

After lunch I meet storyteller and historian Jurgen at Småland Museum. He shows me a little of the Glas Museum and tells me about his work, including that with children and local schools. In the museum is a closet with ‘giant’ sized clothes and shoes, and a story cupboard – tools to create and re-tell stories. Apparently there are story cupboards or mini-installations around in the local countryside. This one that he shows me tells Hans Christian Andersen’s story of The Snow Queen

which has to do with a mirror and its fragments…

There is a workshop where the children can do craft work of different sorts – including glass_work as they create/re-create stories. Then we move to the neighbouring Utvandrarnas Hus (the House of Emigrants), which houses fascinating displays on the emigration of over one million Swedish people to America between 1850 and 1930. There are so many stories here, important stories to remember and hear again, especially as Sweden is wrestling with the issue of immigration today. Jurgen bubbles over with stories and communicates such a loving pride for his native land, its heritage and its gifted people, without being blind to its human fallibility. Spending time with him you would find it hard to avoid catching his infectious enthusiasm and interest in personal history and the vital connection between people and place.

Leaving the museum buzzing with stories I meet Leif and we go to the cathedral to meet another confirmation group. I am flagging a bit in terms of energy levels, but am encouraged to join in the story pilgrimage around the cathedral. I become the sister of S:t Sigfrid, who has come over from York with concern for her sons, who are following their uncle (they come to a sticky end unfortunately). I attempt a Yorkshire accent and am glad there are no ‘real’ Yorkshire folk to hear.

On the way back to the Folkhögskola (a lift with Leif today!) I hear that even in the liberal Sweden church there can continue to be tensions and challenges around the support and recognition of same sex relationships and transgender and transvestite issues, Interesting!

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