Link with Vrinnevi Parish in Sweden

Antrim’s Swedish link dates back to Spring 2000 when we welcomed five visitors from the parish of Vrinnevi in Norrkoping in Sweden to Antrim. Our links with the Lutheran Church began as an initiative of the Diocese of Connor when it twinned with the Lutheran Diocese of Norrkoping. The link was established to enable our churches to learn a little more about our cultures, faith stories and the areas in which we ministered.

When our first Swedish visitors came to Antrim in 2000, we showed them some of our beautiful countryside, our schools and hospitals as well as some of our cross community peace projects. Our parishioners had several opportunities to meet with our guests and we will all remember how they took part in our Sunday morning service during their visit. In September 2000 a group of eight parishioners from Antrim visited Vrinnevi to learn more about life in a Swedish church. Our Irish hospitality was kindly returned, and, as well as learning much about parish life in Sweden, many friendships were forged.

In Holy Week 2001 we welcomed eighteen teenagers from the youth choir in Vrinnevi and their Rector, Olle Penel to Antrim. During their stay in Antrim, they were looked after by families in our parish. We visited Giant’s Causeway, Folk and Transport museum, Lisburn leisure centre as well as enjoying some informal events such as a disco with the members of All Saints’ Youth Club. The members of the Youth Choir took part in the family service and a concert in the Church Hall.

We also welcomed a party of twenty nine Swedes in 2005 for our seventh exchange visit Seven leaders accompanied twenty two teenagers from the Youth Club in Norrkoping for an action packed weekend which began with a visit to the Valley Leisure Centre for ten pin bowling. One of our MLAs, Jim Wilson, a parishioner of Kilbride organized a guided tour ot Stormont Buildings and this was followed by an assault on the shops in Belfast. When we visited Sweden at Easter 2002 we barbecued in the snow, thankfully the weather for our visit to the Orr’s farm was a little kinder to us for our barbecue.

Members of All Saints’ Youth Club have visited Norrkoping on three occasions travelling by a variety of routes to Skavsta Airport which is south of Stockholm. Ticket prices were able to be kept to about £100 through a variety of fund raising events and table quizzes. This is all part of the team building that helps to form friendships which is an important component of the twinning arrangement.

During our visit, the members of the youth club had an opportunity to spend a morning in one of Norrkoping’s high schools. On the Saturday morning of our visit we had a guided tour of down town Norrkoping where the 19th century industrial buildings have been refurbished and transformed into museums, university lecture theatres and student accommodation. The city has a magnificent concert venue which attracts artists from across the world. After the culture, the young people were let loose on the shops of Norrkoping to get rid of their Kroner and the adults had a chance to visit IKEA.

On Sunday we took part in the morning service in Vrinnevi. Our young people were a credit to Antrim Parish in the way they participated. We staged two dramatised readings for Palm Sunday, some of the girls took part in a liturgical dance, we sang and prayed and Ruth preached. Vrinnevi for me is ‘a home from home,’ it is a place where I feel I am among friends and we are remembered each Sunday in the prayers of the parish.

On Monday we visited Kolmarten Zoo. The zoo was opened especially for us and we were able to see all the animals without the usual crowds of people. The dolphinarium was fantastic and we were treated to our own private show. When the tigers were fed, we were able to watch them at close quarters and the monkeys and apes enjoyed showing off to us as only monkeys and apes can. It was a memorable finish to a wonderful five days.

Thanks to all our friends in Vrinnevi for making us so welcome during our visits.