After a decade, Connor’s link with the Swedish diocese of Linköping ended at a service in Linköping Cathedral on January 10.
Linköping was Connor’s first diocesan link, and although it is now formally over, friendships forged over the years between parishes and individuals will continue.
As chair of the Partnership for World Mission Committee back in 1996, Canon Walter Lewis was one of those behind this link. Canon Lewis recalls. “This was an excellent committee operationally. This was all new and there was tremendous interest. It was a fascinating operation for us to get to know each other and achieved the objective of widening horizons almost immediately. The initiative was warmly welcomed across the diocese.”
There followed many twinning projects at diocesan, youth and parish levels, with trips to Sweden, and visitors from Sweden.
A total of 14 Connor parishes established links in the early years with parishes in Linköping. All Saints, Antrim, maintains its link today while St Cedma’s, Larne, has an active link with the parishers of Väderstad. Canon Lewis’s parish of St Thomas’s was twinned with Linköping Cathedral, and a curate from Sweden is currently working in the parish.
Canon Lewis said the Swedes loved to come to Northern Ireland. “They love the people and they love the church. We are the one church and they feel very much at home here.” He added that the Bishop Martin Lind of Linköping had a particular fondness for the north coast.
Canon Lewis, his wife Evelyn, and Connor Diocesan Training Co-ordinator Peter Hamill travelled to Linköping for the service in January to celebrate the partnership and give thanks for all it had achieved. Despite the formal end of the link, contacts that have been established and projects that were initiated over the years will continue.
Canon Lewis said: “There is a lot to be gained from positive partnership. It gives us a global perspective of the church and while it can challenge us it allows us to come home mutually refreshed.”
In a recent reflection published first in the Belfast Telegraph, Canon Lewis made reference to the end of Connor’s Swedish partnership. He wrote: “Just a few weeks ago, I was in Sweden to share in thanksgiving celebrations following thirteen years of mission partnership between my own Diocese of Connor and the Diocese of Linköping in the Church of Sweden.
“It was a memorable few days. For example, for the first time, I experienced outside temperatures of minus 28°C, and reflected on the slim chances of survival in that extreme environment for very long. A thick layer of snow covered everything – fields, roads, buildings, trees: it was a Winter Wonderland!”
Canon Lewis went on: “The highlight and focus of the weekend was a magnificent Ordination and Thanksgiving Service in the beautiful 13th Century Linköping Cathedral. The worship was rich in colour, inspirational in music, and moving in its fellowship, love and sense of the presence of God. My wife and I, and a colleague, returned to Belfast wonderfully enriched by the experience of life, faith, welcome and hospitality in Sweden. It was good to be there.”