|The former prison, now Hotel Katajanokka|
In these days when "setting God's people free" is a phrase used in Church of England programmes, the Synod of the Nordic and Baltic Deanery met in a place which was a prison from 1749 to 2002! Katajanokka reopened as a hotel in 2007 and provided a very congenial venue for the clergy and laity from Iceland to Estonia to meet for prayer, deliberation, decision and community from 7 to 10 October. Far from feeling imprisoned, the Synod was a time when we felt a liberation from the necessary contraints of the past year and a half.
|Clergy of the Deanery in solidarity with climate activists|
We also have emerged from lockdown with a greater awareness of the environmental challenges facing our planet and how our Church life must adjust to help us address this emergency. The clergy had an unexpected opportunity to stand in solidarity with a group of Finnish people witnessing outside one of the government buildings to the urgency of the climate emergency, a moment of joint witness which was appreciated by the demonstrators.
Fr Amos Manga of the White Nile congregation in Finland summed up much of what was on our minds and hearta by saying "God has been at work in this coronavirus time. We have learnd about fear and how to overcome it, and pondered once again on life, death, importance of community and the dangers of isolated individualism". He concluded with the hopeful words, "We are alive!"
|Archdeacon Nathaniel, Dr Tomi Karttunen and Bishop Matti Repo|
Several visitors joined the Synod from our sister Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland, including the Revd Dr Tomi Karttunen, the Secretary for Ecumenical Relations and Theology, the Revd Aaro Rytkönen who now works as Director of the Ala Amana Centre in Oman working on peace and reconciliation with people of faith, and the Rt Revd Matti Repo, the Bishop of Tampere and Lutheran Co-Chairman of the Porvoo Contact Group. Speaking about the Porvoo Agreement in this the 25th anniversary year, Bishop Matti challenged us to move forward in our common life, warning that "it is easy to remain as we are, depite the agreements shared".
|The Deanery Clergy - only one person born in England|
The Nordic Baltic Deanery is a wonderfully diverse one. Only one of our clergy present was actually born in England. Worship in the deanery is held in Urdu and Arabic as well as English, and multilingual community life is growing as young people especially are increasingly more proficient in the national language such as Finnish rather than in English. Canon Smitha Prasadam, the chaplain of St Alban's Copenhagen, in a bible study she led, reminded us nevertheless that "the universal mother tongue is the praise of God".
It is an exciting and creative time to be an Anglican in this region!
|Canon Smitha Prasadam (2nd from left) with the other 3 Asian clergy at the synod|