News

Finnish line for refugees a numbers boost for Church of England

Refugees, mainly from Sudan and South Sudan, turn C of E into fastest growing religious group in Finland

Bishop David Hamid with confirmation candidates at St Nicholas' Church, Helsinki

August 2 2016The Church of England has found a new growth area – Finland! Sadly, the reason is the humanitarian crisis that is forcing many people from Sudan and South Sudan to flee to Europe.

The Anglican Communion News Service quotes Bishop David Hamid, the Anglican Suffragan Bishop in Europe, as saying that the CofE is the fastest-growing religious group in Finland, with a 20 per cent increase in numbers in the past year – albeit, off a low base.

“Aid agencies warn that the upsurge of fighting in South Sudan will see the humanitarian crisis affecting millions of civilians worsening,” Bishop Hamid wrote. “The Finnish government, working with the UN, continues to offer settlement to Sudanese (and) South Sudanese fleeing the violence and war.”

As a result of the new arrivals, the Revd Amos Manga, the Priest-in-Charge of the White Nile Congregations in Finland (part of the CofE’s Diocese in Europe), finds his work growing.

“Our church is fully engaged in many parts of this Nordic country in providing care, a spiritual home and pastoral accompaniment to the new arrivals,” Bishop Hamid said during a visit to Helsinki, where he confirmed a number of candidates at St Nicholas’ Anglican Church in the Finnish capital.

He wrote that the fellowship and joy in the congregation was infectious.

“The service was in English, Arabic and Finnish. The priests assisting me were Finnish, Sudanese and Nigerian in origin. Yes, this is the Church of England!”

The processional cross used at St Nicholas’ was originally used at the Anglican church in St Petersburg.

“The last members of that congregation brought it with them when they fled to Helsinki in 1917 at the outbreak of the revolution in Russia,” Bishop Hamid said. “Thus our congregation in the Finnish capital is reminded week by week that it was founded by refugees.”

*English churches and congregations have been established on the European continent since before the Reformation and had grown so much that in 1633 congregations of the Church of England in all foreign countries were placed under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London.

The Diocese of Gibraltar was founded by Letters Patent on 21 August 1842 and took over the pastoral care of chaplaincies and congregations in places as diverse as Constantinople, Athens, Barcelona, Nice, Rome, The Dardanelles, Tripoli, Syria and Malta.

In July 1980, a single diocese was formed as The Diocese in Europe, and it became the 44th Diocese of the Church of England. The US Episcopal (Anglican) Church also established six churches in Europe under the jurisdiction of that church’s Presiding Bishop.

The Spanish Episcopal Reformed Church and the Lusitanian Church (Portugal) are also full member churches of the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which the Anglican Church of Australia is part. The Church of England maintains friendly relations with other Christian churches in mainland Europe and is committed to the quest for the full visible unity of the Church. These churches are the Old Catholic churches of the Union of Utrecht and the Lutheran churches of Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Lithuania, while special agreements exist with the Evangelical Church in Germany (through the Meissen Agreement) and the Roman Catholic Church in France (through a "Twinnings and Exchanges" arrangement).

See the ACNS story here, see Bishop Hamid’s blog here and read more about the Diocese in Europe at http://europe.anglican.org/.