Sweden is both the largest and most populous country in Scandinavia. In conversation the Swedes stare directly at you, holding your gaze for longer than is usually comfortable. You discern irises tinged with green, brown or blue. Calm eyes watching your face intently for nonverbal signals, like God watches over us, calmly evaluating the course that our choices take. This Swedish calm is evidenced in quiet voices that mouth short phrases - no wasted words, ample personal space and queueing patiently whenever there are more than two people waiting for something.
Sunday morning worship at Hillsong, a stark contrast to Scandinavian solemnity, lively yet also calm, enthusiastic and affirming, plenty of smiles with hands raised high. Would a Hillsong style service work at Orchard Valley? I don’t think so. It is contemporary, like Vineyard thirty years ago, and appeals to a significant population demographic with windowless, black walled rooms, colorful stroboscopic lighting and mist effects. But it has a limited shelf life, perhaps twenty years, until the next worship fashion hits, and the children of the Hillsong generation prefer another style.
Hillsong Gothenburg is housed in a nondescript two story office building. Across the narrow street is a traditional Lutheran church, lengthy worn oak pews, off white cement columns, several stained glass windows, a red carpeted brass kneeling rail for communion and an impressive, custom pipe organ. Hymns only are unenthusiastically sung, interspersed with prayers, two readings and a scripted sermon. This dated model of worship has greater longevity but less appeal than Hillsong, and so most traditional churches in Gothenburg lie empty, perhaps a handful of elderly worshippers each Sunday and an underfunded church building restoration fund. These churches are closing by the score because young folk find them irrelevant.
The conundrum that faces Swedish churches confronts Orchard Valley also. How do we ensure longevity but also attain relevance - in both content and style?