2005 Sigtuna

The conference in Sigtuna was held at Sigtunastiftelsen.

Initially, Bishop Ragnar Persenius, Bishop of the hosting Lutheran Diocese of Uppsala made this address to the audience:

Spirituality transcending the Secular and the Sacred

Dear sisters and brothers!

It is a great honour and joy to have the opportunity of greeting you all at the opening of the tenth European Conference for Pastoral Care and Counselling.
As diocesan bishop of Uppsala I represent the Church of Sweden but I hope also the wider ecumenical context in our country.
The challenges before us, the needs we meet, and the divine vocation which calls us to service unites us all. From my perspective I think that you have chosen a central theme focusing spirituality from the perspective of the secular and the sacred. If you analyze how movements of renewal emerge within Christian and other faith communities you very soon will notice that one fundamental element is the rediscovery of the holy and holiness in creation. And renewal lives out of spirituality. When you convene with such a theme as you do this for me both is a sign of our times and central in itself.

During the first part of the 70’s I became a minister of our church having been taught a method of pastoral care and counselling which was characterized by mirroring the client. Guidance was to be avoided. We were struggling with our authoritative if not authoritarian history. We had reason to put all emphasis on listening instead of speaking. This was also possible because so many people had knowledge and experience of faith from their homes and schools.
Now the situation is radically different in many aspects. We are living in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnical and multi-religious society. Pluralism and individualism rule. Knowledge and experiences of faith have diminished. This is one dimension of secularization. On the other hand there is a new openness when people encounter us without previous prejudices towards the spiritual dimension of life.
In this situation we have to meet the needs of people with an openness marked by sharing the spiritual wells but also listening to the longing, seeking fellow human being coming with spiritual experiences as being created in the image of God and acting as such. Taking this view of the human being it becomes important to avoid the dividing of the world into secular and sacred. The holy and sacred is present where God acts according to the will of God. So we can find traces of God in creation. And faith contributes with a deepening and enlarging of the sacred area.

The spiritual wells sanctify the earthly means. So with a living spirituality in our so called secular society we are able to realize that God is present and acts in every part of human society, often hidden but still there, and how our task is to relate the secular and the sacred. Relations marked by dialogue and spiritual growth then become essential not only in pastoral care and counselling but in a broader sense in the life of individuals, churches and other faith communities.

With these reflections I conclude my introductory speech and wish you a conference marked by dialogue, mutual enrichment and spiritual growth.

The Blessing of God be with you all!