Fifty years after Uppsala 1968, the pilgrimage continues

by Gunilla Ikponmwosa last modified 08 November 2018 04:53 PM
Fifty years after Uppsala 1968, the pilgrimage continues

Participants of a prayer service at Uppsala Cathedral during the Ecumenical Weekend light candles on the sculpture originally made for the WCC Assembly in 1968. Photo: Mikael Stjernberg/Christian Council of Sweden

08 November 2018

I was not yet born in 1968, but I have heard the stories: How the World Council of Churches (WCC) Assembly in Uppsala, Sweden changed the world church agenda and put focus on social justice and equality. To live and to practice the Gospel. To show the reality and embrace of the Incarnation.

My parents met in the ecumenical movement in the mid-60s; my father was a United Methodist and my mother came from the Mission Covenant Church in Sweden. Ecumenism was at our kitchen table and my parents taught me that it is more important to attend the nearest church where you could meet your everyday friends, than the particular label or tradition that church may have. Ecumenism is practical.

My father passed away before the Uniting Church in Sweden was formed in 2011. But he would have greeted it with joy. This church is old and yet new at the same time, as it was formed from the United Methodist Church in Sweden, the Baptist Union and the Mission Covenant Church. These old Swedish churches had been part of the grass root movement for more than 100 years, but took on a new form together to meet the new and renewed challenges for the world.

Our vision reads; The Uniting Church is a church for the fullness of Life, where the encounter with Jesus Christ transforms – me, you and the world.

The encounter that transforms. First myself, then my neighbor and eventually the whole world - all through Jesus Christ. And I think that is where my parents started their pilgrimage, to walk, work and pray together. They commit themselves to say “no” to fear of the unknown, and “yes” to willingly being transformed to be able to see the world through the eyes and work of Christ.

Neither of them were involved in the ecumenical movement in an official way, they did not travel all around the world and they did not know very many famous people. But they were loyal to the call from Uppsala 1968. To follow the Lord who said: “Behold I am making something new.” Their ecumenical movement and pilgrimage was practical and deeply rooted in the history and the diaconal call all around.

I am thankful for my personal legacy but the future of the ecumenical movement starts here and now, and it starts with me and you. It continues the pilgrimage for justice, peace, equality and freedom as we join in and still follow the call from Uppsala 1968.

In the Uniting Church in Sweden we are currently preparing for a climate fast during Lent 2019, we are working and planning on how to follow up on the #metoo call within our Swedish churches from last year, connecting it to the Thursdays in Black Campaign and other things. We still face challenges, but when we walk, work and pray together, we encourage one another - just like my parents – to be transformed by Jesus and to continue the pilgrimage together. Welcome to join in!


The impressions, hopes and ideas expressed in this blog are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.

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