CHURCHES - UNDERSTANDING WHY IT IS THE WAY IT IS (Mahima Khaling Rai)

The first time I went to church in Kristiansand, it was so much different experience than church sermons that I attended back home. The sermon was very different in terms of ways of doing worship, in terms of sharing gospel even though the message of the sermons was almost same. But the major difference I noticed were among members of the church. The majority of that church was elderly people and approximately 15 to 20 youths of around age 18-29.

The next Sunday evening, I got opportunity to go to one of the youth church in Kristiansand. And the church was completely different than the one that I had attended 1 week back. The worship was loud, people were singing and they were dancing and raising hands, the sermon was more focused among youths, the one sharing the sermon was also young, she did share the sermon in energetic way and most importantly, it was only church for youths.

 As an outsider and coming from a collective society, I am used with family churches and I did not like attending churches only with youths. But as I got opportunity to get dipper into Norwegian society (I would presume that I did get dipper into the society in 6 months), I understood why the Christian society in Norway has been giving importance to youth church.

Youth gathering in a church in Kristiansand.

Youth gathering in a church in Kristiansand.

According to the Constitution of State of Norway, 1814, Article 2, “The Evangelical Lutheran Religion shall remain the official religion of the State. Furthermore, in the same article, it stated that, “Inhabitants who profess the same shall be required to educate their children therein.” On 21st May 2012, the Norwegian Parliament made constitutional amendments to Article 2 of the Constitution. According to the amended article, it stated, “Our values will remain our Christian and humanist heritage. This Constitution shall ensure democracy, a state based on the rule of law and human rights.” This Constitutional amendment changed Norway from a Christian state to a secular state.

Christian students gathering in UiA, Kristiansand

Christian students gathering in UiA, Kristiansand

It is important to understand Article 2 before and after amendment of 2012 in order to understand the growth of youth churches in recent years in Norway. When the Constitution of 1814 prevailed, Norway being a Christian state, it was necessary for Norwegian parents to educate their children according to the Christian values and principles. For these reasons, religion was one important subject taught in schools. But because of many factors including the politics, “in 1998 the Norwegian primary school curriculum was changed, with two separate subjects – Christianity and philosophy of life – being replaced by a single subject covering Christianity, religion and philosophy, known as KRL. Under the 1998 Education Act, a pupil could be granted exemption only from those parts of KRL which the parents considered amounted to the practicing of another religion or adherence to another philosophy of life. The parents had to explain their view…”As Norwegian society became more modern, rich, development of science and technology, the issues of religion started to become less relevant.

In addition to these, the Constitution of state of Norway made amendment to Article 2, making it a secular state. Now, public places including schools and universities are secular. This has now made the relationship between churches and students weak. This being one of the issues, churches in Norway, has tried to make some changes in its liturgy in order to attract youths and at the same time, educate them on Christians values and principles from the foundation. This is why there are separate youth churches and family churches in Norway. This being one of the reason why there are many youth churches in Norway. Despite this, it has negative impact in long run, it has tendency to increase generation gap which is already prevalent in Norwegian society.