Is there a gap between the Church and the people?: Interviews with parishioners and ministers in Stockholm

To describe and compare parishioners’ and minister’s 1) existential, spiritual and religious experiences, 2) expectations and conceptions regarding the Church and the ecclesial activities and 3) in theological terms reflect over these experiences and conceptions.
Method. A random, stratified, sample was constructed relating to parishioners and ministers in 24 parishes in the Stockholm bishopric, concerning men and women in the ages 25-65. The educational level of parishioners, was comparable to the average of Stockholm residents.
Results. Both parishioners and ministers described several existential and spiritual/religious experiences. It was not clear if there were any differences between the two groups concerning spiritual/religious experiences. Yet, their experiences were interpreted in different ways, inasmuch that ministers more often interpreted their experiences in confessional terms. Parishioners thought that religion could be expressed in many different ways. They considered the divine services to be too rigid and distant and wished that ministers should be on their own level and not set themselves above ordinary people. The ministers could be placed on an continuum from sender orientation to receiver orientation due to their expectations and conceptions regarding the Church and the ecclesial activities. Sender orientation means to primarily start with the Church statement of faith. Receiver orientation means, to primarily start with the parishioners from their own world-view where religion can be expressed in many different ways. The ministers presented in total 48% sender orientation descriptions and 52% receiver orientation. Comparable figures for the parishioners were 5% sender orientation and 95% receiver orientation.
Conclusions. There seems to be a tension between, on one hand the view of a Church with an aim to meet the existential and spiritual needs of the pa-rishioners, and on the other hand a Church with a primary mission to com-municate the Christian articles of faith. If half of the ministers have a direction in which parishioners have no interest and do not ask for, this might be a problem for the Church.

Author: Arborelius, Elisabeth

Source: Uppsala University Library

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