Truth is, I spend very little time in church. And by very little, I mean I think I can count the number of times I have been in a church for a service in my lifetime on my two hands. This makes me a little uncomfortable making sweeping generalizations about the Swedish church. So I have decided to focus this more on individual strange things I have occasionally heard while either in a church in Sweden, or from a priest in Sweden.
This fall, I took a music and movement class at the local church with my LO. It was a nice little class where we sang lots of Swedish songs and did some silly dances. There was very little religion, the occasional mention of God, and that is about it. The class is led by the church's cantor – her responsibility is the church's music program. She has a lovely soprano voice which the kids seem to love.
One of our cantor's favorite themes is – surprise surprise – gender equality. It began innocently, but surprisingly, enough with the instructions that we should sing one of the psalms about God the Mother, instead of God the father. OK, I thought. Great. I have always wondered if gender equality & the church could work something out like this – so I was happy to sing about God the Mother.
Then Christmas rolled around, and last week she rolled out the Christmas songs. And, well, I was even more surprised when we sang a lovely song about the birth of Jesus in which verse number one had the line 'And Mary stood with God's son in her arms' and then we sang it again with 'And Mary stood with God's daughter in her arms.' I had to hold back a giggle, but I admit I did smile. And all of the women in the group (Because despite it's gender equality theme – fathers seem to avoid this class like the plague- even though they get generous paternity leave and are commonly at swimming classes, theatre classes, photo classes, etc.) we smiled at each other with a 'wow, look how progressive we are' glint in our eyes.
And then at the very end, our cantor/leader sat down at the piano and announced 'Now we will sing a song from Kalle Anka/Donald Duck' (this is the cartoon EVERYONE in Sweden watches at Christmas) 'Although I KNOW Donald Duck is a terrible example of gender roles, and it is a terrible thing to watch,' she continued. I laughed out loud, and every mother in the room wrinkled their nose. One Mom turned to us and whispered 'But what did Donald do? I don't get it?”