A Norway Parish Gives Me Hope

On Friday I drive three hours from Lake District to Lindisfarne in order to talk to a group of Presbyterian theological students from Mississippi. I pull up weeds, wash sheets and prepare beds since friends occupied the house while I was away and Tom Martin Berntsen stays here over the week-end. Tom Martin is senior pastor in a Church of Norway parish near Kristiansand. He brings with him his leadership team: Jostein the pastor for families, Orjan the pastor for young people, Erling the catechist and Geir Ivar the organist. They are dispersed in three houses, have breakfast at The Open Gate, and I share one meeting with the group, individual sessions with two, and two hotel meals.

They cheer me and make me come alive. Why? Because they run and laugh and enjoy the outdoors. They are the best of friends across the age range. They do not pretend to be what they are not. They love God and seek fresh expressions of Jesus’ Way in a fast-changing society. And they ask me useful questions: How did you get a vision and how did it become a reality? Can I have visions? How? If Christendom is coming to an end, and churches no longer have the power of this world, what can we learn from desert fathers and Celtic Christians about ‘dying’ to all that and experiencing Jesus in simplicity and vulnerability? Oh, and - Can we watch the European Champions League Football Final on your TV?

Tom Martin, who was the first leader of our Community in Norway, shares his personal Way of Life with me. He has it on his smart phone. Twice each year he dedicates a season to engage with the seven deadly sins and how to grow their opposite virtues. Tom Martin buys a book from The Open Gate about Martin of Tours. He tells me Martin Luther was born on his feast day and was named after him. Many people plan events to mark the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Reformation in 2017. Could study days and retreats about Martin of Tours be part of this? . The dynamic Coptic Bishop Thomas is a close advisor and friend. Should we invite him to UK?

Erling told me he ran three times round the white pillar erected by Trinity Lighthouse on the beach where the Vikings landed. Why? I asked. 'In honour of the Trinity' he replied. Josten is becoming a noted author of imaginative books. His first book imagined what went in each person who is mentioned in the Gospel accounts of Bethlehem. His second book imagines what happened to forty people mentioned in the resurrection accounts. I told him that our vision is that many Bethlehems and many Places of Resurrection will sprout up. Where next?

Posted at 03:43am on 2nd June 2016
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