St. Peter and St. Sigfrid is situated close to the waterfront in the embassy district of Stockholm. It adjoins an old military cemetery, which means the church building is surrounded by lots of green space.
Of particular note are the two bee hives that have been installed at the bottom of the burial ground. I was told they generate an astonishing 100kg of honey per year. On the day we visited it was sunny and warm, and the bees were active: indeed one of the churchwardens was stung as we observed the busy bees! One of the benefits of installing the hives has been that a large area of ground round and about has been declared a pesticide-free zone, which just shows how a positive environmental impact can ripple out from one project.
The interior of the church is equally beautiful, with fine pews and attractive stained glass windows. Chaplain Nick Howe is initiating a project to see if the iconography in the church could better reflect what is now a diverse international community.
During my visit there was opportunity for a hybrid meeting with the church council. Covid regulations in Sweden are now quite relaxed by European standards and will relax further very soon. But about half the congregation still join services and indeed meetings by Zoom. We were able to have a good and helpful exchange – albeit that lunch for virtual attendees is never as satisfying as when physical and in person!
On one Sunday afternoon a month the building is used by a community of Luganda-speaking Bugandans. They are Anglican by background, and are ‘on the way’ to finding their place with us.
Jesus words in St. Luke’s gospel embody the ethos of St. Peter and St. Sigfrid. Longer standing members told me how they have seen the diversity of the community increase in recent decades.
The Reverend Nick Howe’s ministry is hugely appreciated by the community – as many people told me. Sustaining fellowship and witness during the covid epidemic has been hard, and council members paid tribute to Nick’s ability to create a spiritual home and to use technology skillfully to enable regular worship.
The flying angel weathervane is a distinctive feature of the church building. In the sunshine the golden angel sparkled.
In my sermon, for Michael and All Angels, I wondered if this flying angel had a name. Michael would be an appropriate name, given that Michael is the patron saint of soldiers and the church is surrounded by military graves.
Traditionally, Michael is the angel who accompanies Christians in death and who fights for the Christian community against darkness and evil.
Michael appears in Revelation Chapter 12 fighting against the dragon, who is the devil. The Book of Revelation is a key part of the New Testament, though it is often misunderstood. Revelation speaks of a triumph that is ultimately won in a costly way by Jesus, the lamb who was slain, and by those who are faithful and true witnesses to Jesus, even unto death. The angels and archangels accompany the saints, protecting them and fighting with them.
It occurred to me that the – recently relaunched! – Swedish pop group ‘Abba’ were feeling their way to some of these insights in their song ‘I believe in angels’: “….and when I know the time is right for me I’ll cross the stream. I have a dream…” The book of Revelation provides a much more full blooded version of the vision and hope that Abba seemed to be pointing towards, with its vivid depiction of the triumph of God and a final victory over the powers of darkness.
As we celebrate Michaelmas, may God send his holy angels to accompany us on our earthly pilgrimage and finally bring us safely to his heavenly kingdom.