For four years I have arranged international seminars in Voss, led by David Karchere from Sunrise Ranch in Colorado, a center for holistic learning and sustainable living. “Practical Spirituality” was about finding and using your inner strength and creativity to be a co-creator in the life-process. “Whole Person—Whole World” had a focus on health, inspiration, creativity and holistic living, inspiration for sustainable life for human beings and society.
“Becoming a Sun” was based on David Karchere’s book with the same title, which he has worked on for many years and that will now be published in a few months. “The world needs your warmth, your light and your strength,” he writes. “You carry this within you. It is all there. But most people have to rediscover it, this primal spirituality one was born with.”
The seminar this year, “Find Your Inner Strength,” was divided into three parts. The first was an evening presentation on “emotional healing and processes for a healthy and joyful life,” then a day of healing chant, a way to use one’s voice to reach life-giving power. The last part was a “pilgrim-walk” in nature, which was mainly led by me.
Ruth Buckingham and Phil Richardson, who live in Cape Town, South Africa, but also work with Sunrise Ranch, have been co-workers with these seminars each year. In 2013 Anne-Lise Bure also participated. She is the director of Novalis Ubuntu Institute for creative development for young people in Cape Town. She is of Norwegian heritage and she has some joint ventures with Scandinavia.
In addition to these seminars, which have been in English, I have for ten years helped arrange lectures and seminars for Voss Church Academy. Some of these have been about creativity and community development; with an industrial manager turned nature-activist, a professor doing research on sustainable living, a program on the medieval visionary Hildegard of Bingen, (a medical doctor, musician and spiritual guide), and our bishop speaking about having a “folk church.”
Thoughts about a Voss seminar 2017 will also focus on inner strength but more specifically on the power of spirituality, which is so undernourished in Europe, while people come from other continents and bring a strong spirit of their culture and values. In Norway we have recently separated church and state. With Christianity so integrated with our cultural heritage, it is not an easy separation. Instead of all Norwegians being registered in the church at birth, we now have a choice and many choose not to be members. The language and dogma of the church seem distant from people’s actual life experience. The term “folk church” is seen as a solution to current challenges. How can we find the inner strength, the spiritual power, of our cultural heritage? Some look to the Celtic spiritual traditions, more related to “the grassroots,” which also influenced Norway long ago.
When the Ole Bull Folk Music Academy was established in Voss, some worried that it would be the death of our folk music—that it would lose its living expression and become an institutionalized form of music. But the academy searched for the roots in our traditions, and used masters in folk music who knew the old ways. This way the richness of old traditions have become more visible and provided a foundation for new creativity and further development. They went back to the roots while they also made room for individual expression and inspiration. A folk culture must come from the heart of the people.
How does this relate to a “folk church?” This question was posed to Our Minister of Culture and this was his answer: “As a Christian, are you worried about the fact that Christianity is losing its place in Norway?” Her answer was no. “I don’t think we will have less faith in our country. For one thing because we are challenged by our new multi-culture society. But I do notice that both baptisms and church weddings are declining. The only stable thing is the statistics of funerals. That is thought provoking for the church. It must find ways to make itself relevant for people.”
Director of the Norwegian Church Council, Kristin Gunleiksrud Raaum, says it this way: “The increase we have of religious dialogues makes our identity stronger and the competitions from other faiths sharpen our senses. So even if fewer people belong to the Norwegian Church, I am not worried about the future. The church is heritage and tradition, and we just have to find ways to open the gospel so that it can be received by people of today.”
As many are now saying, the Bible needs to be interpreted for our time, with a language that can direct and stimulate human life. We need to look at our Christian heritage in new ways. As a dialogue-pastor says, “It is possible to create a more open church where we take people’s experience and world view seriously.”
“I think the fact that we are so closed to religious experience is one of the biggest problems of our time,” says philosopher Henrik Syse. It is said that Norwegians find it difficult to talk about their faith, about God and religion. But perhaps it is because the most important thing for us is the contact with the life-spirit, more than learning theories about it. And many have expressed the concern that the language of the church is distant from people’s actual life-experience. We find peace in the wilderness and we have increasingly responded to a market-place of new spiritual experiences offered today.
“Faith has gone from being a theme for a few interested to being a discussion everywhere now,” says the leader of the Inter-faith Council. I have gotten to know people who take this seriously and who work earnestly to bring our spiritual heritage into our life today. A seminar in Voss next spring with several of them is likely to be an engaging, interactive conference that furthers our collective vision and deepens our shared spiritual experience. “The culture in our Western Civilization has cut across that primal bond in many ways,” says David Karchere, “cut across the foundational connection we have with our own power. The source of our own Being.…we need to do something to reclaim our primal bond with the creative source within us.”
Kari Bye is a designer, writer, and cultural educator living in Voss, Norway. She provides events and programs bringing forth the creative spirit and the inner power which lies within all human beings. In English and Norwegian she writes about culture, our spiritual heritage, and creative and sustainable development.