7 July 2023

For a long time Finland was a blank spot on the New Apostolic map, until an Apostle remembered his childhood dream. This weekend, the Finnish brothers and sisters are excited to have the Chief Apostle visit them.

Spirits and gods, myths and sorcerers… For centuries, the people in Finland believed in mythology. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries then, the Christian faith was brought to Finland from Sweden and took hold gradually. The city of Turku was the centre of Christianisation, which was formally completed in 1276. Turku, the former capital of Finland and the country’s oldest city, also played a role in the development of the written form of the Finnish language: around 1548, Bishop Mikael Agricola of Turku translated the Bible, laying the foundation for the written language. And Turku was also the city where the first New Apostolic congregation was founded in 1980.

From childhood dream to missionary assignment

The midnight sun, the many lakes, and the vast forests—Apostle Günter Knobloch from Germany had already dreamed of Finland in his childhood. And so at some point he spoke to his District Apostle Karl Weinmann, asking if he could go there.

Finland was still a blank spot on the New Apostolic map then and District Apostle Weinmann was responsible for it. So he sent Apostle Knobloch and District Elder Andrich to Finland in the summer of 1975. All of a sudden the ministers seemed to be called to Finland. District Apostle Weinmann suddenly received letters with addresses of Finns who seemed to have shown an interest in the New Apostolic Church. For example, there was a Finnish student in Germany who had become New Apostolic and now asked if a minister could visit her family in Finland.

The two men pounded the pavement looking for their contacts. Sometimes they received a friendly welcome and were treated to stimulating conversations, sometimes the door was slammed in their faces. But they refused to be deterred, not even by the language, which they diligently learned from a woman who had come from Finland and had become New Apostolic in Germany.

The seed germinated

On 7 September 1975, the first New Apostolic church service took place in Helsinki. Tuula Miettinen, a Finnish student with a New Apostolic boyfriend from Germany, was the first Finnish woman to be adopted. Apostle Knobloch sealed Tuula on 26 September 1976 in Turku.

In the late 1980s, Evangelist Helmuth Kornblum moved from Hamburg to Turku with his family. His District Apostle had asked him to look after the New Apostolic members in Finland from there.

From Africa to Finland

Finland’s more than five million inhabitants live mainly in the cities in the south of the country, otherwise the vast country is rather sparsely populated and offers a habitat for numerous wild animals. About 86 per cent of Finland’s land area is covered by forests, making it the most forested country in Europe.

In recent years, Finland has also taken in many refugees who have had to flee their homelands for a variety of reasons. Since the attack on Ukraine, it has mainly been Ukrainians wanting to escape the war, as well as Russians. For many years, beginning in the 1990s, it was people from Somalia who were seeking asylum in the country. In 2022 they still accounted for fourth place in the immigration statistics. Many people also came from other countries such as Nigeria, Morocco, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya.

The New Apostolic congregations benefit: “Until today, around two hundred brothers and sisters from various countries in Africa have come to Finland over time as refugees and found a new home here,” reports Thorsten Beutz, the Bishop responsible for Finland. “New congregations were established in recent years thanks to this growth. Besides the long-established congregation of Turku, which has a beautiful church, there are now other congregations in Klaukkala, Jyväskylä, Mikkeli, Vaasa, and Nykarleby.”

Looking forward to the Chief Apostle

The Bishop is particularly pleased about two Priests who support him and Apostle David Heynes in the country. Further priestly support comes from Denmark and Norway.

Now the Finnish members are looking forward to the visit of the Chief Apostle. Bishop Thorsten Beutz relates: “There has been a lot of excitement and choir members from various congregations have been practising for the divine service of our Chief Apostle for several months. There is a great deal of anticipation everywhere and people are covering long distances to be able to participate.”