Norwegian Quakers mark bicentenary

Friends are celebrating 200 years of continued Quaker presence in Norway

Visting Friends from other worship groups at the Stavanger Meeting House. | Photo: Photo: Hans Eirik Aarek.

Norwegian Quakers gathered in Stavanger last week for their Yearly Meeting. This year’s event was special, with Friends celebrating 200 years of continued Quaker presence in Norway.

While the first Quaker visits to Norway are believed to have taken place in 1657 or 1658, Quakerism really took root there when freed Napoleonic war prisoners returned from London in 1814.

The prisoners, twenty of whom returned, had been imprisoned in ships along the Thames for some time. During their incarceration, they were befriended by English Quakers. Once home in Norway, they began silent Meetings for Worship in Stavanger and Oslo (then known as Christiania).

There are around 150 Quakers in Norway today. Fifty-five of them, including children, attended the Yearly Meeting. This year’s theme was ‘Living according to conscience’. Rwandan Friend David Bucura spoke of his experiences of peacebuilding and reconciliation in Central Africa. Hans Eirik Aarek told participants about Norwegian Friends’ experience of living according to their consciences through 200 years.

Those attending also took a tour of the Quaker graveyard in Stavanger and several historical Quaker buildings. The Meeting closed with a short period of worship in the premises of Stavanger Monthly Meeting.

British Friends told the Meeting about Quaker Quest – there are plans to introduce it to Norway. The business session saw Norwegian Friends change their organisation’s name from ‘Vennenes Samfunn Kvekerne’ to ‘Kvekersamfunnet, The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Norway’. They plan to examine and renew some of the functions of the Society.

Further bicentenary celebrations will include an international research seminar in September at Stavanger University. The theme will be ‘Freedom of belief – intellectual freedom – freedom of conscience: Quakers as a part of the democracy discourse through 200 years’.

This year is also the bicentenary of the Norwegian Constitution, and the seminar will look at the development of religious freedom in Norway in the years since.

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