"The trouble with the church in Finland,” a Finnish Lutheran pastor told me, “is that everybody loves it and nobody goes there.” Some 85 percent of the 5.2 million Finns are disengaged from the church except for brief pit stops for baptism, confirmation, marriage and burial.
Rather than dwelling on how frozen the chosen are, however, Ollie Valtonen, 56, is impatient to go beyond diagnosis to remedies. He suggested that I join him for a Sunday evening experience of the Thomas Mass in a downtown church in Helsinki. It is a creative venture in liturgical evangelism for which I was altogether unprepared.
When we entered the vast nave of the Agricola Church (named for Mikael Agricola, the first Lutheran bishop of Finland), the sanctuary, which seats a thousand, was almost empty save for a handful of instrumentalists warming up.