Swedish, Anglican congregations ‘best friends’

Group photo inside St. Augustine of Canterbury
The Swedish Lutheran Church in Toronto and the congregation of St. Augustine of Canterbury gather for a picture after the Good Friday service.
 on April 29, 2024
Michael Hudson

Newcomers breathe new life into church

When the Rev. Megan Jull was ordained an Anglican priest, she never thought she’d be given informal permission to preach and preside at Swedish Lutheran worship services.

That’s one of the happy outcomes of a warm relationship that has developed between the Swedish Lutheran Church in Toronto and St. Augustine of Canterbury, an Anglican church on Bayview Avenue.

The Swedish church has been worshipping and carrying out ministry at St. Augustine’s since last October. During that time, the two congregations have drawn close together.

The Rev. Maria Scharffenberg hammers a nail into the cross during the Good Friday service.

During Lent and Holy Week, they celebrated Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday together. Earlier in the month, they welcomed Bishop Erik Eckerdal of the Church of Sweden. He was joined by Bishop Michael Pryse of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and Bishop Andrew Asbil of the Diocese of Toronto.

Bishop Eckerdal was visiting Swedish Lutheran congregations in North America. While here, he officially installed the Rev. Maria Scharffenberg as the pastor of the Swedish Lutheran Church in Toronto. In a sign of the strong bond between the Swedish Lutheran and Anglican churches, both Ms. Scharffenberg and Mrs. Jull were given informal permission to preach and preside at each other’s services.

The arrival of the Swedish congregation has breathed new life into St. Augustine’s, says Mrs. Jull. “It’s been a shot in the arm to our congregation. Instead of the church being empty on a Sunday afternoon, it’s full of another worshipping community. The building is being used and there are cars in the parking lot and the stained glass windows are lit up on Wednesday nights when the Swedish choir is rehearsing. The building was designed to do ministry, so having more of it happening here is good stewardship of our resources and honours the commitment and gift of the people who founded it.”

Ms. Scharffenberg says her congregation has been warmly welcomed by the Anglican congregation. “It’s been wonderful. We’ve become best friends.”

Ms. Scharffenberg and the Rev. Megan Jull.

Although the congregations worship separately on Sundays and speak different languages, they have much to gain by being together, she says. “We express ourselves differently, but we worship the same God and use the same bible. At our core we are the same, and I see that as a great strength.”

There are about 30 Swedish Lutheran congregations outside of Sweden. The one at St. Augustine’s is the only one in Canada, and has parishioners from as far away as Elora, Guelph and Huntsville. Its worship services, which are held at 4 p.m. on Sundays, are primarily said and sung in Swedish. In addition to worship and ministry, the church seeks to preserve the Swedish language and culture.

The two congregations have participated in a number of activities in the last six months. During the winter, they held a joint fundraising project, raising $10,000 to install a commercial dishwasher in the church’s kitchen. They held a Mardi Gras together and participated in a bilingual carol service. Ms. Scharffenberg also held a clericus meeting for Lutheran clergy in the GTA.

The churches plan to do more things together in the future, including shared worship services, community events and possibly faith formation study groups. “It’s been a really positive experience,” says Mrs. Jull.


Keep on reading

Skip to content