From the Methodist Church Media Service:
Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims who were killed in the atrocity that happened in Norway over the weekend. Roy Crowder, Partnership Coordinator for Europe, has been in touch with the United Methodist Church in Norway, expressing our profound shock and deep sadness at what has happened.
Here is part of the message Roy Crowder sent to Tove Odland of the Norwegian Board of Global Ministries:
We pray for our friends in the United Methodist Church in Norway and for all those directly and indirectly affected by this merciless act. Indeed we hold all the people of Norway before our God of peace and love in the strong hope and conviction, through our faith in Jesus Christ, that hatred and violence will not prevail. I think particularly of the pastor’s daughter-in-law you mentioned who was injured in the bombing and of your son as he ministers to both the bereaved and surviving families through psychological treatment. May both of them have special strength. Methodists who are linked to us through the Prayer Handbook, both in Britain and around the world, will hold you in special mind on the 26th day of the month, next week, when we always remember our partners in the Northern Europe Central Conference.
Vidar Sten Bjerkseth, the District Superintendent of the United Methodist Church in Norway, expressed his thanks for support from the Methodist Church in Britain:
Thank you for your letter, and for your condolences and prayers! We very much appreciate the support and greetings we get from Methodist leaders all over the world.
This tragedy is unbelievable, and we pray that our Lord will bless and comfort the survivors and those that have lost one of their loved ones.
I just got a mail telling that one former scout in one of our churches is hurt, and that another one is missing. I also know about the daughter-in-law to one of our pastors that have been injured, and have talked with the pastor this afternoon. He will himself be leading a memorial service tomorrow in Oslo together with bishop Olsen.
Some of our churches have been open today, and I know that one of our pastors and one of our deacons are involved in counselling with the survivors and their parents. We have encouraged our churches to have a memorial service tomorrow.
Christian Alsted, Bishop of the United Methodist Church Northern Europe, Nordic and Baltic Area also responds:
Thank you for your concern and prayers. It is indeed a tragedy. Norway is a peace loving and very open people, and these terrible events have shaken the nation deeply.
It seems that in times of evil and of deep pain, God brings out the best in people, and we have seen profound expressions of love, help and care among people. People have flocked in the major churches lighting candles and praying, and numerous memorial services have been held across the country. In front of the cathedral in Oslo people have laid down flowers and created a sea of flowers and candles to express their grief. On Tuesday night a procession of flowers took place in all major cities and several hundred thousand people participated. On Tuesday at noon a one minute silence was held in all Nordic countries; a moving and strong expression of a country and brother-nations standing together.
Norway has responded with openness under the very wise leadership of PM Jens Stoltenberg and his majesty king Olav. They and other national leaders are again and again emphasizing the desire not to be naïve but to respond with openness and to protect our democratic values.
Methodist pastors have participated in the immediate crisis assistance, and some of our local churches are directly affected by this tragedy. I am proud about the way in which pastors and local churches are taking part in caring for the many people in need of comfort and help. Now remains the long term healing ministry among affected families, among friends, in schools and in the society as a whole.
What the impact of this national tragedy will be on the future in Norway, no one can tell, but there is no doubt that Friday 22nd July 2011 will mark a new perception on our reality. In a time like this it is good to experience that we are indeed a connectional church.
Please pray for our friends in the United Methodist Church in Norway and for all those directly and indirectly affected by this merciless act. Indeed we hold all the people of Norway before our God, looking for comfort and understanding.
Oh God whom we worship as creator and loving parent, we cannot comprehend the wilful slaughter of innocents that we see in Norway. We feel deep shock and profound sadness at the unimaginable tragedy which unfolds around Oslo. We cannot take in the terrible quantity of horror or the awful terror each child and adult must have endured. We feel the dreadful pit of emptiness as parents fear for and discover the death of children. We think of sisters, brothers, relatives, and friends. We sense the sublime relief for those who have found their loved ones alive and the even more desperate sadness for those who have not. We are haunted by the individual stories we have heard.
We pray for the people of Norway as they come to terms with the inexplicable events of the weekend, we are left speechless /or silent before such horror seeking to understand and aching with loss. Loving God be along side those who grieve.
Be near to those whose loss is unbearable
Be with those in power that they might have wisdom and care as they seek ways to respond.
We remember Jesus Christ hanging on the cross watched by despairing family and friends.
We seek to express our sympathy and condolence.
We remember Jesus Christ rising again in love and peace.
We seek to hold on to our faith, hope and conviction that, through Jesus Christ, hatred and violence will not prevail.
Oh God help us so to live our faith in you that others may find your fullness of life.
Who hates, hates thee; who loves becomes
Therein to thee allied;
All sweet accords of hearts and homes
In thee are multiplied.
Some facts about the Church in Norway
There are about 12,000 United Methodists in Norway. The church there is organised as an Annual Conference within the Nordic and Baltic Area of the Central Conference of Northern Europe. Pastoral leadership in Norway is given by the two district superintendents: Vidar S. Bjerkseth and Øyvind Helliessen. The overall leadership is vested in the Bishop of the Nordic and Baltic Area, Christian Alsted, who is based in Copenhagen. He is responsible for Annual Conferences also in: Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
Missionaries from the Methodist Episcopal Church in America established the church in Norway in the second half of the nineteenth century. They built on earlier renewal movements in the Lutheran Church. Indeed John Wesley’s famous letter to Wilberforce on slavery was written while staying in the Balham house of George Wolff, the Danish-Norwegian Consul in London and an active Methodist while living there. The later growth of the church coincided with mass migration from Scandinavian countries to America.
Though small the church is very active and open to the rest of the world, itself sponsoring mission work in Africa and Asia.