Why does a person become a pastor? What does the title pastor embody? And what if you are a pastor and you discover something about yourself that you must tell not only your friends and family, but your congregation as well? How does that affect your faith in God? Meet Ann-Katrin Bosbach and Lena Brolin.
A month or so ago, we spoke with Kajsa Öhlmér—the new Senior pastor at the Swedish Church in New York City—and she, in turn, told us about an interesting couple, Ann-Katrin Bosbach and Lena Brolin. They were going to pass through New York on their way to São Paulo, Brazil, where they've accepted the call as the new pastor and assistant of the Swedish Church.
“You should meet them,” Kajsa told us. So a meeting was set up. We spoke and began by discussing faith and how they both became involved with the Swedish Church in the first place.
“My youth in Kyrkans Ungdom* meant a lot to me, it helped me understand God, and it helped me understand democracy,” says Ann-Katrin, who is originally from Bollnäs. “I felt needed there. I felt that I was seen and heard.”
Lena, too, speaks of the importance of Kyrkans Ungdom. They both come from families who were lukewarm at best when it came to religious life.
“My family wasn’t religious, not more than most Swedes, we went to the julotta for Christmas, that was about it,” says Lena, who comes from Uppsala.
“We didn’t even do that,” counters Ann-Katrin.
Yet, both of them found a refuge in the church early on.
“Imagine,” says Lena, “you are 14 years old, and there are older teenagers who invite you to come join them in church. These people are older than you are—they are cool! And they made believing in God cool. It was wonderful to hang with people who didn’t judge you but accepted you as you are. It was at that tender age right at confirmation.”
“That’s a transitional time,” says Ann-Katrin, “a time when you ask yourself questions like: ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Is there anything more than me? Am I worthy to be loved?’ and those were questions you couldn’t ask at home.”
You could at the church. And it was through church that Lena and Ann-Katrin got to know each other when they were about 16 years old. Lena went on to study theology, but found it difficult, feeling it was not for her. She also met a man with whom she had two children, Hanna and Filip who are 20 and 18 years old today.
“For many years I was fighting becoming a pastor,” explains Lena. “‘Am I supposed to be a pastor?’ was a question I was struggling with. When I finally told a friend, she sort of snickered and said I was the last person to read the writing on the wall!”
She gave theology a second chance, and was ordained in June 2000. Ann-Katrin says she struggled with the same questions, and she was ordained 18 years ago.
“Being a pastor is a challenge, you are part of the greatest events in people’s lives, their greatest joys and their greatest sorrows,” Ann-Katrin says.
“Not one day is like the other,” says Lena. “As a pastor I have to use all of my abilities: I have to sing in musicals, I have to be strategic, I have to think financially and I have to sit down with elderly people and talk about aging—there’s an enormous width in the work. But it’s important, too, that you don’t take work home with you. There must be days off. And when I have days off, I like to do some gardening, I read a lot and we both like to travel.”
They fell in love with each other long after they were ordained, long after they found God.
“It came as a surprise,” says Ann-Katrin. “I thought, 'What does this mean? What will happen now?' The discovery that I was homosexual carried matters to an extreme.”
They waited an entire year before they told people, because as Ann-Katrin says, “We were not unknown in religious circles in Uppsala.” But when they finally did, they encountered mostly positive reactions. And ever since they came out, they’ve never tried to hide who and what they are.
“We’ve been fortunate in that we’ve never had to fight for our rights or defend our living together,” says Lena. “Even though older people had a hard time saying ‘Where’s your wife?’ at first, now it’s just natural that we’re a team. My children knew Ann-Katrin from before and for them it was also fine—they were 8 and 10 years old at the time.”
They both agree that their faith got stronger during this time.
When asked about the current situation in Sweden, they each say they are worried about the fact that Sweden Democrats are now a part of the Swedish parliament.
“It’s frightening,” says Ann-Katrin.
Lena agrees: “It makes you wonder what it all means. I don’t understand it. Let’s just hope it leads to something positive.”
Brazil is next for the couple. It’s quite an undertaking. There are 1400 people at the Swedish Church in São Paulo— that’s a lot of people. And Lena and Ann-Katrin are alone.
“Now we are at the mercy of each other!”
But the Scandinavian people in São Paulo are grateful and happy they are finally coming and ready to begin work.
“This Sunday will mark our first real service and then in October Bishop Lennart Koskinen will come to properly install me, and after that we will travel around a bit.”
For more information:
Swedish Church – Igreja da Suecia
Rua Job Lane 1030, Jardim
Petrópolis, Santo Amaro, CEP 04639-001
São Paulo Tel +55-11-568 788 29
Fax +55-11-552 133 56.
*Kyrkans Ungdom is an organization within the Swedish Church for young people ages 13 and older.