A piece of our Swedish cultural heritage is being hit by cuts. The Swedish Church is now closing at least five of its churches in Europe and 25% of its personnel must return. A 100-year old epoch is thus coming to an end. The selling of the Swedish Seamen’s Church in London is just one of many drastic proposals to save money by Skut, Svenska Kyrkan i Utlandet (Church of Sweden Abroad).

The background is that Skut is forced to save 4 and 13 million SEK ($581,379.08 and $1,889,248.24) respectively during 2011 and 2012. For sale are also the Swedish Churches in Liverpool and Gdynia (Poland). Next might be the Swedish Church in Hamburg, if it isn’t saved by the local Swedish Gustaf Adolf Parish.

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“The changes are big,” says Anders Bergkvist, Director of Skut. “We must look over our activities in Scandinavia and in Europe. 30% of our real estate abroad must be sold and 25% of our personnel abroad, hired in Sweden, must return.”

Swedish churches abroad are not just of religious significance, they carry on Swedish traditions as well.

“People get married in these churches and have their children baptized here. Many are both angry and sad, but we simply don’t have the resources to keep these churches going any more,” says Bergkvist.

The Swedish Church in Munich will be completely closed down, the Swedish pastor in Frankfurt will instead have to commute to Munich. Personnel in Copenhagen is also asked to return to Sweden, and the parish in Oslo has to carry all its own expenses. Next on the list of cuts is Spain, where on Gran Canaria the church room in Las Palmas will be vacant, though the church in San Agustin will remain. The isles of Mallorca and Tenerife may keep their churches, but on the Spanish mainland only the church in Torrevieja (near Murcia) will remain.

“It was as a state church, that the Swedish Church began its activities abroad,” explains Bergkvist. “It began with pastors following soldiers out in war or sailing with the crews abroad.”

Skut wants to keep the churches far away from Sweden open, mainly because if Swedes are in crisis there, it’s harder for them to quickly come home.

“In Thailand there’s one Swede dying every week, so we want to remain in Phuket. There are also many Swedes living in Shanghai, Beijing, and Hongkong so we have to be there,” says Bergkvist, who adds that Fort Lauderdale is another church that must be kept as 20 000 Swedes live in Florida permanently.