Saturday, 4 December 2010

Holding hands in a warm grasp whatever the weather

Over the past year I have been on a steep learning curve about Norway, a country I have only visited once - though I did rather like it and celebrated my 40th birthday there under the midnight sun!

In one article I read some months ago about the Tromso outdoor winter film festival I came across the phrase "In Norway there is no such thing as bad weather just bad clothing".

I thought of this today as the World Council of Churches general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit, who is Norwegian, attended his first private audience with Pope Benedict XVI. Tveit and other colleagues at the WCC thought carefully about gifts for the Holy Father, in the end taking an inlaid wooden box from Syria as a reminder of deep concern for and solidarity with the people and Christian communities of the Middle East. Inside the box were some more personal gifts, a book of poetry by Olav H. Hauge which contains in Norwegian and English one of Tveit's favourite poems by Hauge "The Dream we Carry".

Rather more unusually one of the other gifts was a pair of Norwegian woollen gloves. Since coming into office at the WCC Tveit has tried to rehabilitate the meaning of winter, as a time for reflection and preparation. Communicators sometimes find this a bit difficult to deal with as there is also much talk of ecumenical winter. Tveit's clear message with the gloves was that however cold the actual or ecumenical weather there are always ways in which we can reach out to each other, support one another and walk hand in hand to carry forwards the work of unity and being one together.
I like the idea of this ecumenical reaching out to one another whatever the weather, a warm grasp across the divisions, inspired by epigramatic poetry: carrying the dream ... To advance Christian unity perhaps we all need to think not about how bad the weather is but how we can metaphorically clothe ourselves in such a away that we can still reach out in warmth to one another.

The photo is from the Osservatore Romano who have a further piece about the visit here.
And here's a link to the transcript of Vatican radio's interview with Tveit, in German.