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10 March 2020 | Oslo, Norway [Victor Hulbert]  

The Adventist Church's call to evangelize Oslo is as strong today as it was in 1878.

Betel, the oldest continuously serving Adventist church in Europe, is reinventing itself to meet the needs of changing communities in downtown Oslo. Built in 1885, the double usage building once contained a thriving congregation, a printing press, and sanatorium.

The publishing and sanatorium are now gone and Adventist University students, residing in converted sanatorium accommodation, enjoy security and fellowship. Betel church itself, that once saw its congregation soar as high as 500, now has a little more than 100 in attendance.

So how to make a renewed impact in increasingly secularised Oslo?

Pastor David HavsteinPastor David Havstein. [Photos: Victor Hulbert/ADAMS]“People still have spiritual needs just like back in the early days of evangelist John Matteson,” states Senior Pastor David Havstein. Matteson found a highly receptive audience when he came to Norway in 1878. Havstein believes that there is still interest in the spiritual, but that people need to be approached in different ways.

“This church can be a light for Norway, something especially needed in November,” stated Norwegian Union President Victor Marley. Speaking during the Sabbath morning dedication service on 7 March, he noted that God meets people where they are. Quoting Romans 10:15 he stated that “Feet that bring Good News are always welcome.”

Pastor Victor Marley speaking during the Sabbath morning dedication servicePastor Victor Marley speaking during the Sabbath morning dedication service.Betel church now offers free classes for migrants to learn Norwegian, a cooking school, a Saturday night Mocktail bar, and a conversation café. These are just the start in what they hope will become a bigger programme over time.

Delfred and Hanna Onde are both students in the Norwegian classes and managers for the centre. Like Matteson, they are also committed missionaries, having served in Estonia and several other countries before being invited to Oslo. Their experience in helping establish a Centre of Influence in Tallin, Estonia is invaluable in helping bring new life to this old church.

Not that all the members are old. The youngest in the leadership team is Beth Martin, a sports science student at Oslo University. She is enthusiastic about the mocktail bar, serving non-alcoholic cocktails along with a wealth of board games, table tennis and activities – an attractive venue to a student population.

“You can see straight into the meeting rooms from the pavement outside. Passers-by saw what we were doing, asked to come in – and then wanted to know when the next event would be,” Beth stated. She believes it will become very popular.

Betel church congregationBetel church congregation.The same is true with the language school led by a high school teacher, Grethe Opsahl Deacon. It grows larger every week and is now running at capacity, in need of more volunteer teachers. The team are also encouraged by the cross-over from the language school to other programmes. After just a few weeks, two ladies are already coming to church as a good place for them to practice their Norwegian. Others are joining the international cooking classes.

Pastor Rolf Andvik is president of the East Norway Conference. He emphasised that the transformation is a local church project.

“It has to come from them,” he said. “We fully support, and we are equally grateful for Union, Division and General Conference support, but it is at the local level where the difference is made.

We could sell this facility,” he noted, recognising the severe challenges of parking in the downtown location. At the same time, he observes, it is a central Adventist presence in Norway’s capital city – and a city that has a strong environmental emphasis that fits in with Adventist philosophy. “There is a strong belief that this is the place we need to be, and the place where God can make a difference,” he said.

Beth Martin singingBeth Martin singing at the end of service.The dedication service took place just a couple of months after the Centre started functioning despite some still ongoing renovations. However, there is a strong belief that Betel, together with the two other churches in Oslo, has a place in making God known to the 675,000 population who live in the city.

“Greater things are still to come, greater things are still to be done, in the city,” just like Beth Martin sang at the close of the dedication service.

 


tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Deana Stojković, associate editor
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