Finland Union of Churches Conference
Organised in 1909; reorganised in 1929, 1955, 1982, and 2014)
Address: Finland Union of Churches Conference, Ketarantie 4, E336820 Tampere, Finland
Email: [email protected]
The history of the church in Finland
Seventh-day Adventism came to Finland at a time where the people appeared to be ready to embrace new ideas. Towards the end of the nineteenth century the taboos of a monolithic religious culture were slowly breaking down. Finland’s two State Churches, the large Lutheran and the small Orthodox Church, began losing their control, and the way was opened for several new religious denominations to establish their work in Finland: notably Congregationalist Free Churches, Methodists, Baptists, the Salvation Army, and the Seventh-day Adventists, all of which started their work within a few years of each other.
Also, from a political and sociological viewpoint, Finland was in transition. Nationalism was on the rise. For centuries Finland had been a part of Sweden but, in 1809, the Tsar of Russia annexed the country, making it an autonomous part of his empire. Demands for independence were voiced for decades until it became a reality in 1917.
The first Seventh-day Adventist in Finland is likely to have been Fredrick Lundqvist, a sea captain who happened to purchase Uriah Smith’s Daniel and Revelation from a colporteur in Liverpool around 1885. While Captain Lundqvist’s newly-found faith may have aroused some interest in his home country, the time for an organised mission did not come until 1891, when at Lundqvist’s appeal both the General Conference and the Swedish Conference made plans for sending missionaries into Finland.
The first effort was a failure. In 1891 Emil Lind came to sell Swedish books in Finland. The idea in itself was good, as a fairly large part of the population spoke Swedish as their mother tongue. The problem was that an old law against German peddlers forbade house-to-house selling by foreigners. Furthermore any trade in books not printed in Finland was strictly limited. Threats of exile to Siberia made Lind rush back to Sweden within days of his arrival.
A co-ordinated mission was opened the following year. Olof Johnsson, the president of the Swedish Conference, came to Helsinki with two Bible instructors. The plan of action was to organise a home church with the help of personal invitations, tract distribution as well as house-to-house work. Within four months nine people were regularly worshipping with Olof Johnsson and his associates in the apartment they rented. In the spring of 1893 six men and six women were baptised. A notable feature of this pioneering evangelism is that the credit is largely due to the two ladies assisting Olof Johnsson, since Johnsson frequently had to return to Sweden and leave the work to his assistants, Augusta Larrson and Matilda Lindgren. In later years female evangelists played an exceptionally strong role in the growth of the Church.
From the beginning, Finnish Adventism placed heavy emphasis on literature work. The first Adventist book in the Finnish language was a translation of E J Waggoner’s Christ and His Righteousness printed early in 1893. The next year there were five literature evangelists. A further sign of progress can be seen in the founding of a church of twenty-three members in Helsinki in 1894, with others to follow in both the Swedish-speaking coastal areas as well as the Finnish-speaking central parts of the country.
It was not easy being a Finnish Seventh-day Adventist at this early stage of the Church’s development. At times the police harassed the meetings. Baptismal services especially were attacked by the authorities. If public beaches were used, the services were held at odd hours of the day.