The vast extent of this area makes for highly diverse living conditions. Furthest up in the north, where mining is the prime industry, the population lives right next to the last wilds of Europe. Along the coast there are towns with large industries, good communications, colleges and universities.
The diocese came into being in 1904 and since then, its population has doubled. In those days, most people lived in the country and made a living from farming and forestry. Now most of the population lives in the larger towns. The Swedish Church in Luleå diocese displays a diversity that is unique in Sweden. Harsh living conditions, humble respect for nature, and the meeting of the Swedish, Finnish and Sami cultures are factors that have influenced and formed the people in the diocese and the work of the church here.
Two major revivalist movements have their origins in this diocese. Lars Levi Laestadius, priest and temperance protagonist from Tornedalen, started Laestadianism which is the largest revivalist movement to have ever taken place in Scandinavia. The preacher Carl-Olof Rosenius gathered the revivalist people of Västerbotten and southern Norrbotten and started EFS, Evangeliska Fosterlandsstiftelsen (approx. the Native Country’s Evangelical Foundation). Today, both of these revivalist movements are thriving parts of the diocese’s church life.
The parishes form the foundation
The work of the diocese takes place in close collaboration with the parishes. The diocese’s role is to give support to the parishes so they can take on work which they would not have enough resources to accomplish themselves. Together the diocese and parish can take on challenges and find new solutions. Together they administer the calling to elucidate the will of God in the world.
The church is continually looking for new ways of reaching out to people. The diocese wants to inspire and stimulate more profound and diverse work in all aspects of parish work: church services, missions, children and young people, confirmation groups, adults, families, pastoral cure, music, staff welfare, refugee and immigrant issues, international matters, information etc.
Faith put into practical action
Lay welfare work involves the serving and caring of people in all situations in life. Lay welfare work is the Christian faith put into practical action. It has a long history in Luleå diocese. The pioneers who were known as “the deacons of the wilds” paved the way for the lay welfare work of today. The diocese strives to be “one step ahead”, to see new needs and notice changes in society.
A diocese with many languages
There are several minority languages spoken in Luleå diocese. A large part of the population has either Meänkieli or Finnish as its mother tongue. Here there are also native Sami people. The diocese does work in Finnish, Meänkieli and Sami.
The parishes of the Swedish church also work with the deaf, the deaf and blind, and other sign language users. It is important that the members of language minorities can participate in the life and work of the church. Members of the church are to be able to attend church services in their own language and as an integrated part of their own culture.
Education and training programmes
Luleå diocese organises courses and training programmes for employees, volunteer workers and elected representatives. The type of course offered depends on the needs and requests of the parishes. The diocese shares some of the responsibility of the vocational training of deacons, musicians, priests and parish pedagogues. Students receive support from the diocese during their training.
Stiftsgården (the Diocese House) and Pastoral Cure Centre
Stiftsgården (the Diocese House) is located in Skellefteå. It is a modern conference centre which can accommodate a large number of guests. The chapel there gives guests the possibility to reflect and perform devotions. Stiftsgården also accommodates Luleå diocese’s Pastoral Cure Centre. This facility is for diocese staff and offers e.g. retreats, recreational days and individual pastoral cure.
Folk high-schools and college of music
There are two folk high-schools which have Luleå diocese as their responsible authority: Edelvik’s college in Burträsk and the college in Älvsby. Luleå diocese is also the responsible authority of Strömbäck’s folk high-school outside Umeå, together with EFS (the evangelical revivalist church -see above) and the ecclesiastical association in Umeå. There is a college of music in Piteå where, among others, church organists are trained. Umeå University has a science of religion department.
The diocese’s organisation
The main purpose of the diocese is to support the parishes in their primary tasks: church services, teaching, lay welfare work and missions. The diocese also has a supervisory and administrative role. The highest decision-making body is the diocese council which consists of 67 members who are elected every fourth year at the church council election. The diocese council’s task is to take decisions on budget and plans of operation and to allocate resources to the activities that the diocese is to carry out. It also takes decisions on the regional portion of the church fees – the membership fee that all members of the Swedish Church pay via their tax statements. The diocese council appoints the diocese committee, the estate board and elects four members to the cathedral chapter. The diocese committee coordinates the operations of the diocese: budget, staff issues and the distribution of diocese and church building funds. The diocese also ensures that there are resources to support parish work at, for instance, hospitals and prison establishments. The cathedral charter ensures that the parishes adhere to the order of the Swedish Church.The cathedral charter also monitors how priests and deacons carry out their tasks and conform to their ordainment vows. The estate board has two main tasks, partly the supervision of church land, partly the management of forestry on the land that the diocese administers. The proceeds from the forestry are shared by the parishes and the diocese. The Swedish Church has about 60 000 hectares of land and forest in Luleå diocese. The church owns about 0.6 % of the productive forest land which means that the church is a relatively big landowner.
Rich cultural heritage
The many church buildings in Sweden constitute the largest coherent part of our cultural heritage. The Swedish Church bears the responsibility of ensuring that culture-historical values are cared for and maintained. Because part of the church fees is ear-marked for church-antiquarian purposes, all members of the Swedish church contribute to the upkeep of these cultural heritage objects. Luleå diocese has 57 parishes which are divided into eight deaneries. Because of demographic changes, small parishes are sometimes merged so they can keep up good quality work.
Cooperation over borders
Approximately half of Luleå diocese is situated in the Arctic area, bordering on both Norway and Finland. Russia is not far away. The diocese has close contact with the Orthodox Church on the Kola Peninsula and is very involved in ecclesiastical collaboration within the Barents region.
The long distances in this part of Sweden are the reason why there are unique ”church villages” in many places in the diocese. Here, people used to gather in the olden days to trade, socialize and attend church. The largest church village is located around the medieval church of Gammelstad. The church cottages are still in use.