Our hope and our prayer

A young boy looks at panels of a pop-art exhibition at the Uppsala Assembly, 1968. Photo: WCC

50 years after the 1968 Uppsala Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Olle Alkholm, vice president of the Uniting Church in Sweden, shares a personal reflection, based on his only memory from that year. He first shared it speaking to participants in the Ecumenical Weekend, in Uppsala, November 2018.

The little boy comes home from his scout activities and finds his mother crying in the garden behind the house.

She is standing there together with a neighbour and the neighbour is also crying.

The mothers try to explain the situation for the boy-scout but the explanation is too hard to understand when the boy is hungry and ten years old.

It’s late summer in 1968 and the Warsaw pact has just invaded Czechoslovakia. That’s the reason for the tears in the garden.

The little boy gets a sandwich and a glass of milk and the boy is me. My only personal memory from 1968 is my mother crying in the garden.

Some of you remember a lot. Some of you were not yet born. Some come from other parts of the world. In 1968 you probably had other news than angry students in France, a demonstration in Sweden against the war in Vietnam and a big ecumenical gathering.

Most of the people in the world today have no relation to the invasion, or to Uppsala 68 or to Martin Luther King. At the same time history is connected to the future.

And the big arena is always in a way connected to the small world where a mother or a father is crying in the garden.

We are church and therefore we try to embrace both a political and a personal perspective. The living God is caring for justice and peace and at the same time, as we read in many churches in Sweden, this special day: God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

This is our hope and this is our prayer.

Read more about the commemoration of 50 years since the WCC Assembly in Uppsala, 1968:

A vibrant movement ready for tomorrow’s challenges (WCC press release of 4 November)

Unity, solidarity and hope at core of Ecumenical Weekend (WCC press release of 4 November)

About the author :

Olle Alkholm is vice president of the Uniting Church in Sweden.

(Photo: Peter Hoelstad)