Pressed for Space
“We want to create more bonds between the different cultures within our church. The people were very happy and content. It’s been fun but a lot of work!”
Located within walking distance of Oslo City Hall—the place where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each year—the Bethel Seventh-day Adventist Church in the capital city of Norway is the oldest continuously occupied Seventh-day Adventist church in Europe.
“The Adventist work in Norway began through a Dane who was in America,” explains Pastor Reidar Olsen, current pastor of the Bethel Adventist Church. “John Gottlieb Matteson became an Adventist in the United States, and then came to Norway and Denmark. He spent some years here and established a church here in Oslo and in other places.”
“He bought this property—the church and the sanitarium next to it. Ellen White had a vision about this place, and she encouraged the purchase of the property.” Pastor Olsen points out that some years later, Ellen White visited the church and preached from the very pulpit that is still in use today.
Founded in 1879, the church is located in a historic building that once housed the Norwegian Seventh-day Adventist printing press, the Kurbadet (sanitarium), and a school. The press, once located in the basement of the building, started publishing in 1879, and the health work began on July 4, 1898, when a clinic was opened by two graduates of Battle Creek Sanitarium.
While the large Kurbadet is no longer operational, there continues to be a medical clinic in its place. The publishing house is continuing its ministry just south of Hønefoss, a town 63 kilometers (39 miles) northwest of Oslo, and has a thriving literature evangelism program with students from many countries participating each summer.
In addition to using print media, the Bethel Church in Oslo reaches out to the community in a number of other ways, such as radio broadcasting and cooking schools.
Pastor Olsen serves as the director of the church’s community radio station—Kanal 7 Oslo (FM 107.7). The station broadcasts across the city of Oslo and has at least 2,000 active listeners each day. In addition to broadcasting the Sabbath School program and church service each week, the station features Bible studies and other Bible programs, Christian music, testimonies, and a variety of programming produced by Hope Channel Norway. Each Friday, Pastor Olsen invites the listeners to attend services on Sabbath, and some have come to the Adventist church because of his radio invitation.
Linn Helene Stoelen, a professional dietician and active church member, leads out in the cooking schools held at Bethel.
“With the church board, we came up with a vision where people feel welcome and experience fellowship,” says Linn. “Then, as a church, we decided on five goals to reach this vision, and the vegetarian cooking course was one of them. We announced it in church, on Facebook, and at the medical office next door, so most people were from the church or their friends. When you do outreach what works best is when people invite their friends.
“We had a good mix of ages—young and older, and many nationalities,” she says. “We want to create more bonds between the different cultures within our church. The people were very happy and content. It’s been fun but a lot of work!”
More Space Needed
The Bethel church is vibrant and active, not only with native Norwegian members, but with numerous immigrants from Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa, and South-east Asia, whom the church has embraced as part of its family. The church is also home to several young people, many of whom are university students in Oslo.
Currently, the church is in need of more usable space. So “the plan is to renovate this very historic basement,” says Pastor Olsen. The “historic basement,” of course, is where the old printing press was once housed in 1879. Today, it’s in desperate need of repair and renovation.
“When we have communion service, we don’t have proper space for the foot washing,” Pastor Olsen continues. “We also really need a kitchen facility, and a place for social activities, prayer meetings, and a place for the young people,” Pastor Olsen continues. “They would like to have a kind of café for Saturday evenings and for use during the week. And we can have small group seminars there, too.”
Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help to renovate this historic basement into a multi-purpose center that will minister to the growing needs of this increasingly young and international congregation in Oslo.
“We’re happy that the world church is willing to support this church,” says Pastor Olsen. “And although we live in a country with a fairly good economy, we have many students who don’t earn much money, and we have many foreigners who are not yet able to be very economically supportive yet. And then we have many elderly members who aren’t able to contribute much, either.” Thank you for your generous support of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering!