The Roots and Development of the Laestadian Movement in Finland

A Lecture Series by Dr. Pekka Raittila

Dr. Pekka Raittila lectured at the Pastor's Seminar October l8 and 19, l982, at Inter-Lutheran Theological Seminary. Dr. Pekka Raittila is a professor in the Theological Seminary at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, the state church of Finland. Pastor Elmer Yliniemi translated these lectures at the Seminar. Melvin F. Salo prepared this manuscript from cassette tapes of the lectures and it was subsequently converted to this web page.

Copyright 1987 by Inter-Lutheran Theological Seminary 11015 County Road 15 Minneapolis, Minnesota 55441 612-546-3332. All rights reserved.

  1. Introduction and Overview
  2. Relationship of the Laestadians to the Lutheran Church of Finland
  3. Laestadians to the Present
  4. Missionary Work
  5. Organization of Laestadians
  6. The Training of Ministers
  7. Conclusions: Observations of Pekka Raittila Regarding the American Laestadian Scene

Conclusions: Observations of Pekka Raittila Regarding the American Laestadian Scene

Laestadians of a generation ago could not have visualized the changes that have taken place in Laestadian services and the formality that has crept into Laestadian churches in America and specifically, as he observed it, into the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America (the Federation) in Minneapolis. Much in contrast to the Minneapolis church was the informal and simple worship service he observed in Hockinson, Washington. The service there was even more informal and simple than services in Finland in Laestadian meeting houses. Perhaps unconsciously it was a protest against the changes that have crept into the worship service of most Laestadian churches. Perhaps this accounts for the two streams of congregations in the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America (the Federation) with one outside the regular stream of congregations of the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America. The Hockinson Church evidenced one direction and the churches in Minneapolis and Hancock another. These churches appeared to be churches of great vitality. The same type of tension appears to exist between the First Apostolic Lutheran Church (the Heidemann group) in America and the SRK in Finland. Perhaps the Heidemann group in America seems to emphasize the informality and simplicity of the original Laestadians more so than the SRK of Finland. We cannot compare the SRK to the Seminary Pastors' group of the SRK in Finland. The Seminary Pastors' group strives to serve the present society.

In the future many problems will arise as they've arisen in the past for Laestadian Lutheran congregations in America because of their Finnish Laestadian heritage. The use of the Finnish language in worship service is one example. This will cause problems in any congregation in the next ten years. Many congregations retained the Finnish language in their worship service much too long to their detriment. Whether the congregation is serving a congregation predominately of Finnish Laestadian origin or a congregation of several cultures or language backgrounds yet it is difficult if not impossible for those of Finnish Laestadian origin to ignore their powerful Laestadian heritage and they do not wish to do so for the spiritual and even temporal blessings that this inheritance has showered on people of Finnish Laestadian background. I will be happy if I've been able to draw your attention to the Finnish Laestadian heritage that is so powerful in your midst. Understanding your heritage may help provide you with insights to solving problems that may face you. Yet in the context of love and in the guidance of the Holy Spirit congregations here will want to and need to discern carefully what aspects of their Finnish Laestadian heritage they will wish and need to retain for their spiritual existence and well being, and what aspects of that heritage they will need to leave behind for they may have outlived their usefulness properly for the present, and what aspects of their Finnish Laestadian heritage they wish to amend to serve more effectively those persons they are now serving and those persons they hope to serve.

Professor Pekka Raittila, lecturer. of the Theological Seminary of the University of Helsinki, Finland

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