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Swedish Lutheran church hosts 'techno Mass'

By Malin Rising
Associated Press / November 11, 2011

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STOCKHOLM—The blare of techno music throbbed through the streets of Stockholm as churchgoers lined up outside the Church of All Saints for a service far removed from quiet meditation.

Instead of praying silently and singing gentle hymns, the congregation inside raved to techno sounds in ultraviolet lighting at Friday's "techno Mass" -- more like a disco than a service conducted by the Lutheran church.

It is the church's latest attempt at attracting young congregations in a country where attendance at services has been dwindling for decades.

Olle Idestrom organized the Mass for the second time, and says the feedback has mainly been positive.

"There is already a hip hop Mass, there is a rock Mass and a jazz Mass," the 28-year-old priest said. "But it is mainly club music that we listen to and that we like dancing to, so it felt like a natural choice."

And it seems to work.

Unlike at traditional Sunday services where several pews regularly remain empty, Idestrom had to turn away worshippers at the first techno Mass in April.

There was extra seating Friday night at the church, which has a normal capacity of 400.

The service started with organ music and choir singing but soon broke into powerful techno beats to loud approving claps, shouts and cheers. People jumped up and danced at their seats.

Over the past 10 years, membership in the country's Lutheran church has fallen 13 percent and attendance at regular Sunday services plunged 50 percent to 4.6 million visits last year, worrying the clergy.

The church in Sweden has become increasingly progressive.

In 2009, it allowed its first female priests, and two years ago ordained its first openly gay bishop, Eva Brunne, and gave priests the right to wed same-sex couples.

Idestrom says his modern Mass is a further development on the road of progress.

"People say this is exactly what the Church of Sweden needs," he said. "We need to develop the services so that we have a service also for people, mainly from the younger generation, who like this kind of music."

But not everyone is happy about the development.

"There are more than enough entertainment halls in the city to cover all tastes. Let the church remain a place for quiet contact with spirituality," said Dan Kareliusson, a representative of the nationalist Sweden Democrats party.

(This version corrects that first techno Mass was in April.)

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