Our 6-year old will celebrate his school term close this afternoon. The ceremony (which is just the kids choir-singing, or at least that’s what I gather) will take place in the schoolyard and look a bit like this
instead of the nearby church and look like this.
Our children’s school always has the June closing ceremony in the schoolyard. However, many school closing ceremonies around Sweden still regularly take place in the local Swedish church.
The reasons are:
a. That’s the only place big enough to have the full school + parents/family
The Swedish school advisory stipulates that the ceremony, if held at the church, must be non-religious. However, from personal experience I know that this is a gray zone in a minefield.
Our school had a end of autumn term event at the local church. It was beautiful to observe the torch procession in the December darkness. The priest was the master of ceremonies and his “message” centered around Christmas via the Jesus-in-Bethlehem nativity story. We were all handed religious psalm books (technically that’s redundant as psalm books are religious by definition) so that we could join in for 3 psalms. I’m not the atheist in the family and I was aghast in disbelief.
I can’t see how a ceremony headed by a priest in a church could ever pass as non-religious. Though, of course if you stretch it and dissect it and pick it apart you could get away with it falling within the “non-religious” guidelines. There was no Eucharist given and no non-sung prayers (psalms aren’t technically prayers) and recounting the Jesus/Nativity story is like recounting a popular legend.
The atheist in the family, the Swede, wrote a very kind letter to the school pointing out that school ceremonies should not be religious-lite ceremonies. Gratefully, the school agreed.
After all. Our school’s normal summer close ceremony is in the schoolyard. And that’s where I am off to now. Swedish summer is rather glorious in and of itself. No religion required.
(though with the weather in Stockholm right now, it might end up looking like this)