BY Merja Hottinen
The vast majority of the Finns (76.4%) belong to the Evangelical-Lutheran Church. The figure has been falling year after year, but it is not as low as the result of an opinion poll conducted by the Church Research Institute in 2012, according to which only 27% of the respondents said they believed in the Christian God. Yet Finnish attitudes to Church traditions are favourable, and as many as 84% of the poll respondents felt it was right to sing the traditional Christian Suvivirsi summer hymn at the end of the school year in June.
Judging from these findings, Finns support the Church and Christian traditions rather than looking to the Church for a personal relationship with God. Singing hymns, a church wedding or holy baptism place the individual in line with a long tradition that is felt to be sacred and that provides consolation and continuity in times of need.
Any live performance, with its own specific rituals, is an opportunity for seeking communion, be it an ecstatic heavy gig or a conventional orchestral concert.
But what about the personal experience of holiness? One medium for this in today’s secularised society is music, as a means of both channelling holiness and of experiencing transcendence, something above and beyond the profane. Any live performance, with its own specific rituals, is an opportunity for seeking communion, be it an ecstatic heavy gig or a conventional orchestral concert.
People come more often to church for a concert than for a church service. The experience of spirituality is not bound to religious borders either, as holiness is an element of many cultures. Or it may lie even deeper in the primitive sacred – in nature and its symbolism.
The experience of holiness embodies a shared experience of both something profoundly personal and some greater essence. It is such a personal matter that speaking of holiness and religion may well be embarrassing. To be truly shared, an experience requires a communal faith, be it a whole religious creed or, say, a fan relationship.
It is nevertheless something we share. Even if we do not know much about the principles of liturgical Orthodox music, for example, we can still recognise the sanctity of the human voice and enter into the singer’s experience. We are aware of the ritual and the communion it creates in the liturgy – of the presence of holiness.
Translation: Susan Sinisalo