The Hedstroms and the Bethel Ship Saga: Methodist Influence on Swedish Religious Life

By Henry C. Whyman; Kenneth E. Rowe | Go to book overview

4
Hedstrom's Relation to the Läsare

The term läsare is peculiar to the Swedish language. Applied first in derision to a small group of Christian pietists meeting in the province of Västergötland, Sweden, in the 1750s, the name remained in common usage for over 150 years and was applied to all piestitically minded groups and individuals of various persuasions.1 Almost any person who took his or her religion with unusual seriousness could expect to be called a läsare.

The Västergötland group met in private homes for Bible reading, prayer, and conversation about spiritual matters. They also evaluated pastors of the churches in the area and searched out those they regarded as "awakened," those for whom religion was an inner personal matter rather than outward form. They performed these activities in spite of a law enacted in 1726 prohibiting religious gatherings not authorized by the established Church of Sweden.

The läasare in Västergötland were by no means the first or only such group in Sweden at this time. German pietism had been introduced into Sweden in the 1720s. Soon, small groups of pietists began to dot certain areas of the Swedish landscape. Ernst Newman states, "During the latter half of the eighteenth century . . . the basic principles of pietism began increasingly to penetrate folk life . . . and everywhere one encountered the ferment of Herrnhut [i.e., Moravian] influences."2

We must not think of the läasare movement in isolation. F. Ernest Stoeffler has placed pietism in its wider Continental context.

The importance of the rise of Pietism for the Protestant experience in general has only recently begun to dawn upon

-40-

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The Hedstroms and the Bethel Ship Saga: Methodist Influence on Swedish Religious Life
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Foreword ix
  • Preface xv
  • 1 - The Unintentional Immigrant 1
  • 2 - Steps Toward the Methodist Ministry 11
  • 3 - The Circuit Rider 27
  • 4 - Hedstrom's Relation to the Läsare 40
  • 5 - Peter Bergner, Pioneer Missionary 58
  • 6 - The Bethel Ship John Wesley 77
  • 7 - From North River to Swedish Bethel 87
  • 8 - Jenny Lind 104
  • 9 - Jonas Hedstrom Migrates West 114
  • 10 - Bishop Hill and Victor Witting 126
  • 11 - From Ship to Scandinavian Shores 138
  • 12 - An Accomplished Mission 153
  • Notes 159
  • Index 179
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