The King and Queen and The Crown Princess attend an assembly evening

The first assembly evening of the year has been held in the Bernadotte Library. Members of the Royal Court Parish were welcomed by The King and Queen and The Crown Princess. The theme for the evening was the Church of Sweden's International Work.

The Royal Court Parish is a parish within the Church of Sweden, and is made up of the Royal Family, those who work or have worked at the Royal Court or the Royal Staff, and their families. The parish church for the 500 or so members is the Royal Chapelopens in new window.

The King and Queen and The Crown Princess welcome the attendees. In the background are Pastor Michael Bjerkhagen and Chief Court Chaplain Johan Dalman. Photo: royalcourt.se

An assembly evening is held twice a year in the Bernadotte Library, which is regularly attended by The King and Queen who host the evening. A talk on a topical subject is always given on these occasions, and Court Organist Mary Ljungquist Hén arranges the music.

Court Singer Hillevi Martinpelto sang during the evening. Photo: royalcourt.se

The first gathering of the year was held on Wednesday evening. Pastor Michael Bjerkhagen welcomed the attendees and began by explaining that the collection can now be paid by swish. He also gave a reminder about the church council elections on 17 September.

The speaker for the evening was Erik Lysén, head of the Church of Sweden's International Work, who described the organisation and its operations.

The Church of Sweden has a long tradition of aid work. The Church of Sweden's mission was established in 1874 as part of the church, and Church of Sweden Aid was founded after the Second World War. Both operations came together in April 2008 as the Church of Sweden's International Work. Today, the organisation carries out humanitarian disaster relief and carries out work on the scene in the event of major disasters, including both long-term aid and projects relating to agricultural development, equality and peace-keeping.

The Royal Court Parish's assembly evenings are always held in the Bernadotte Library, which houses the royal book collections. The collections are made up of around one hundred thousand books that have belonged to the Bernadotte kings and their queens. Photo: royalcourt.se

The Church of Sweden's International Work is part of the ACT (Action by Churches Together) alliance, which consists of more than 143 aid organisations from all around the world. This gives it a presence in the large refugee camps on the Horn of Africa, in the countries around Syria and among the internal refugees in Iraq. The ACT alliance also provides the chance to cooperate across religious borders. Encounters and discussions across these borders are seen as a way of improving opportunities for people to live in peace.

Erik Lysén talks about the Church of Sweden's International Work. Photo: royalcourt.se

In the event of a disaster, the Church of Sweden first provides support for emergency efforts, such as providing food, water and shelter. However, it also takes a long-term perspective right from the start. The aim of all disaster work is that the people who are affected should regain their hope, their dignity and their mental and social well-being. This includes creating meeting places and providing activities for children and young people.

Erik Lysén's talk was followed by refreshments and discussions.

Coffee break. Photo: royalcourt.se

During the evening, Court Singer Hillevi Martinpelto performed To Spring by Edvard Grieg, Laudate Dominum by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ave Maria by Franz Schubert and Panis Angelicus by César Franck, accompanied by Court Organist Mary Ljungquist Hén.

The assembly evening in the Bernadotte Library concluded with prayers led by Chief Court Chaplain Johan Dalman and Pastor Michael Bjerkhagen. The psalms included Jesus Gave his Life for the World by Lina Sandell.

Pastor of the Royal Court Parish Michael Bjerkhagen. Photo: royalcourt.se

Lina Sandell (1832-1903) is known for her gospel hymns. Michael Bjerkhagen explained that Princess Eugénieopens in new window and Lina Sandell were close friends. They had common artistic interests, both suffered from ill-health, and shared an interest in philanthropy and a deep faith.

Describing a meeting at the Royal Palace of Stockholm, Lina Sandell wrote: "Everything is so cordial and simple that you would hardly believe you were within the walls of a royal palace. After coffee and conversations, a Bible study was led by a teacher… The evening ended with prayers and singing, and it is extremely touching to see the princess' joy and gratitude towards our Lord who has given her such freedom."

The quotation is taken from a book about Lina Sandell by Astri Valen-Sendstad.

The Queen speaks to others at her table. Photo: royalcourt.se

The Royal Court Parish

The Royal Court Parish was formally founded in 1604 by King Karl IX, but services have been held at royal palaces since the 13th century. The Royal Court Parish emerged during the 16th century when the Royal Court moved between royal palaces, taking shape in the 1590s during the time of Duke Karl.

Like other Church of Sweden congregations, it took its modern-day organisation in the 1970s, at the initiative of Princess Christina, Mrs Magnuson.

Photo: royalcourt.se