Creating Religious Space: Young People at a Revival Summer Event

Monday, 16 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Paula NISSILÄ, University of Tampere, Finland
This paper asks how religiosity is constructed in celebratory settings through examining youths’ experiences of rituals and activities. The relation between the institutional practices and the individual needs and desires is central to the post secular, liquid religion. The religious affiliation and public participation have continued declining in Europe. This applies also to the protestant Nordic countries where the state church has traditionally been strong. Yet in Finland, the activities of the traditional revivalist movements within the state church, especially the hundred years old open-air summer gatherings, attract masses. These gatherings compete in attendance rates with many secular events in the best holiday season.

This paper explores this traditional, and yet strong, collectivity with special attention drawn to the form, context, and young people. The appeal to the younger generations is essential for the religious communities. Based on interviews, narratives and observation, this paper details the meanings that firmly involved participants (aged 14-18) attach to the summer event of the liberal Awakening movement, the second largest revivalist movement under the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. This movement emphasized already originally personal faith and grass-root religiosity, which correlates with the postmodern spirituality. Sociohistorically, the movement has also intertwined with national identity.

This paper highlights how this community with its rituals constructs a religious space for the youths. It shows how the peer group acts as the most influential in formulating the religious identity. The appeal of the event rests on the peer solidarity created through social activities in the festival context separated from everyday life’s social structures. Concerning the belonging, the liberal communality of the movement is especially valued setting the orthodoxy on a minor role. The spiritual substance of the movement appears embedded in rituals and the participation creates a religious space of solidarity, autonomy, and seeking for this youth.