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Church Attendance Falls; Religion Seen as Private

The holiday weekend filled pews in some churches, but regular church attendance at Finland's Lutheran services continues to fall. Just 1.8 percent of parishioners go to church weekly. Religion remains a very private affair for Finns—even for those who are active churchgoers.

Nina Mustonen
Nina Mustonen Image: YLE

Most Lutheran Finns are not like Nina Mustonen, a parishioner in Helsinki’s Pakila district, who attends church most Sundays.

But similar to most Finns, she doesn’t feel comfortable talking about her faith. She says she prays, but those thoughts are private.

Mustonen, a married mother with three kids, says religion is part of daily life.

“Going to church brings a form of continuity. I believe there’s a higher power, but I don’t spend much time thinking about what the Bible says,” Mustonen explains.

She says it can feel overwhelming to fit the conventional mold of a religious person.

“When you hear of a religious person, you think of someone who wears a skirt and drinks tea. When a religious person comes home after a night out, he might wonder what the neighbours are thinking.”

Mustonen, a grocery store clerk, says religion is not a discussion topic in her workplace. In fact, she says she would feel uncomfortable if a colleague brought up matters of faith.

In Finland faith is not reflected in regular churchgoing. That said, church attendance is just 1.5 percent in the capital city region. Porvoo, a small town 50 kilometres east of Helsinki, is meanwhile home to the country's most active congregants.

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