Abstract

The purpose of the article is to explore the different emphases among leaders in dioceses and pastors/catechists in local congregations concerning challenges related to baptism in the Church of Norway. Findings in annual reports from two dioceses are compared with an empirical material consisting mainly of interviews with pastors and catechists in six congregations in these two dioceses. The selected congregations are urban and countryside, large and small, and a characteristic of parts of the context of these two dioceses is a strong low church or prayer house tradition. The article gives an empirical contribution by describing and exploring how different challenges come to the fore at the diocesan level and in the practical baptismal work in congregations. The main finding is that while the decreasing number of baptisms in the Church of Norway and how to deal with this is the focus in the annual reports from the dioceses, this theme is almost totally absent among pastors and catechists. Relational aspects, how to deal with the parents’ lack of follow-up after baptism, and the desire of being open to all church members irrespective of their engagement in church activities are among the main concerns at the local congregational level. In a concluding reflection, the concepts of the church as a folk church and as a religious community serve as a theoretical perspective to enlighten the tension between diocesan and local congregational level, but also tensions among the respondents. The tensions seem to stem both from contextual and personal factors.

Keywords: Baptism, local congregation, pastor, catechist, folk church, religious community