Accepted Paper:

Transformation of traditional rituals within a new religious movement in Sweden: the Oas movement  


Anders Gustavsson (University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

This is a study on transformation of traditional rituals within a new religious movement from Sweden called Oas, with an ecumenical orientation and affinity to older movements. Reasons for current transformations, changes in religious doctrines, modernization and digital culture are discussed.

Paper long abstract:

This is a study of the transformation of traditional rituals, since 1989, within a new charismatic movement from Sweden called Oas. The movement has spread to other Nordic countries as well. The Swedish name Oas refers to the biblical oases in the desert. The movement has a distinct ecumenical direction and affinity to older religious movements. People of different age groups are involved and there are special sections for children and youth. The movement activities are economically funded by donations. Voluntary contributions dominate. The movement does not own any meeting places. Its conferences and camps are constantly on the move around Sweden, and consist mainly in large-scale gatherings held during summer and winter holidays .

During fieldwork I questioned members about their feelings, experiences and their practice of rituals. New and reintroduced rituals include: spiritual dances, the waving of flags and banners, intercessions for persons requesting prayers, praying for healing through the laying on of hands, anointing with oil, raising hands at praise-to-God songs, personal testimonies of spiritual experience and perception, and loud music performed with modern musical instruments. These rituals are accompanied by the use of digital media.

I analyse reasons behind these transformations and examine the religious doctrines manifest in sermons, publications, and papers sent to the members. Societal and social changes caused by modernization and news technology are taken into account. The topical research question: How did this ecumenical orientation orientation evolve and what impact has it had on the ritual practice? is finally examined.

Panel Reli005
The transformation of traditional rituals: imposed change or natural evolution? (Ritual Year SIEF Working Group panel)