Saturday 22 October was a beautiful day for the Church of Sweden and the Swedish community on the island, when the welcome reception and blessing of the recently arrived new Swedish priest couple on Phuket, The Revd Maria Eksmyr and her partner Ingvar Olofsson, took place with a complete service.
Visiting as well as resident Swedes had turned up in large numbers. Nearly 70 community members – including Swedes, Thais and Norwegians etc. formed a record-breaking crowd at one single time for the Swedish restaurant Trädgården in Rawai on southern Phuket, hosted by Jörgen and Pat Sandström.
Present were also the Church of Sweden’s chaplain from Bangkok, Lovisa Möller, as well as the former Phuket priest couple Per and Gennet Edler who joined in leading the blessings for their successor.
Representatives of the Church of Sweden had flown in for the occasion: Anders Bergqvist, who is the man in charge for the church’s foreign activities, had arrived from a trip to South America and his colleague Krister Tholin, who is responsible for the region, had also come down all the way from Sweden to attend.
Anders Bergqvist led the prayer to welcome the new priest couple. Lovisa Möller welcomed them with a speech based on the theme of travelling into unknown pastures – Phuket is the first positioning outside Sweden for Maria Eksmyr and her assistant – and also lead the prayer asking God for forgiveness. In the “förbön” prayer Maria also prayed for Thailand’s development and that the wealth would be shared among all citizens.
For Maria Eksmyr this was the debut service in Thailand for a larger gathering.
She wished she could have told the Thank You-prayer also in Thai language but that would have to come later as a matter of language skills.
Lovisa Möller also dedicated the last song before the meal, The Rose, to Maria Eksmyr.
Then the Bangkok chaplain completed their unity by giving Maria and Ingvar a beautiful Thai scarf, which they put around their necks, and then the three embraced each other.
The gathering – estimated to a total of 70 people – was blessed with sunny weather – after months of monsoon raining and which had also surprised the newly arrived priest couple recently by flooding their home upon the hill overlooking Kata beach!
Restaurant Trädgården had also made sure that a feat awaited the guests, including Swedish meatballs and other delicacies.
“It has been very pleasant, the Revd Maria Eksmy summarized the day. “This was one of the first contacts we had actually, to go down here where there are many Swedes. This is a meeting point – the Swedish garden! And Jörgen has invited us saying we are welcome back again, which we are happy for. We are open for other places too; we are mobile, to meet people where they are. One must go with the flow and move around.”
The new priest couple is based in their rectory overlooking Kata beach and where they will keep up the tradition of holding a bi-weekly sunset mass.
Operational-wise the Church of Sweden in Southern Thailand is mobile and will work where Scandinavians are present, including regular visits to Kho Lanta, Krabi/Ao Nang and Khao Lak. Primarily for the Swedish community, Swedes here are invited to influence this work with suggestions and inviting the priest couple.
The priest and her assistant are available to hold services, wedding blessings (which will be a large share of their tourist high season activities), renewing of marriage commitments, consultations, confessions and pastoral care. They will also visit prisons and hospitals and have contacts with Swedish schools etc.