Conservative Laestadians tell of pressure in “caretaking meetings”
by Pauliina Grönholm
People belonging to the Conservative Laestadian revivalist movement, which operates within the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran church, say they experienced pressure as well as spiritual violence, in so-called caretaking meetings.
A caretaking meeting in Conservative Laestadianism means a pastoral care event at which a member is called to "repent."
These meetings were especially common in the 1970's, but according to individuals interviewed by this newspaper, these sessions are still being held. These individuals said they were either a subject of caretaking meetings or were forced to follow the treatment "by the side."
They said that Executive Board members of the Central Association of Finnish Peace Associatons (SRK) as well as priests participated in the meetings.
Conservative Laestadian "Jukka" has first-hand experience of these meetings (because of his close friends, he does not want to appear in this interview with his real name).
Jukka says that current caretaking meetings are less organized and systematic than in the 1970's. Subjects are now individuals who have publicly expressed dissident opinions from the SRK's official views.
While caretaking meetings are often referred to as pastoral care in Conservative Laestadianism, Jukka has a different view.
"In those [meetings] are all the characteristics of the spiritual violence fullfilled: pressure, intimidation and blackmail."
“You may end up in caretaking if you have dissenting opinions, for example about family planning or the ordination of women, but also, for example, if you listen to rock music, go to concerts, or dye your hair."