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Ekebyholm Mission school, “castle” or “manor house” of the old estate.

Photo courtesy of Yvonne Johansson Öster and Christina Karlsson (photographer).

Ekebyholm Mission School (1932–1960)

By Yvonne Johansson Öster

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Yvonne Johansson Öster, M.Phil. (University of Lund, Sweden), M.A. in religion (Andrews University), is a retired college teacher and pastor. Her numerous articles on Adventist history include a biography of pioneer missionary Hanna Bergström (Skandinaviska Bokförlaget, 2013) and an anthology of Swedish missionaries (Skandinaviska Bokförlaget, 2019). Johansson Öster also contributed an article about the Adventist church in the Encyclopedia of Swedish Free Churches (Sveriges Frikyrkosamråd och Bokförlaget Atlantis AB, 2014). Currently, she is writing a complete history of the Swedish Adventist church.

First Published: November 28, 2021

Ekebyholm Mission School began when the Nyhyttan Mission School was relocated; it had the same aim and was to serve the East Nordic Union’s Swedish speaking members, mostly from Sweden but with some from Finland. The school had two tiers: a general education, and a theological seminary. The theological seminary was to provide the two countries with pastors and Bible workers as well as staff for its institutions.

Roots

Nyhyttan Mission School1 had proved to be too small and also too remote as far as communication was concerned. The Ekebyholm estate was purchased by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1932. As Ekebyholm was situated only 56 km north of Stockholm, the Swedish capital, transport was far more accessible. Ekebyholm was a 17th century manor house with extensive woodland (500 hectare, approx. 1,235 acres), with cultivated areas for agriculture (120 hectare, approx. 300 acres), and a farm with forty cows and 12 working horses. There was plenty of scope for the expansion of the school itself.2 It was an historical well-known place, once owned by the Chancellor Arvid Horn, who ruled Sweden in the 18th century.3 He is known for hitting hard on any dissenter from the state Lutheran Church, issuing the infamous Conventicle Act of 1726.4 This meant that it was forbidden to gather for any religious meeting, in private or public, without a Lutheran priest. The act was revoked in 1858. With the purchase in 1932 of the Ekebyholm estate by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Horn’s legacy was revoked “on the ground.”

The Mission School

The first principal at Ekebyholm was pastor G. E. Nord, the Swedish American who was a former principal of Broadview College, Illinois (1910-1917), and had served as Scandinavian Union Conference president (1923-1929). He initiated several much needed enterprises during his tenure in Sweden. The purchase of Ekebyholm was one of them, and he became its first principal. The whole site, both the farm and the buildings, needed thorough renovation, which was undertaken during the first year. By the summer of 1933, a summer bath institution was in operation and continued into the 1960s when the school year changed to longer semesters.

Nord was followed by Pastor Carl Gidlund (1936-1951) who became the never-tiring itinerant promoter of “our school.” He initiated considerable improvement of academic standards by improving the curriculum.5

The 1935-1936 information folder is clear when stating its aim for the young people coming as students: “…through a variation of physical and mental work educate its pupils to true Christians, responsible men and women, who are aware they will be accountable before the All-knowing and righteous Judge. This goal can only be achieved as the young are awakened to an earnest longing for knowing God and the Savior Jesus Christ. The Holy Writ is therefore the very center of the education at the school.”6

There is no doubt that the school strived to fulfill its high goals. The 25-year anniversary review of 1957 listed former students who had entered denominational work, as well as foreign mission service. It was an impressive list of both men and women, considering the modest number of members in Sweden (around 3000). Much was due to the spiritual atmosphere created by the devoted teachers. The idea that you attended to become fit for service in the Lord’s work permeated not only the seminary students, but all students.7

In the 1930’s life at the school was marked by very strict rules. Morning worship at 7:00 a.m. Light out at 10:00 p.m. First lesson at 7:15a.m and no breakfast until 8:00a.m. School broke for lunch at 12:45, which was followed by practical work for two hours, then homework time till supper, followed by evening worship, and then more study time. The dress code was simple and modest: girls with short hair were accepted but were not permitted to cut it while students! This rule was dropped in 1939.

Yet student life flourished, there were a number of different clubs among the students. Many came as more mature students than the equivalent grade in a state school. Some had had to work, many by colporteuring, before being able to pay school fees. At the beginning the school year was short, it started in October and ended at the beginning of May. The last Sabbath of the school year there was always a baptism, although the lake would still be quite chilly, but many were baptized.8

When the Second World War broke out, Ekebyholm being in neutral Sweden, became a refuge for many, not the least from Finland, Norway, and Denmark, but also from the Baltic states – Germany, Poland, and the Czech lands. Some came as students, others as workers. The faculty was international as, for example, Swedish Americans always had had a strong presence in Swedish Adventism. These years were enriching for both Swedes and foreigners of whom many, in years to come, kept up their contact with their war-time school.9 Yet, the war impacted the seminary as many of the young men were conscripted along with pastors and teachers.

The curriculum taught during the 1930s and 1940s showed an ambition to live up to the academic standards of the governmental school system. This was done so that Ekebyholm’s pupils could enter higher education and college after the first four years. The seminary had its high day in the first seven years after the war. During the mid-1950s while Arne Selsö, a Norwegian educator, was Ekebyholm’s principal, Newbold College in Great Britain became the leading educational institution in the Northern European Division, and so the ministerial training there became the norm also for Scandinavia’s future pastors.

A New Era

The dwindling attendance in the seminary during the years 1953-1960 10 led to the seminary program being replaced by a junior college (gymnasium) program, qualifying students to enter university. The school acquired state recognition, not the least due to principals with foresight and experience such as Dr. Philip Henning Karström from 1961 to1968. Karström, a renowned Swedish-Finnish scientist, had led the Finnish School, Toivonlinna, through the process leading to state recognition. He did the same with Ekebyholmsskolan–the new name of the school indicating its altered status.

Legacy

The mission school period ended in 1960 with the closure of the seminary, but the mission spirit lived on for many years, best seen by the number of graduates applying to be student missionaries in the years up to 2000. The great contribution of Ekebyholm Mission School to Swedish Adventism cannot be overestimated. It provided dedicated workers in health institutions, as well as a band of those in ministry that was founded in the great 19th century spiritual revival. They had been trained in a good use of the Swedish language, in preaching relevant to the culture they had devoted their lives to. Some of this was lost when all training was conducted in English, although other things of great value came in its place. Yet, even those who left for foreign fields carried with them an evangelical approach, rather than a doctrinal one, to the people they were to serve far away. This was the legacy of the Swedish Mission Schools, Nyhyttan and Ekebyholm from 1898 to 1960.

Sources

Ekebyholms Missionsskola (School Prospectus), 1932-33;1934-35;1935-1936, Malmö: Berglunds Tryckeri, 1932, 1934, 1935.

Gidlund, Carl, ed. Ekebyholmsskolan, 1932-1957: en kortfattad historik över det första kvartsseklet av skolans utveckling. Stockholm: Sundhetsbladets tryckeri, 1957.

Gidlund, Hanna. Internationellt på Ekebyholm, Ekebyholmsskolan – en kortfattad historic. Stockholm; Sundhetsbladets tryckeri, 1957.

Linde, Gillis, ed. En skolas historia –Ekebyholm 1950. Ekebyholm, Ekebyholms Missionsskola, 1949.

Selsö, Arne, ed. Ekebyholmsskolan-redogörelse 1959-1960. Stockholm: Sundhetsbladets tryckeri, 1960.

Sjöberg, Lars and Ulrika. Det svenska rummet. Stockholm: Bonnier Alba, 1994.

Wetterberg, Gunnar. Arvid Horn: Från tolv till ett. Stockholm: Atlantis, 2006.

Notes

  1. See, Yvonne Johansson Oester, "Nyhyttan Mission School," Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists, accessed March 8, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BIE7&highlight=Nyhyttan|Mission|School.

  2. Carl Gidlund, ed., Ekebyholmsskolan, 1932-1957: en kortfattad historik över det första kvartsseklet av skolans utveckling, (Stockholm: Sundhetsbladets tryckeri, 1957), 5.

  3. Gunnar Wetterberg, Arvid Horn: Från tolv till ett (Stockholm: Atlantis, 2006), 400-403.

  4. Lars and Ulrika Sjöberg, Det svenska rummet (Stockholm: Bonnier Alba, 1994), 25-27.

  5. Gillis Linde, ed., En skolas historia –Ekebyholm 1950 (Ekebyholm, Ekebyholms Missionsskola,1949), 14, 30.

  6. Ekebyholms Missionsskola 1935-1936, 6 (a school prospectus).

  7. Gidlund, 18.

  8. Ekebyholms Missionsskola 1932-33;1934-35;1935-1936 (Malmö: Berglunds Tryckeri, 1932, 1934, 1935).

  9. Hanna Gidlund, Internationellt på Ekebyholm, Ekebyholmsskolan – en kortfattad historik (Stockholm; Sundhetsbladets tryckeri,1957), 25.

  10. Arne Selsö, ed., Ekebyholmsskolan-redogörelse 1959-1960 (Stockholm: Sundhetsbladets tryckeri, 1960), 9.

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Öster, Yvonne Johansson. "Ekebyholm Mission School (1932–1960)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 28, 2021. Accessed April 18, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8IDX.

Öster, Yvonne Johansson. "Ekebyholm Mission School (1932–1960)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 28, 2021. Date of access April 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8IDX.

Öster, Yvonne Johansson (2021, November 28). Ekebyholm Mission School (1932–1960). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved April 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8IDX.