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Recently completed research projects

Below you will find information about some of our domestic and international research projects that have recently been completed.

Spirituality in Finland

The research project concerning spirituality in Finland (in Finnish: Suomalainen spiritualiteetti) focuses on the ways in which people in Finland live according to their faith in their daily lives. Carried out in 2017–2020, the project takes interest in individuals’ spontaneous, everyday religiousness from a ‘lived faith’ perspective.

The project includes studies on the following themes:

  • Baptism and godparenthood in the 2000s - changes and meanings (Hanna Salomäki and Maarit Hytönen)
  • Voluntary work and spirituality (Veli-Matti Salminen)
  • Special features of spirituality in Finland (Kimmo Ketola)
  • Silence retreat movement (Jussi Sohlberg)
  • Immigrant Christian communities (Jussi Sohlberg)

The research project is linked with the Baptism and godparenthoodThe link opens in a new tab (in Finnish: Kaste ja kummius) project undertaken by the National Church Council. We published a compilation work Kasteen polulla. Kasteen ja kummiuden teologiaa ja käytäntöjäThe link opens in a new tab (ed. by Maarit Hytönen) related to the project.

In addition to the researchers of the Church Research Institute, a number of students from various universities were involved in the research project Spirituality in Finland.

Baptism and godparenthood in the 2000s – changes and meanings

The baptism rate is declining in all Nordic countries. The Baptism and godparenthood sub-project conducted by the Church Research Institute uses register data and survey material to analyse the current trends related to baptism, such as whether or not to have children baptised.   The purpose of the analyses is to identify which individuals are influential in baptism decisions, which factors predict a decision to have or not to have a child baptised, and how the role of a godparent is viewed in Finland today.

The responsible researcher for this part of the sub-project was Hanna SalomäkiThe link opens in a new tab.The link opens in a new tab

Another part of the sub-project focuses on personal experiences related to baptism and godparenthood. Material for this study was collected during spring and summer 2018 by asking people to write about their experiences.  The invitation to write was published in social media, on the Sakasti website and in newspapers. Submissions were received from a total of 855 persons. The material will be analysed to identify the meanings associated with baptism and godparenthood. What meanings do one’s own baptism and a child’s baptism carry for Finns, and do these meanings differ from each other? In what ways is godparenthood realised in people’s lives, what people do together with their godchild or godparent? Is spirituality part of the godparent-child relationship, do godparents and godchildren pray for each other, or do they attend parish activities together? What do godparents expect or hope from their godchildren, and vice versa?

The responsible researcher for this part of the sub-project was Maarit Hytönen until June 2021. The link opens in a new tab

Voluntary work and spirituality

This study investigates voluntary work in terms of universalistic values and lived faith, as being a form of low-threshold religiousness. The various dimensions associated with voluntary work, such as compassion, the idea of receiving by giving, or a personal calling, may be an aspect of spirituality for the volunteers themselves, albeit not necessarily at a conscious level. Volunteering and being of help involve factors that are clearly religiously attuned but also factors that are not influenced by religiousness to the same extent.

Background materials for this study include the Gallup Ecclesiastica 2015 survey conducted by the Church Research Institute and the European Values Study 2019. In Tampere, volunteer workers of the local parishes have been interviewed in collaboration with the Case Tampere project of the Diaconia University of Applied Sciences (DIAK). 

The responsible researcher for the sub-project was Veli-Matti SalminenThe link opens in a new tab.The link opens in a new tab

Special features of spirituality in Finland

The study aims to explore contemporary Finnish spirituality in terms of international comparison. A core distinctive feature of spirituality is the idea that questions concerning God and life after death are considered to be important aspects of life and that they guide, in one way or other, the individual’s way of living and choices in everyday life, not only in connection with the formal exercise of religion.

The survey materials from the European Values Study (ESV) 2017 serve as the source material for research. These materials allow for an in-depth comparative analysis of those who consider God to be very important in their lives and those who do not. For example, what do work and family mean to them, in what ways is their identity related with the idea of being Finnish, what is their level of trust in people or social institutions, and what kind of attitudes do they have regarding environmental issues. By means of multivariable methods, the analysis of the material provides an understanding of the various types of spirituality profiles among the Finnish population.

The responsible researcher for the sub-project was Kimmo KetolaThe link opens in a new tab.The link opens in a new tab

Silence retreat movement

The silence retreat movement (in Finnish often referred to as ‘Hiljaisuuden liike’) came to Finland from Sweden and England in the 1970s. Silence retreats are arranged by parishes in their own facilities but also by special Silence retreat centres.

This sub-project aims to study the experiences of people who have taken part in different retreats. They are asked about the significance of the spirituality offered by the retreats in their lives and about the ways in which the spirituality of the silence retreat movement has affected the course of their spiritual life and identity.

The study is carried out as an online questionnairmmigrant Christian communitiese survey and additional material is gathered through interviews.

The responsible researcher for the sub-project was Jussi SohlbergThe link opens in a new tab.The link opens in a new tab

Immigrant Christian communities

Internationalisation concerns even the religious field in Finland. Along with immigration, Christianity becomes more diversified, especially in growth centres.

The aim of this sub-project is to collect basic data concerning the Christian communities among immigrants within the Helsinki metropolitan region. The study endeavours to establish a broader overall picture of the rather fragmented field, which has not previously been surveyed. The online questionnaire survey carried out in 2018 and additional data acquisition serve as sources for examining, for example, the number of participants, forms of activities and linguistic groups within various communities.

The immigrant Christian communities vary largely in terms of their structure and forms of activities. There are independent registered associations, non-registered communities, registered religious communities as well as different groups and work practices within various denominations and congregations.

The responsible researcher for the sub-project was Jussi SohlbergThe link opens in a new tab.The link opens in a new tab

Changing family and marriage concepts within the Church, culture and society

Coordinated by the Church Research Institute, the research project aimed to explore how the concepts of family and marriage are changing in the Church and within our culture and society. The project was commissioned by the General Synod.  Researchers Kimmo Ketola and Veli-Matti Salminen of the Church Research Institute contributed as authors of the published articles.

The following book has been published as part of the project:

International research on confirmation training

The second round of the international research on confirmation training (in Finland known as confirmation school) was implemented during 2013–2014.  The research involved both Lutheran and Reformed churches. The study population included adolescents undergoing confirmation in 2013 and their confirmation training teachers and volunteer leaders.  The following countries participated in the study: Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary and Poland.

The aim of the study was to research the meaning of the confirmation training in teenagers’ lives as well as various issues related to its implementation from the viewpoints of the youth themselves and their teachers and junior leaders. Material for the study was collected by means of questionnaires at the start and end of the confirmation training, and two years after it.  A variety of parishes from all over Finland were involved in the study.

The following book has been published as part of the project:

  • Confirmation, Faith and Volunteerism. A Longitudinal Study on Protestant Adolescents in the Transition towards Adulthood. European Perspectives. Edited by Friedrich Schweitzer, Thomas Schlag, Henrik Simojoki, Kati Tervo-Niemelä and Wolfgang Ilg (2017). (For inquiries, please send e-mail to tutkimustilaus@evl.fi.)

Changing communality in the Church

The research project focusing on the changing communality within the Church (in Finnish: Kirkon muuttuva yhteisöllisyys) was carried out in 2012–2015.   The purpose of the study was to examine how religiousness in Finland has changed in terms of commitment to the Church and communality. The research questions and perspectives were defined as follows:

  • In what ways do online communication and other new forms of communication contribute to the building of communality?
  • How is communality being built and supported in various religious communities?
  • How is Christian tradition being transferred in the 2000s?
  • What meanings does the Church have in the everyday life and festive occasions of the Finnish population?

The research project sought to find methods to support and strengthen Church commitment and Christian identity. The aspects discussed included, for example, the relationship of the passive members of parishes to the Church, online devotional life, and regional variation in terms of commitment to the Church.  Moreover, the research dealt with religiosity as part of everyday life and the changing concept of calling within the Church.

Co-operative partners in the project included the University of Eastern Finland (the Congregational mobile technologies project), the Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences and the parish unions of Tampere and Helsinki.  Doctoral and Master’s level students from the universities of Helsinki, Tampere, Jyväskylä and Eastern Finland as well as Åbo Akademi University were involved in the project.

The project resulted in online publications, while also advancing individual researchers’ publishing in various forums.

The following books have been published as part of the project:

The role of Church and religion in the Nordic countries

The Church Research Institute participated in the project entitled ‘The Role of Religion in the Public Sphere. A Comparative Study of the Five Nordic Countries’, which was funded by Nordic research communities. The project focused on the changing role of religion in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland since the 1980s.

The role of religion was investigated in relation to other concurrent social phenomena, such as increased immigration, population structure changes, market economy developments, cultural transformation and changing position of families and gender roles.  The following issues were discussed in particular:

  • The relations between the Church and State
  • The role of religion in politics
  • The role of religion in the media
  • The relations between religion and the civic society.

In addition to the Church Research Institute, the parties involved in the project included the Institute for Church, Religion, and Worldview Research (KIFO, Norway), the Uppsala Religion and Society Research Centre at the University of Uppsala (Sweden), the University of Aarhus (Denmark), and the University of Iceland.

The following book has been published as part of the project: