The Church og brotherhood


So, in a few months The Church of Brotherhood were founded. Born as Janson’s creature, the life of the church took very soon an indipendent path from his famous father, but, already since its very beginnings, its existence went under hard critics for at least two reasons, both focused manily on Janson as public person more than on the Church itself (and, actually, the methonimy created by many old scholars of confusing their rightly critical opinion on Janson with the opinion about The Church itself is deeply wrong as, if it is true that maybe without Janson’s popularity the first Norwegian christian Unitarian Church wouldn’t have existed, it is also true that to confuse a single man with the whole Church means not to take into consideration the role of the 100 people which formed it).
The first reason was clearly the divorce between Janson and his wife, which, at the time, created a big scandal in Oslo and provided a great challange for the faith of the newly born Congregation.
The second one, much deeper, was the proximity of Janson to spiritualism that made his preaching something spurious. Janson’s spiritualism was well known also during his previous American experience and it was one of the reasons of suspect on him inside of A.U.C., possibly being one of the causes for his will to leave USA and try to establish a comunity more similar to his style of preaching in a “virgin” area like Norway. The problem was that in the list of names he had received from Lyche, it is very possible that the majority of people had a humanistic background (similar to Lyche’s one) and got very disappointed in listening Janson’s conservative sermons. Moreover, only two weeks after the foundation of the church, Tambs Lyche, as mentioned, wrote on «Free Words» a series of critical articles warning against Janson’s teaching of Spiritualism and arguing that there should be another Unitarian Church in Kristiania.
A typical example of this «spiritualistic tendence» can be found in an article Janson wrote in 1987 in which he saw himself as a savior sent by God to liberate the Norwegian people from the Ortodox Christianity.
Anyway, the Church went on existing. Its motto was «In the striving for truth and in the spirit of Jesus of Nazareth, we unite to serve God and serve ourselves by serving and loving people», so being something close to a literal translation of the more orthodox-religious American Unitarians’own definition and actually, although the majority of the Parliament found this un-Christian and the Church of Brotherhood was not recognized as a Christian church, but on a par with non-Christian religions (gaining special mention in all religious legislations around the beginning of the century, typically directing to «other Christian denominations, Unitarians and Jews»), Unitarians tended to define themselves in terms of their opposition to the dogmas of the State (Lutheran) church and to call themselves «freethinking believers», with a strong emphasis on «freethinking,».
Janson, more and more attracted to spiritualism, continued to publish his magazine «Saamanden», as he had in the US, and he had a new edition of his hymnbook published, with songs by Ibsen, Bjørnson, Wergeland, Grundtvig (a Danish religious reformer) and Hans Christian Andersen (who was himself a Unitarian). Each Sunday he held a worship service, at first in a temperance lodge, later in rooms belonging to the Workers Society (charging 10 øre as an entrance fee to cover the costs).Although in 1896 the first Unitarian wedding was celebrated and in 1898 they had their first Conftirmation, little by little the spiritualisti position of Janson increased his conflict with the congregational members, so much that, in 1898, he was forced to leave the leadership of the Church, which, soon afterwards, took the simple name of Unitarian Church (led by the Unitarian Society).
The activity of Janson, in his borderline version of unitarism, went on for some years, in many occasions openly against his previous congregation. The most important event of the last years of his pastorship was to inspire, in 1900, the foundation of the Danish Unitarian church in Copenhagen, where he also sometimes preached. Since that year, Janson no longer used the name Unitarian Society when inviting people to Sunday meetings, but only the formula: «Kristofer Janson speaks at the Worker’s Association at 11 o’clock». At hat time Census tells us that 88 Unitarians lived in Kristiania, 75 of them being members of the Unitarian Society, which is no more mentioned in newspapers and gets no new members until 1903.
Rev. Rob

(Revision by: Rev. L. Sudbury)