Hope Cathedral / Sermon by Kari Mangrud Alvsvåg

In the maritime setting of Fredrikstad, at the mouth of the Glomma, Norway’s longest river, a unique building is now floating on a raft. It bears the name of the Hope Cathedral and is an interfaith, sustainable art project, led by the artist Solveig Egeland.

“Inspired by Norway’s famous stave churches, the structure rises majestically on its 120 m2 barge made of timber and roots and built in traditional fashion. The roof is a 300 m2 multi-coloured work of art made of plastic taken from the ocean and subjected to an innovative transformation process. More than 1000 fish boxes have been washed, granulated and turned into 4000 roof tiles in more than 50 different colours.

Our point of departure is the ocean, which is borderless and binds us together – nations, continents and people, regardless of our religion. Hope and the ocean belong to us all!” (Source: https://www.hopecathedral.no)

Here you can read the sermon given under the Inauguration by the Dean of Fredrikstad Cathedral, rev. Kari Mangrud Alvsvåg:


John the Baptist must have been a complicated person.   Frightening and attractive at the same time.   His messages were often harsh and without mercy, and they hit hard.   He used terms like ‘the offspring of serpents’ and didn’t want to hear excuses for bad behaviour and  warned against judgements.   When the people became frightened and asked what to do, he replied that whoever had two robes should share with he who had none.   Those who had food should do the same.   His message was a call for action!   Now!

His followers tried to warn him about this newcomer, the one everybody talked about.   But John the Baptist knew his place and his calling.   He would calmly answer:  ‘He shall grow, I shall diminish’.

He recognised the Creator in Jesus.   He saw and heard what Jesus did, and associated it with the presence of Heaven on Earth.  “One cannot receive anything unless it is given from Heaven”, John said, and continued:  “He shall grow, I shall diminish”.

If only we could be a little more like John!   We, who live and use the Earth.   If only we could understand, accept, integrate, feel in our heart that all we have is given to us from Heaven!

But we live as if we own it all.   Loud, swaggering, greedy, as only we humans can be.   We consume as if we were the last people on Earth.   We throw things away as if the storerooms will always be full.   We gather, save, store and hoard as if we were alone in the World.   We invest in our own navel.

So please call us, John, in a language we understand, and loud enough for us to hear that all we have is given us from Heaven.   Wake us up from our self interest and call us to action!   For all our hope is buried in action. 

In the same way the first action regarding the Cathedral of Hope was to tell about the dream, the vision.   Solveig Egeland, artistic director, saw in her mind a cathedral rising from the sea just outside the Hvaler archipelago, and she felt called into action.   She had the courage to open her mouth and tell Bishop Atle Sommerfelt about her vision.   The bishop accepted the calling and used his voice and motivating authority to bring the dream further.   

From then on the vision spread round Fredrikstad, Hvaler and all of Norway, and far beyond the Norwegian borders people heard the calling, and replied:  “We will be the hope of creation.   It will grow, we will diminish”.

Three years later, and here we are to take this beautiful building of hope into use.   The vision has moved from adults to children, from Church to Mosque, from Mosque to Temple. It has been accepted by authorities and sponsors, and has engaged thousands in countless hours of voluntary work.   Some have given their time, others have given money, and many, many more have taken the vision into their hearts and made their hands work for Hope and for the Sea. Many want to be the Hope of Creation.

The sadness about the condition of the ocean as a stressed and overused resource on the way to be destroyed has been eased by the work to turn something bad into something good.   Plastic waste has been removed from the sea and made into the beautiful roof tiles, which remind us of God’s colourful promises.   The woodwork consists of fallen trees, carefully lifted from forests and parks.   The old oak tree close to Borg Cathedral, which has witnessed many a first kiss, was about to split due to age and pollution, and constituted a danger to all who liked to meet close to it.   Now the oak has become the beams of the Cathedral of Hope, and will continue to watch over people gathering there.   The old oak has got a new life.   It is now needed to keep Hope standing.   The Roof of Hope resembles a rainbow in its rich play of colours!   Underneath it we can meet each other.

God put the rainbow in the sky as a sign to bear witness that He would never end his Creation.   The rainbow is like a bridge, which brings hopes from Heaven to Earth.

And now we have the Cathedral of Hope as a visual and real expression of everlasting hope.   She is standing here, calling us to action.   Like John the Baptist she is witnessing about the Creator, who became one with Earth in Jesus Christ, and who is here with us today, as the wind caresses our cheeks.

God of Trinity, our Creator, Redeemer and giver of Life is our hope and calls us into action for the Creation.   Together with all well-wishing people in the world we answer:  It will grow, we shall diminish.  We want to be the hope of Creation.

Glory be to God, our Creator, Redeemer and giver of Life, who was, is and ever shall be one true God for ever and ever.   Amen.

/ Translated by Margaretha Simons


Kari Mangrud Alvsvåg, f. 1970 på Lørenskog. Sjømannsprest i Dubai, 1999-2002. Lektor i videregående skole, 2002-2007. Vikarprest, Vestre Borgesyssel prosti 2007-2008. Rådgiver ved Borg bispedømmekontor, 2008-1012. Prost i Søndre Borgesyssel prosti, 2012-2020. Domprost i Fredrikstad, Borg bispedømme, 2020-

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