When I first heard about The Great Discovery: Our Journey to the Catholic Church, by Ulf and Birgitta Edman (Ignatius Press 2018), I was in disbelief. A married couple who founded a mega-church in Sweden and later converted to Catholicism? Intrigued, I knew that I had to read it. This honest, fascinating exploration into the life and conversions of these two people was hard to put down. For me, a young woman who lives in the Bible Belt, the topics of church planting and new congregations springing up are not foreign concepts. In fact, they seem rather normal! So I was interested to learn about the spiritual climate in Sweden, and about how radical it was for the Ekmans to found a church, Word of Life, since the formation of “free churches” was not very common there at the time. Ulf was ordained a Lutheran priest in 1979, but as he and his wife began their new venture and dove into the Pentecostal-charismatic movement, they stepped out into the unknown. They continued to let God guide them on un-trodden pathways and eventually, they joined the Catholic Church in 2014.
While the factual details of Ulf and Birgitta Ekman’s conversion are fascinating in themselves, I really loved learning about the journey that their hearts took as they worked and prayed throughout the years. They vulnerably shared different thoughts and struggles from their interior life. One particular theme that they continually return to in this book is unity. As they reflected on John 17, Ulf and Birgitta began to see how divisive the many factions of Protestants were. While they were united with each other through their common belief in Jesus, the Ekmans saw that a visible unity is important as well. As they began learning about Church history, they desired to grow in unity with the historical early Church.
I also loved seeing how much love and compassion poured forth from Ulf and Birgitta’s words. It is easy to see that they deeply care about the Word of Life community and all of the people they have met, and do not see themselves as “better” than others in any way. In fact, the Ekmans reflect on many of the ways in which God worked in and through their associates at Word of Life. In stories and reflections, a deep ecumenical spirit calls out to all Christians to actively find ways to dive into the history of the Church and grow in unity together.
The journey of Ulf and Birgitta Ekman to the Catholic Church was long, winding across years and continents. Their story is a wonderful reminder that while some people experience sudden, dramatic conversions like St. Paul, other people have more gradual processes they go through. The Ekmans share tremendous wisdom from their experiences, and this spiritual memoir is worth coming back to again and again.
The Great Discovery: Our Journey to the Catholic Church, by Ulf and Birgitta Ekman, is available at Ignatius Press.
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Copyright 2019 AnneMarie Miller