Arthur Adell och gudstjänstlivets förnyelse

  • Ragnar Holte CTR


Arthur Adell was born in 1894 at Örtomta in
the diocese of Linköping. After studies in Uppsala he was ordained in 1919 for his home diocese and soon became pastor at Stjämorp. After
some important years, 1930-38, as vice-dean at
the cathedral of Lund he returned to his home
diocese as rector in the small town of Söderköping where he spent more than 20 years. He retired in 1959 and moved to Uppsala where he died in 1962.  

Adell was most active in strivings for the renewal of liturgical life and church music in the Church of Sweden in a broad sense. He made important contributions also to the research in these fields and was therefore assigned the de­ gree of honorary doctor by the Faculty of Theology in Uppsala in 1952. His special interest was directed towards the revival of liturgical prayer in the traditional forms of office hours and the Gregorian chant.  

In 1923, Adell was one of the founders of
Linköpings stifts kyrkosängsförbund, a confederation of church choirs within the diocese of
Linköping, and Adell also became its first conductor; later similar confederations were erected
in all dioceses. Adell and his friend Knut Peters
both contributed in lining up the sphere of ac­
tivities for the confederation, and not least, it offered them opportunities to introduce their common work for restoring the liturgy of the hours. In 1926, Adell became the founder and first editor of a new "Journal For Church Music and Liturgical Life"; later it was renamed Svenskt gudstjänstliv ("Swedish Liturgical Life") and reduced to an annual - the book you presently hold in your hands is its 66th annual volume.  

Adell moved to Lund at the request of Yngve Brilioth, professor in liturgy and Church law at the Faculty of Theology in Lund; the holder of the chair was formally also dean at the cathedral of Lund, though this part of his obligations were delegated to a vice-dean. Brilioth was a renowned historian of the Church and of the liturgy and very well acquainted with English Church life and not least with the flourishing liturgy and church music in English cathedrals. When he chose Adell to be his vice­ dean, he obviously wanted a man who could take fresh new initiatives for liturgical and musical renewal in the glorious cathedral of Lund where the present liturgical practice was rather petrified and dull.  

Adell surely came to answer Brilioth´s expectations. Under Adell´s guidance, the liturgical and musical life of the cathedral soon began to flourish. The Eucharist was celebrated far more often than before, liturgical vestments were more consistently used, and liturgical pray­ ing and singing was far more devotionally and thoughtfully performed. Above all, liturgical prayer in the form of office hours was introduced. Compline in Saturday evenings became especially appreciated, being led by the new Collegium cantorum lundense, founded and conducted by Adell. Adell also became the teacher in liturgical practice for all students of theology preparing themselves for parish work. Since Sweden has only two Faculties of Theology, about half of the theological student generation in Sweden in those years were trained by Adell and carried their insights to parishes in all parts of Sweden. Beside all practical duties, Adell, during his years at Lund, also contributed to re­ search, especially with his book Nya Testamentet på svenska 1526 (”The New Testament in Swedish 1526”) from 1936.

Adell’s 21 years as rector in Söderköping certainly meant a lot for the renewal of liturgy, prayer, and church music in that town and parish; and the beautiful medieval church building, St Laurentii, itself became thoroughly restored and greatly embellished. The parish was often the host for church music conferences - especially dealing with Gregorian chant - arranged by the Laurentius Petri Society, founded in 1941 by Adell and Peters; Adell was its first chairman and remained in this office till 1961.  

The Society has also published a series of older liturgy and church music manuscripts and prints starting with the Hög and Bjuråker manuscripts from 1541, edited by Adell in 1941. Adell had the main responsibility for keeping the enterprise going even when other persons were engaged as editors. Missale lundense 1514 was edited by Bengt Strömberg in 1946, Breviarium lincopense 1493 by Knut Peters in 1950-58 (most parts posthumously), and Graduale arosiense impressum 1514 by Toni Schmid in 1959-69. These three were the most important editions, to a great extent made possible by Adell’s energy, though the gradual was not completed till after his death. Beside these, two small song-books were edited by Pehr Edwall in 1943 and a third one by Jan Redin in  1956. After Adell’s death, Folke Bohlin has been responsible for several small editions but the series came to a close in 1977.  

Adell was very much appreciated in his diocese, and for the prästmöte (assembly of the clergy) in 1954, bishop Torsten Ysander entrusted him with the task to elaborate a comprehensive systematic thesis on the liturgy, with practical applications for the Church of Sweden. This was indeed a task for which he was extraordinarily well equipped. The investigation I Guds rika hus ("In the Rich House of God") is a very rich, learned, thoughtful, and inspired book forming a good consummation of his spiritual insights.  

When having retired, Adell started research on Gregorian chant, especially aiming at an evaluative study of the Swedish 16th century sources in relation to the earliest and best continental and English sources. His studies were cut off by his death in 1962, and the most interesting parts of his investigations are not presented in his posthumously published Gregorianik, I, 1963.  

Adell has sometimes been labelled "high- church" but he himself objected to this kind of label being used for him. He certainly appreciated that the modern “high-church” movement in Sweden engaged itself for the revival of the office hours, using Adell’s and Peters’ editions, but at the same time he apprehended the risk that this form of prayer would be identified with special high-church strivings. Adell consistently held forth the liturgy of the hours as a part of the church’s common spiritual heritage and as a concern for the Swedish church as a whole.