Tag Archives: time

The Swedish Reckoning

I want to keep the following thing I wrote from disappearing into the nether-regions of old Facebook posts, so I’m copying it here as well. This won’t make a great deal of sense to most people who come to this blog, so I will give a bit of explanation.

Last week, our youth group met at a different church (that is, not our church). During our meal together, one of the youth at my table noticed a clock that had the regular twelve-hour dial as well as the numbers 1-31 in a smaller size on the outside of the regular time circle. One of them wondered what those numbers were for. I immediately suggested that because of Sweden’s northerly latitude they had a different way of reckoning time than we do—that their day has 31 hours, rather than 24 (several of our local churches are of Swedish heritage).

This story kind of blew up from there (and I didn’t resist): I hammed it up during announcements, coming up with the phrase “Swedish Reckoning,” suggesting that there had been a great coverup by their parents and grandparents, and noting that the Dutch had been joking about the Swedish Reckoning for generations. Youth were searching Google for verification of the existence of the Swedish Reckoning and the 31-hour day. Of course, they couldn’t find anything because Sweden has sensored all Swedish Reckoning information and records, much like China exercises some control over the internet. 

The next day I posted the following on the youth Facebook page. I was quite pleased with what I wrote. Some people thought I was sharing facts—at least until the bit at the end about socks and sandals, which is a long-running inside joke at youth, and is the clue for them about the veracity of this story. In fact, to end on the words “socks in sandals” was perhaps the most satisfying part of writing this story. (One person jokingly [I hope] said I was abusing pastoral trust!)

* * *

Last night at youth, during dessert, I told the youth about the Swedish Reckoning (SR). They had no idea what this was, which doesn’t surprise me, as the history of the SR has long been covered up and distorted by half-truths and misinformation.

There is a remnant of SR at the New Sweden Church, where we met last night. There is a clock that has both the regular twelve hours on it as well as, in smaller numerals, the 31-hour clock, which was historically the Swedish breakdown of the day. In recent years, this has been denied and some have tried to explain the 31 numbers on the clock as denoting days of the month. Of course, this is a thin line of reasoning, as this would not account for nearly half of the months of the year.

No, owing to local Swedish mythology, which quite naturally grew out of their extreme northerly latitude, a day was divided into 31 hours. The clock at New Sweden reflects the desire of Swedish settlers to be able to communicate and engage effectively in non-SR cultures by including the 12/24 hour system. Today, SR is not observed anywhere in the world, other than for ceremonial purposes and at heritage sites, as well as a small sect which lives in a commune in the north of Sweden.

I bring this up because this weekend is the time change, where here in Alberta and across much of the world, we set our clocks back an hour on Saturday night/Sunday morning. Interestingly, the time change in SR was a little bit different than ours, and a lot more confusing. There was no simple “Spring Forward” or “Fall Back” for them, with a an easy adjustment of an hour. Instead, under the SR, in the fall their clocks would be turned back by three and a quarter hours and then three hours later, turned forward by an hour and twenty minutes. The procedure to move the clock forward under SR in the spring was so complicated that a 350 page book was published by the Swedish government.

Now you know!

As an interesting side note, twice each year a small community in northern Sweden celebrates the Swedish Reckoning in a ceremony involving 31 baked pies, a complicated dance sequence (“3.25 steps back, 1.3 steps forward”), and a public reading of Guidelines for Time Adjustment at Vernal Equinox Under the Swedish Reckoning, which has become a sort of religious document for this sect. Their ceremonial garb includes colourful robes, clock hats, and socks in sandals.

November is disappearing like a fart in the wind, as they say.

I’ve always thought time appeared to move faster at a job where I’m always looking two weeks ahead.  But, now that I’ve got a second job sandwiched in between that first job, it feels like time is moving faster still.  Enough already.  It’s barely winter and already it’s almost Christmas.

My first seminary assignment is due in just over a week.  Not a lengthy assignment, but I still have a lot of reading, listening (to lectures) and thinking to do.  All the sickness and tiredness around this house isn’t helping in this respect.  Plus I have other quasi-commitments I may or may not have to keep in the mean time (hopefully not).  So, things might get quieter still around here.  (Of course, I tend to get fidgety when writing papers, so chances are I’ll find a moment or two to post something.)

In the meantime…

Henry Chadwick’s The Early Church is a fascinating account of the first several centuries of the church, but you wouldn’t expect it to be funny.  In fact, I would hazzard a guess that Henry Chadwick himself did not intend it to be funny.  Be that as it may, this sentence made me chuckle:

Gregory retired in distress to Cappadocia, where he wrote a self-pitying autobiography in iambic verse.  (p. 150)

This is the outrageous stuff of Monty Python, Woody Allen, Douglas Adams and their ilk, except that it’s history.  Hilarious.

First day

Finished my first day working at/for the church here.  Pretty uneventful, but it was good.

First things first:

1. First thing I did: check phone messages.  There was one.

2. First phone call received: shortly after I checked messages, the phone rang for the first time.  It went as follows:


Me: Gateway Covenant Church.

On phone: *boat horn* “You could win two free passes to the Bahamas!  Just by…”

Me: *click*

3. First legitimate phone call received: Phil.

4. First visitor: Gavin.

It was a good day.  I spent a bit of time orienting myself and may have some more self-orienting to do tomorrow.  It will take some time to figure out how to balance two very different part-time jobs.  For the last six or so years I’ve been working at a job where efficiency and speed are paramount and where my job is laid out very specifically—there’s little room for flexibility in the work day.  The job at the church is in many respects not at all about being efficient or fast, and the job is more-or-less self-directed (within some basic expectations).  At some point soon I will have to stop asking people what I need to do and just start doing things.

It feels like a good fit.  Of course, it’s only the first day and I haven’t (and possibly won’t) face some of the difficulties someone in full-time church ministry faces.

On a somewhat related note, I am realizing tonight how much work I have to do for the Patristic Fathers course in the next month.  The first assignment is due on November 24.  It’s the only assignment with a set due date (other than the completion date of the course, which includes all the rest of the assignments), which is done to get the student working without delay.  The assignment shouldn’t be particularly difficult, but it will be time-consuming.  I have to listen to 24 40-minute lectures, read 3 books and answer a series of questions for each lecture/book chapter, all in the next month.

It’s certainly do-able, but right now it feels like it will take up much of any spare time remaining after home and familial responsibilities and other obligations.  In fact, I shouldn’t be blogging right now.  It occurred to me tonight that perhaps a blogging hiatus is in order.  We shall see.