Dane John Gottleib Matteson (1835-1896) from Langeland brought Seventh-day Adventism to Norway. Though poor, he had a good literary and musical education. He emigrated to America with his parents and two sisters at age 20 and settled in Wisconsin.
He became an ordained minister, marrying Tromsø’s Anna Sieverson after attending a Baptist Seminary in Chicago. The couple moved to Wisconsin, where he became the pastor of a Danish-speaking Baptist congregation. Matteson converted nearly his entire congregation after they converted to Adventism themselves in 1863. This made it the second Adventist Church in America.
He continued evangelising and established several Adventist churches across the American Midwest. As a trained musician, he compiled the first Adventist hymnal in Dano-Norwegian. In 1872, he was appointed editor of Advent Tidende (‘The Advent Times’), a magazine for Adventists of Scandinavian heritage in the USA.
Copies of Advent Tidende were sent to the Scandinavian countries. The magazine was well-received, so he travelled to Denmark as a missionary in 1877. Matteson went to Christiania (Oslo) to preach the year after, and drew crowds of up to 1,200 to a hall at Østerhausgaten 12. That in turn led to the foundation of Norway’s first Adventist congregation in January 1879. It initially had 34 members, mostly working-class women.
The Danish pastor immediately turned to other Adventist pursuits. He started a magazine, Tidernes Tegn (‘Signs of the Times’), and published a hymnal for which he had written the texts and composed the melodies. In 1881, he started Sunnhetsbladet (‘Health Magazine’). The initiation of these publications was a milestone for the congregation, as periodicals were few at that time, and many members of the congregation earned their livings selling them.
Matteson died in 1896, but the work he had started continued. Adventism spread across the country, particularly after the turn of the century. Membership of 652 in 1901 rose to 1,826 in 1921.
There are 4,600 registered Adventists in Norway today. The Church is organised in three districts: Northern Norway (above the Arctic Circle), Western Norway, and Eastern Norway (below the Arctic Circle). Together, they have 62 congregations and 43 churches.
The Adventists own and operate several different institutions and educational establishments. These are the Skogli Health and Rehabilitation Centre at Lillehammer, Tyrifjorden Upper Secondary School (Buskerud County), a publishing house and a Bible institute at Røyse, and the Møsserød care home at Sandefjord. The others are a senior citizens community centre at Bergen, 11 primary schools, and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Norway.
- Membership: 4,600.
- Three districts.
- 62 congregations.
- 43 churches.
- Further information: Syvendedags Adventistsamfunnet, PO Box 124, 3529 Røyse, Telephone numbers on the website.
Editor’s note: We invite readers to read the first seven articles in this continuing series focusing on religions in Norway: The Lutheran Church, Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, Orthodoxy, Methodism, and the Baptist Church.