Establishing St. Sophia's was leap of faith for ZickWally Zick got a head start establishing his congregation.
By: Ruth Nerhaugen, The Republican Eagle
Wally Zick got a head start establishing his congregation.
He was still studying for the priesthood when he took a leap of faith. He bought a church and moved it to a hilltop overlooking the sweeping fields of rural Stockholm.
Today St. Sophia's Liberal Catholic Church - originally an Evangelical Lutheran Swedish mission church and later the Stockholm Moravian Church - serves a small congregation of independent thinkers like Zick.
The Liberal Catholic Church evolved from the Old Catholic Church of Great Britain, which broke away from mainstream Catholicism in the 1800s over the issue of papal infallibility. It is independent from the Roman Catholic Church, but has many of that church's familiar traditions - the seven sacraments, a service with a priest wearing robes, communion, a belief in the Trinity, Holy Orders and more.
But it also differs from the Roman church, Zick said. It does not answer to the pope. Priests are allowed to marry. And everyone, he said, "has complete freedom of conscience and belief," which he believes imposes a greater responsibility on the individual because there is not one to tell them what to think.
"You must discern for yourself what is right or wrong through prayer and meditation - and a lot of study," he explained.
Also, he said, "We believe all world religions have truth at their core - they're all equal. The one that works for you will bring you closer to God. It doesn't matter which one."
Zick spent most of a lifetime preparing for the role he fills today.
He studied chemistry and mathematics at the University of Minnesota and worked 30 years as a chemist.
Zick and his wife, Pat Carlson, both grew up Catholic. Both were married to others; both got divorced.
"We wanted to marry, but we couldn't do it in the Roman Catholic Church," he said.
That's when they found the Liberal Catholic Church. "It suited us just fine," Zick said.
They discovered Stockholm by attending an art fair, bought a house there in 1986, and moved to Stockholm in 1999 when both realized they were in a position to quit their jobs.
About 15 years ago Zick was ordained a deacon at St. Francis Liberal Catholic Church in the Twin Cities. "I had no intention of becoming a priest," he said.
Then in 2003, that church broke away from the American diocese over the issue of ordaining woman. "I thought it was a no-brainer," he said, but some of the old-time members wouldn't accept woman as priests. Zick gravitated to the new, more liberal branch of the church that ordains women.
However, he said, "That left us with no bishop" to perform ordinations - just as he was coming to realize the priesthood was his future.
The Stockholm Moravian Church closed that same year, and the remaining members of the congregation were looking at tearing down the 1920 building and keeping only the cemetery.
"They put the word out anyone could have it if they wanted it, but they had to move it," Zick said. "So I took the church and moved it."
He built the basement, put an addition on the back and created an altar, all in anticipation. The Minneapolis church joined in a new movement, and after more than a year of focused study, he was ordained a priest.
In April 2005, St. Sophia's opened for services. Mass is celebrated on the first and third Sundays of the month; a short prayer service and discussion are held on the other Sundays.
"It's a small, rather intimate group," Zick said, with about 30 signed members and another 20 who attend occasionally.
He does no evangelizing. St. Sophia's is there for anyone who wants to come.
"I think people who are ready for that church will find it somehow, like I did," he said.
Information can be found online at http://kingsgarden.org/English/Organizations/LCC.gb/
The Liberal Catholic Church does not appeal to everybody, Zick said. "It's a church for people who are willing to work at spiritual growth." Most of the priests and bishops he knows are scientists - "curious, intelligent, willing to look at everything and try to determine what the truth is."
He is a volunteer priest with helpful handyman skills. Nobody gets a salary.
He doesn't believe people should have to "pay money to help you with spiritual enlightenment," Zick explained. "The truth is free."