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  • Jennifer Wheeler

"All close relationships have a tactile element"

An interview with Rev Lönnebo on the 25th anniversary of the Pearls of Life (published 12 March 2020, Kyrkans Tidning)

Eighteen pearls, a bracelet. The Wreath of the Savior is an aid that works for both believers and seekers. The secret? That it makes no demands.

Among the more ecclesiastical, the history of the origin is known. The one about how the newly retired and vacationing bishop Martin Lönnebo was stranded during a storm in the Greek archipelago, and in the state of emergency gave birth to the idea for the Wreath of the Savior.

A bracelet to help with prayer, composed of ten kinds of pearls, each with its own message and purpose. God pearl, I pearl, Night pearl…

Today, 25 years later , the bracelet is an established phenomenon far beyond the church. It can be seen on wrists in buzz reports and cultural interviews. It is included in the baptismal gifts. And it is a recurring element in the congregations' educational work. It is even available in the form of a garden and as a work of art.

"After all, I have succeeded in some things," says the author himself before his upcoming 90th birthday.

He tells of a time when he ordered pizza and sat in the restaurant waiting for it to be ready to bake. A richly tattooed man sat at the table next to him with a beer in front of him and was talkative. The man recognized Martin Lönnebo. “Thank you for the Wreath of the Savior. I have bought many and given them away," he said.

"It was the last person you thought would use the pearls. It shows that it is possible to lower the threshold for faith."

That the Wreath of the Savior has had a great impact is due to several things, says Martin Lönnebo. The most important are that it is unpretentious and that it is tactile.

"People are afraid of the Christian faith, they say 'I am not religious, but…' Then you can start with this, then you become more and more religious."

In all faith traditions, there are concrete ways and methods of praying. But in Sweden here and now, it can seem as if you have to be able to give a lecture to God to qualify, says Martin Lönnebo.

"Previously, there were also in our tradition various rituals that included the body, we did the sign of the cross and fell on our knees. All close relationships have a tactile element. The Wreath of the Savior is a direct way to help people perceive holy presence."

Since the first bracelet was designed, the concept has grown. Today, the bracelet is available in a variety of versions and with various peripheral products. Martin Lönnebo states that Frälsarkransen (Savior's Wreath, Pearls of Life) is a phenomenon that is tough on its own, and the publisher's, power and that he himself is now mostly in the background.

Have you discovered any new dimensions of the Wreath of the Savior yourself?

"It's more quirky than I thought when I made it. For example, it has 18 pearls. A researcher in the Netherlands wrote me a letter telling me that in the Old Testament the word for life is the same as the word for the number 18."

He has also discovered that the Pearls of Silence have ended up in the right place, through how they surround the Pearl of God on both sides.

"God is surrounded by silence. Immediately after that comes the I pearl. It is placed in a way that makes man easier to understand. She becomes an action, a longing."

How do you use the Wreath of the Savior yourself?

"I have it in my pocket and touch it. Some have it on their arm. For me, a small farmer from Västerbotten, it does not feel natural."

But the queen has it clearly visible on her wrist.

"Yes. I think it fits in perfectly there."

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