Located just south of the Arctic Circle in the North Atlantic Ocean, Iceland is the least-populated Nordic country. It is Europe’s second largest island (following Great Britain), and its capital, Reykjavik, is the world’s northernmost capital city.
In spite of its rather forbidding name, Iceland enjoys a rather temperate climate relative to its location, due in part to the mild currents of the Gulf Stream. Iceland is a geological hot spot, with active geysers and volcanoes dotting the island. Despite its proximity to the Arctic Circle, its coasts remain ice-free, even in winter.
The first settlers in Iceland may have been Irish monks or hermits, who came to the island in the eighth century. The first permanent settler is thought to be Ingólfur Arnarson, who settled in what is now Reykjavik in 874. By 930, settlers established the Icelandic Free State, governed by the Althing, a legislative and judiciary parliament. Christianity came to the island about 1000.
In the middle of the sixteenth century Danish King Christian III imposed Lutheranism on all the citizens of Iceland, and the National Church of Iceland is, in fact, a Lutheran body. Icelanders enjoy freedom of religion, but there is no separation of church and state per se. Polls show that 43 percent of the population never attend religious services and only 10 percent attend regularly.
Adventists in Iceland
The first-known Seventh-day Adventist in Iceland was Norwegian minister O. J. Röst. According to a report that appeared in The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (now the Adventist Review) on Feb. 11, 1915, Röst visited various ports around the island in 1893. At Eskifjördur, he convinced a Lutheran minister to begin keeping the Sabbath. Although the man never became a Seventh-day Adventist, he kept the Sabbath for the rest of his life, despite opposition from his own church, which kept him in his ministerial position.
In 1897 David Östlund, a Swede, was sponsored by the Denmark Conference as the first Adventist missionary to Iceland. On his trip to the island he met an Icelander returning home who had begun keeping the Sabbath as a result of reading the book The Great Controversy. Östlund began his work in Iceland by publishing and circulating two books: The Second Coming of Christ, by James White; and Steps to Christ, by Ellen White. In 1900 Östlund, a printer by trade, began publishing a semimonthly magazine, Fraekorn (The Seed), which for a time had the widest circulation of any paper in the country.
Part of the Trans-European Division, the Iceland Conference has a membership of 563 in six churches. The conference, headquartered in Reykjavik, operates the Iceland Publishing House and a Bible correspondence school.
Adventists in Iceland face the same challenges as those in other industrialized countries: reaching a society that tries to satisfy its spiritual hunger with materialism, high-tech diversions, and secular philosophies and lifestyles.
To learn more about reaching our world for Christ, visit:www.AdventistMission.org.