A church in Norway has conducted a name change ceremony for a transgender woman, believed to be the first such church celebration in the nation.
“I’m a member of the Norwegian church, and I’m also about to come ‘out of the closet’ as a Christian, so this ceremony is important to me,” the woman, Elin Stillingen, told Norway’s TV2 before the Saturday event, the Associated Press reports. Stillingen, now 49, transitioned and legally changed her name last year.
Pastor Stein Ovesen led the ceremony at Hoff Church, a medieval structure located north of Oslo. It is affiliated with the Church of Norway, a Lutheran denomination that counts 70 percent of Norwegians among its members.
There are some conservatives in the denomination who would object to the affirmation of trans people, but Oveson considered the ceremony the right thing to do. “For me this is an important act that expresses the grace and openness that God shows me,” he told TV2.
He planned the celebration with the Stensveen Foundation, a nonprofit that offers support to LGBTQ+ people facing challenges.
“I know that so many are grateful that this event has come true, because this goes deep into the lives of people,” he said.
Many of Stillingen’s friends and relatives attended the ceremony. Afterward, she said, “It feels very right” and “I’m very, very happy.” She then wrote on Facebook that the ceremony “was like coming home, and Jesus was there.” She said she hopes other trans people will have access to such events.