By Mauri Kinnunen (Finnish American Reporter, April 2015)
I had a great pleasure to participate in a dissertation event at the University of Helsinki main building on Saturday, January 31 . The dissertation inspected was ThM. Thomas Palola's study "American of Scandinavian. American Apostolic Lutheran 1884 - 1929." The dissertation deals with two of my personal and research interests — Finnish American culture and the Apostolic Lutheran denomination/Laestadianism. Furthermore, I was one of the study's preliminary examiners.
The research was very extensive, including as many as 570 pages. The study has an unusually comprehensive appendix (annex 11 , not less than 70 pages), even wider than some dissertations with appendices and bib-liography. A family tree of the Apostolic Lutheran movement and a really useful glossary of terminology can be found at the end of Palola's dissertation.
The conference hall can accommodate 130 people, and was full of people, so the subject seemed to interest more people than usual. Jouko Talonen, a professor of church history, acted as a custom in the inspection. The opponent was Auto Kostiainen, a history professor emeritus from the University of Turku.
During the more-than-two-hour event the following topics were discussed: the title; some of the terms used in the dissertation; and defining the work.
Also, the opponent asked if the mutual exclusivity of the workers' movement and the Apostolic Lutheran faith was as absolute as the dissertation states. In addition, professor Kostiainen stated that the chronological order of events used in the study was mainly agreeable. However, in some places (such as discussing the annual meetings of the Apostolic Lutheran movement) a thematic treatment would have been more useful. The dissertation received strong praise for its extensive and detailed work, use of source material and fluent language.
Near the end of the event a few questions were asked. One person wondered why women played such a small role in the study and were barely visible. Also, the absence of the so-called Lyngen branch (a branch of the Laestadian movement that’s big in Norway) was not discussed in the dissertation. The event concluded with some "kahvi ja pulla."
This dissertation required an extensive amount of work. The Apostolic Lutheran movement has spread across North America, and gathering the different phases of the movement from countless fragmentary pieces of information must have been an enormous task. Namely, the Apostolic Lutherans have never had a significant central organization or central archives. Also, the movement has scattered into many groups, viewing each other as suspicious. Thus, a researcher might be seen as a snoop from another group.
The study includes a lot of information on the development of Finnish-American communities in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Namely, it includes a variety of detailed descriptions of Finnish American individuals and families' lives. Thus, it might also prove useful for a person who is interested in Finnish American culture but not that much in the study's religious context.