Abela Gullbransson was a leading figure in the religious revivalist movement of the early nineteenth century.
Abela Gullbransson had no formal education but she was in contact with the educated world: her cousin Carl Georg Brunius was a professor of architecture. Her theological beliefs lay in between those of the church and those of the lay folk. As a member of the bourgeois “gammalläsare” (old-style public readers) she found her own position between the Moravian church which she had left, the revivalist preacher Jacob Otto Hoof whom she was partly critical of, and Henric Schartau whom she was very impressed by.
Abela Gullbransson’s “själavårdsbrev” (letters of spiritual welfare) largely comprise traditionally stated, rather objective comments in the form of private letters. They are often introduced by more subjective comments. One letter to a younger female friend thanks her for her mutual tears, testifies to her own newly-found freedom, and seeks God’s blessings for her friend. She encourages her to dwell within Jesus’ wounds, to not worry if she feels cold, dull or ill, as long as she follows the Shepherd who knows his sheep. Her advice is to fight with the Spirit’s sword and to receive the Eucharist as often as possible. The recipients of these letters included men and women, as well as some of the soon-to-be Schartau priests. Abela Gullbransson’s letters addressed to men are often less emotive. Certain letters were intended to be read in small gatherings.
Abela Gullbransson prescribed frequent Bible-reading: “Proper morning and evening prayers on knees; two chapters of the Bible daily. No spiritual warrior can neglect this without starving the spiritual need.” She criticised her contemporaries for “setting greater store on doing, than on believing”. Her letters reveal the anti-authoritarian aspect of revivalism, particularly when encouraging children whose parents tell them to stay away from the church “to lie, illicitly obtain things, work on Sundays, distil homebrew although it is illegal”, but also to “dance around the maypole” or engage in moneylending. In all these situations, she advises, “be insubordinate, do not obey your parents, do you hear me?!”.
Abela Gullbransson also composed songs which were released in at least twelve versions during the years 1823-1936. They are neither romantic nor sentimental. A song in commemoration of the chief court preacher Bergsten opens somewhat brutally: “Now Bergsten lies, stiff and cold.” The ensuing verses reveal there had been a close, spiritual relationship between the author and Bergsten. Several of Abela Gullbransson’s songs liken the Spirit’s work in converting people to specifically feminine experiences such as childbirth. This is perhaps most apparent in the song “Alldeles ingen krona utan strid” which includes the lines: “No! Trust that it is sore, the rough grind of God’s anger, just like the physical mother feels when delivering her child.” Under the title of “Förr eller senare till de Små” she connects her own impending death to that of her sons in the future. Here too Abela Gullbransson combines harsh realism with tenderness: ”When the coffin is ready and the dust is within, with a sheet spread on top … It is really hard to be parted from you; but I will embrace you again.”
Abela Gullbransson died in 1822.