In the late 1960s I spent many hours each day in a small room above the recreation area in the boys dormitory. The room had a small window that allowed me to see the traffic in the corridor to and from the rooms where the boys lived, who were entrusted in my care. In those days the campus, where today the office of the Dutch Adventist Church is located, served as an educational institution with a small theological seminary and also a small secondary school. I taught in the seminary, but my main task was to serve as preceptor (boys’ dean) and coach for the (mainly very young) pupils and a few older students.
This week I spent a major part of my time in the building where I once served as the boys’ dean. This particular building, adjacent to the union office building, now houses a center for training and seminars. Some eight years ago—in the period when I served as president of the Dutch Adventist Church—I took the initiative to have this building completely renovated and made suitable for training purposes, after it had gradually fallen into a serious state of disrepair. The former recreational area is now in use as a ‘state of the art’ room for lectures, training sessions and seminars, while the rooms that once housed the students now serve as reasonably comfortable hotel rooms. During this past week I taught a four-day seminar to over twenty Adventist pastors and I stayed in the room next to the little office that once served as the basis for my preceptorial duties. It was a kind of déja-vu.
The coordinator for the department of the central church office for training and coaching, pastor Jurriën den Hollander, had organized the seminar that focused on the theme of ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church). He has asked me to teach some 20 hours. A few years ago, I wrote a book on that topic (The Body of Christ, published by the Review and Herald Publishing Association in de US), that was used as the text book for the seminar. It was a most agreeable week, that probably gave me even more pleasure and satisfaction than the participant,
After all, it is far from self-evident that your colleagues are willing to come and listen to you for four full days, even after you have left active service over six years ago. They know more of many aspects of church service, as it is today, than I do, even though I may have been able to delve a bit more into some theoretical aspects. However, I did not pick up any signals that they felt that possibly it would have been better to invite someone who continues to have an active role in the Dutch church of 2014. I must admit that towards the end I felt a little exhausted, but it was a great pleasure to be part of this experience.
The group of Dutch Adventist pastors has seen some major changes in the past few years. The openness towards each other and the appreciation for the diversity among them, seems to have steadily increased. The corps is quite a bit rejuvenated through recent additions of young pastors. And while the women are still in a minority, they now are an integral and substantial part of the group. It is good to see how the pastors appear to feel ‘safe’ when they are together and are able to discuss things freely, even when it concerns delicate subjects concerning our way of ‘doing’ church and facing particular challenges.
I spent a considerable amount of time preparing for this intense week, but I look back at the experience with much satisfaction. Now I can turn a page and start preparing, during the next few weeks, for a three months stay in the United States. Towards the end of March I hope to leave, together with my wife, for California where I have been invited to teach as a visiting professor in the theological faculty of Loma Linda University. I see it as a sign of considerable trust and regard it as a great honor to have been invited for this. However, it will be a big challenge to get all the preparations done. And, before we can set off towards Schiphol Airport, I have a number of sermons to preach, some meetings to attend and to finish a few writing projects. It is beginning to look as if 2014 will once again be quite a full year. It is, however, cause for joy and gratefulness, to still have sufficient energy and, even as a retired person, to be able to contribute and to see that there are still people who are willing to come and listen to what I have to say.