Because I knew it would be a busy week, I had already written my blog for this week. But that blog has been put on ice until next week, because I want to focus on a special event that really took me by surprise. On Monday morning my wife and I were more or less abducted to the town hall of Zeewolde, where we were received by Gerrit Jan Gorter, the mayor of our town. It slowly dawned on me what was going on. The last working day before the King’s birthday is the traditional “rain of ribbons” and two friends had, as it turned out, nominated me for a royal decoration and they had the pleasure of seeing that my name had come through the selection process. And as a result, the mayor could announce to me and my wife, and the ten guests who had been secretly informed and were already waiting in the council chamber at the prescribed Corona social distance, that it had “pleased” His Majesty to appoint me as “knight of the Order of Oranje-Nassau.” Because of the Corona restrictions, he was not allowed to pin the decorations on me, but asked my wife Aafje to do so.
The Mayor gave a fine speech that showed personal involvement. It was clear that he had done his “homework”. The enumeration of my qualities and of a whole series of things I have been able to do in my life, could have been a little more modest. Perhaps those who made the nomination had embellished certain things a bit too much, in order to increase the chances of my getting through the selection. But it was all very pleasant and the Mayor had even delved into my weekly blogs to find some more background material for his speech.
The Order of Oranje-Nassau was established on 4 April 1892, to honor Dutch citizens in our Kingdom (including the islands in the Caribbean), who have “rendered exceptional service to society.” In the Mayor’s words, the work of the church is also very much part of society. This year, 2,832 citizens received a royal decoration, of whom over 86% were appointed “members” of the Order, and 325 persons received the rank of “knight”.
The local and regional press of our hometown and surroundings paid extensive attention to the decoration of four Zeewolders, including Helma Lodders, until recently a member of the Parliament, who received the decoration in The Hague from the hands of the chairperson of the Dutch Parliament. To my surprise, I found myself listed in the Nederlands Dagblad – a Christian national newspaper – with a short article, amidst some thirty others from Dutch church life, who had also been decorated this year.
I will have to explain to my foreign friends that being a “knight” in this Dutch order does not have the same meaning as receiving a “knighthood” in England, and that they do not suddenly have to address me as “Sir”. Nor will I be allowed to flaunt my decorations on a daily basis, as there are clear rules for wearing it. There is a small badge for daily usage that can be pinned into the buttonhole of a jacket.
I was very touched that two of my friends-Bert Slond in Naaldwijk, whom I have known for about 65 years, and Dr. Wim Altink, one of my most valued colleagues and my successor as the president of the Dutch Adventist Church-had taken the initiative to nominate me and to put a lot of time and energy into it. The large number of warm reactions from home and abroad also did me good. It is nice to hear from time to time that your efforts have meant something to a lot of people. Inevitably, there will always be a few people who find the whole thing rather questionable. On the denominational facebook page, someone expressed concern that accepting a worldly medal crosses the line that brings the recipient into the sphere of the much detested Catholicism. How that works is not clear to me, but investigating it is not a high priority. With all the praise, a single critical note might not hurt.
Writing this blog had to be done in some haste, because this week (from Monday to Thursday) there is an (on-line) symposium on “Adventism and Apocalypticism”, organized by the German Adventist University (Friedensau University). This keeps me (and over 200 others) behind my laptop for a large part of the day. Every day I write a report for the Spectrum website, and today I also have the privilege of giving a lecture. It is a good thing that I always try to prepare for these things in good time. Nonetheless, this week has become a little stressful . . .