A Festschrift


(Budva, Montenegro, Saturday evening November 15). In February of this year a request came from England.  This is what it is about: After dr. Bertil Wiklander had been the president of the Trans-European Division of the Adventist Church for some nineteen years, he had decided to retire per July of this year. A few members of his staff thought that he deserved a special honor in the form of a Festschrift—a more or less scholarly book with contributions from people scattered over Europe (and to a limited extent also from elsewhere), with whom he had cooperated closely over the years. However, someone had to be willing to actually do the work such a project involved. Since I myself had also worked closely with Wiklander for a considerable time (six years as the executive secretary of the division and five years as president of the Adventist Church in the Netherlands—I replied that I would duly consider the request. After some hesitation I informed the initiators that I was willing to take the job on. My hesitation was caused by the realization that this would be a major undertaking, and that this should be done within a relatively short period of time. It was the intention, so I was told, to present the book mid-November during the annual winter meetings of the full executive committee of the church in this region of the world.

Today is November 15. I am writing this blog in a comfortable room in the Splendid Hotel in the small state of Montenegro (North of Albania), where the annual meeting takes place. Yesterday my wife and I flew via Rome to this beautiful place. For a few days we hope to thoroughly enjoy the marvelous view of the Mediterranean Sea. Besides, it is very pleasant to see so many old friends. But we are not just here for tourism and personal enjoyment. Together with Rafaat Kamal, Wiklander’s successor, I presented this afternoon the Festschrift to dr. Wiklander. Is has become an attractive, 520 page book with the suggestive title:  Faith in Search of Depth and Relevancy.

Early March I sent letters to potential authors with the question whether they would be prepared to contribute an essay of ca. 7,000 words about a topic in their area of expertise. The response was heartwarming. Eventually there were no fewer than 30 men and (a few) women who promised to send a contribution. So, with my own piece, this resulted in a total of 31 chapters. I had given July 15 as the deadline (knowing that some would need a bit more time), leaving me just enough time for the editorial process and the production of the book. Some 500 e-mails later and many hundreds of hours of editorial work (and in the end quite worried about getting the book ready in time!) I could yesterday hold a finished copy in my hands. Thus today, according to the original plan, we could present the Festschrift to Bertil Wiklander.

It certainly gave great satisfaction to see Wiklander’s surprised face and listen to his words of appreciation. But, fortunately this volume is more than just a present given to someone at a specific occasion, and that is then brought home to be put in a closet. The thousand or so copies that have been printed will be read by people around the world. I am almost sure that some of chapters of this book will be quoted in publications by other authors.

I must admit that it is a relief that we have succeeded in making a nice book that will prove to be worth reading (and that appeared on time!). For the last two months, since the finished manuscript went to the printer, I have been able to focus again on other projects. In the past week I have been able to resume work on a new daily devotional that is due next year, so that the Dutch people can start using it per 1 January 2016. Writing three hundred and sixty-six short devotional messages is quite a challenge. After adding this past week twenty to the fifty that I had already had written some time ago, it brings the score to seventy. Before I return home next Tuesday I hope to have added another ten. I have made a schedule for the next five months that I intend to stick to. This time it is not about pushing other people but about a little self-discipline.  As long as no other Festschrift calls for my attention, it should be doable.