My first visit to an IKEA shop was in 1964. As newly-weds we went to Sweden to sell books, with the aim of earning enough money to realize our plan of travelling to the United States. I wanted to continue my studies at Andrews University, in order to get my MA-degree.

Somewhere South of Stockholm we saw a round building with the word IKEA. I remember spending about an hour in this shop, and also how we were totally impressed! Since then I have seen many of these blue super-shops in a range of different countries—even in Kuwait! Much of the furniture that we (and countless other Dutch families) have in our home, comes from IKEA. We have selected what we wanted, often had a hard time fitting everything in our car, and put everything together at home—not seldom with the annoying experience of missing one screw or some small bolts.

Lately I have been able to avoid visiting any Dutch IKEA-shop. But this week, there was no escape. That particular morning I had not had my morning walk of about one hour (as I try to do most days), but an IKEA-visit also implies a fair amount of walking! Following the arrows makes you meander through the giant shop (but ignoring the arrows results in getting lost). We were in search of white Billy bookcases. It means quite a pilgrimage through the shop. But, so be it. Showing your IKEA family card in the restaurant, provides you with any number of cups of coffee and the Swedish minced meat balls (kött bullar) are always very palatable (and cheap)!

Neighbors in our apartment building will soon move to Portugal. They want to get rid of quite a lot of their stuff, as, for instance, two white Billy bookcases, together with a white rack for cd’s. The price was symbolic. And thus we bought these items with a view to replacing some birch-colored Billy’s. However, to complete the project we needed to buy another white Billy.

Billy has been a grand success story of the Swedish furniture giant since 1979. Why Billy had to be ‘improved’ baffles me. The holes for the small plugs that carry the shelves have become smaller, as well as those plugs themselves. But the most worrisome thing is that the color has been somewhat adapted: the white has become a bit more white! But the job has been completed, and as a result we have a bookcase which can house a few more books—which is important since all other book cases in our home are more than full. And it takes an extraordinary pair of eyes to see the difference between old white and the new white.

The reader may perhaps have surmised that I do not really belong to the great multitude of IKEA-fans. I happen to be somewhat allergic for super-large shops. I am actually someone who would like to see the small village grocery store return, with just one brand of each article, in just one size package.

It is difficult to deny that IKEA has develop an incredibly strong concept. You recognize them anywhere in the world. They are very accessible. Your children are warmly welcome in the play area, where they are closely supervised. The IKEA shops carry so many articles that people of all ages find something to their liking. You can ask for advice, but you can also do your own research. And, there is a major restaurant, to which I already referred. You can buy your breakfast in the restaurant for just one euro, and (this is what I just read in one of their advertisement) you are welcome to use the restaurant as a place for a committee meeting. The family card shows that you belong to something big. Of course, I realize that all of this serves to sell more Billy bookcases and Kramfors lounge suits. And it appears to be a winning strategy!

Thinking a little more about the IKEA-concept, I began to wonder whether quite a few of these elements could also perhaps be applied in the setting of a local church. Many church building that are often empty during most of the week could perhaps be used for all kinds activities that could ‘entice’ people to enter our ‘shop’. Why not allow groups in the neighborhood or town/city to use the facilities of our building or invite local committees and associations to have their committee meetings in one of the church rooms? Why not use the church to provide assistance to people who take courses in Dutch citizenship or who want to learn the Dutch language? All you need are a few volunteers who open the doors and offer some assistance, and a coffee machine that serves a reasonable product. And maybe you would need a few Billy bookcases that may be filled with books that can be borrowed or simply taken away?

Perhaps I am oversimplifying things, or . . .? And then, the idea of a church where you can get a spiritual package with parts that you may assemble yourself in your own color . . . somehow seems quite appealing to me.


2 thoughts on “Billy

  1. soka

    I totally agree with you, Reinder! My vision is that people in the neighbourhood know that there is a church and that it is a place that is open and can be used. A dark and locked up church is one of the worst things I know. On Monday nights one of the rooms of our church is rented by an accordeon club – a totally adorable group of people. It always makes me smile when I hapoen to be at church on a Monday night, not to mention all the encounters with people I never would have had the possibility to talk to. Since this group is well-known in the area I was looking for a possibility to do something together – so the last 4 years at the beginning of each Advent season (very important for Swedes!) we have a program called “Singing in the Advent season” together with the accordeon club. People come to listen and sing traditional chistmas carols, listen to the Accordeon club play – and listen to a short sermon as well. After the program everybody is invited for “fika”. This really is a success story – since the accordeon club is so well known, this short sermon is the one sermon each year that is heard by most non-Adventists!
    On Tuesday nights we have a knitting Café – a concept I copied from the Swedish state church. Imagine to have the pssibility to sit down with people and talk for two hours! On Wdnesday afternoons the basement of the church is taken over by thirteen ladies. Then it’s time for weaving! Our goal with the weaving class on Wednesday afternoons was to have an activity for lonely people who need a place to meet during the day – elderly people or people on sick leave. The fun thing with activities like the weaving class is, that it is planned as an activity to lower the threshold of the church for people who wouldn’t go to church, as a possibility to make friends and as something that meets the need of people – simply to do good! What happens in reality, though, is, that this has become THE place where I as a pastor have the most important conversations with non-church members each week. Everybody there knows that I’m the pastor and the lady teaching the class is one of the elders, so the ladies approach us with THEIR questions.
    (Sonja Kalmbach

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