Nu alweer enige tijd geleden werd ik gevraagd voor de afdeling "Missionair werk" van de Wereldraad van Kerken in Genève een kort referaat te houden over ons project op IJburg. Omdat niet alleen in Nederland, maar ook daarbuiten belangstelling bestaat voor de pogingen, die de Protestantse Kerk van Nederland doet om naar nieuwe vormen van geloofscommunicatie te zoeken ontvangen we nogal eens bezoek van groepen, die graag willen weten, wat ons in Amsterdam en dus ook op IJburg beweegt.
Daarom leek het verstandig dit verhaal op onze site op te nemen, zodat ook voor "niet-Nederlandstaligen" ons project wellicht wat toegankelijk wordt.
World Council of Churches,
Geneva, October 30th, 2012
Reverend Dutch Reformed Church
First of all, I would like to thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to tell you something about the missionary activities in the Netherlands.
For about 35 years I have been a reverend in several parishes in our country.
During that period I’ve tried to develop new ways in which my parish could be a light in the darkness or, to say it in a different way, trying to be the hands and feet of God.
Of course there is taking care of the services on Sunday. But that is only the beginning of a new week. In my opinion, one of the most important tasks is to visit people at home; meeting them and talking to them in their own environment. That takes a lot of time, but the lord has given us his most beautiful gift, which is time. He makes himself known as the God of time. "I am who I am. I am the Being!"
To visit people, if possible at home, is meeting them and becoming acquainted with them.
In my opinion this is the most important fundament of a parish. When you give the Church a face, you have to show your own face. During the many years in which I was trying to take care of my people, we received many blessings. Because, during our many conversations, people told us about their lives, their problems and vital questions.
Sometimes they came to the Church, they asked us to baptize their children, bless their wedding celebrations or to conduct a funeral. And sometimes at the end they took interest in God, the Church, the Bible or some projects of the parish.
We always have to realize, that the numbers shouldn’t discourage us.
The good Lord never spoke about numbers and we should talk about success as a matter of quality and not of quantity.
In 2009 the protestant Church of Holland in Utrecht asked me to move to Amsterdam to found a new parish in the newest part of Amsterdam, called IJburg. Earlier, in 2004, a new missionary project was founded there, but after several years it ended in conflict. The main cause was that ten members of the new project decided after a year of disputations that everyone was allowed to do it on her or his own way. Reading the reports of their meetings, it seemed that a kind of anarchism had developed in the course of years.
I think that this could be a great danger for new missionary projects. Mainly because these projects are often run by several young urban professionals, who generally have busy jobs with a lot of responsibility, and who might not agree on an organization level.
Now I will tell you something about the policy of the Protestant Church in Holland.
As you may know, in 2004 the Dutch Protestant Church was founded in Utrecht. There were three components: The Dutch Reformed Church, called the
Nederlandse Hervormde kerk, another Dutch Reformed Church called Gereformeerd Synodaal and the Lutheran Church. After that foundation the expenses had to be cut down. The fundraising campaign was a big success and resulted in a surplus of more than one million euro.
At that moment the new missionary spirit was born. The new missionary section developed five new pioneer places all around the country and reported to all the (1600) protestant parishes that they could ask for financial support from the National Protestant Church, for as long as the money lasted of course.
After discussing this with each other and making policies, five parishes could receive money for the founding of a new parish in completely unknown and secular locations in the Netherlands. Amsterdam was the first that presented a request for IJburg, which is the reason that I was asked to apply in June 2010. I was the first pioneer in this new project.
At this moment all pioneers have had their appointment and locations and for the new period till 2015 there is a new missionary plan.
I have to add that all projects are sustained for three years. In my case, I‘d like to add that the parish of Amsterdam promised to appoint me as a reverend of Amsterdam, as at this moment I am only working in Amsterdam as a reverend of the National Protestant Church of Holland.
As I said: the new missionary project will take three years. Now 100 Dutch parishes have been told to ask for support of the National Church in receiving three times 10.000 euros for developing new missionary projects in their own village or city.
In the meantime, the chairman of the national missionary section and one of his colleagues are visiting all parishes and reverends. During those meetings they explain the new ideas and missionary policies. It is very important not to write down everything but to have discussions and give explanations face to face!
Ending my story I will tell you about my experiences during the first 2 and 1/2 years in Amsterdam-IJburg since my start in June 2010.
The few people who had religious interest were very upset about the way the Church of Amsterdam ended the first missionary project, as I told you in the beginning of my speech.
They did not even want to meet my wife and me. Therefore I can tell you that in the first month I started with one member in my parish and that was my wife. The national Church paid my salary and the Church took care of the housing and a place for our future meetings.
The first experience is: the pioneer is not able to do both, constructing, arranging a new Church and to establish a parish by visiting people and organizing meetings and attending meetings.
To do both is impossible. My wife took care of the new building in which we would have our services and meetings and I went to visit people on the island IJburg. So I went to shops, restaurants, talked to the newspaperman.
The Church is not just a building, but also a cooperation of people. Of course we need a place with a roof, especially in Holland, but God is a God of people, the God of all people in the world. And for me
this was the first challenge: to make peace with the people, who were very angry towards the Protestant Church of Amsterdam and refused to meet me.
For me it was absolutely impossible to do any missionary activities on the island without repairing the damaged relationship with the Church. I called my predecessor, still living near IJburg, the real pioneer, and he was very glad to hear from me.
I visited all nine members of the former project and invited them to my new place. They appreciated this action and in the beginning they held their own services in my new Church. After one year they told me that they were doing better when cooperating with us. They came to trust me and the other new people, and at this moment nearly all of them are active in the new situation. I attended meetings of neighborhood committees, in which people were talking with each other about recreation grounds for children, protecting children in traffic etc. since it is a complete new situation living in this experimental area of Amsterdam.
These are young people, the inhabitants of IJburg, most of them are ZZP er, freelancers without staff. They were very astonished to see a reverend attending their meetings. A reverend is busy only on Sundays and he will conduct services, funerals and baptisms and wedding services, they thought. But a clergyman, dealing with common daily situations: that was very surprising.
During the first year I tried to explain that a real Church is busy with all situations, problems and challenges in the world. The only right to exist is for the Church dealing with everything and everyone in the community, the society. Albert van den Heuvel once wrote; we have to be busy not to change the reality in a Church, but in the realization of the true Church.
To me, a true Church means realizing an emerging Church, a challenging Church. That is what we are busy with, the 45 people in our new situation. I am busy with all kinds of activities.
I am busy with founding a big farm for children. On Thursday evenings we have an important meeting with several inhabitants of IJburg, not members of the Church, but very interested in this theme.
On Friday I am busy the whole day with my Parents house. Because there is a big problem on our island with divorces. There are many, many young families and many of the parents will divorce or have been divorced. It is often not possible for the father or the mother who left the house to stay in the neighborhood of the children. There is no place; there is no money for renting a new place. So very big problems are arising. Now I am busy to found a house, a new house for divorced people. The Church will rent a new house, makes it suitable and ready for four new independent adults, male or female, who can rent from the Church for very low prices.
In the new week I will be working with politicians for founding a new organization that generates money for children in foreign families. They have no money or they spend it wrongly, but the children are not able to assist a sports club or something else.
I am preparing a big service in a sports hall during Christmas Eve. In 2011 I prepared that service with people outside my parish. They told me: "We have nothing to do with God or the Bible, but we have something to do with your project. We like the new Church and it is important for our children that we celebrate Christmas. Are we allowed to help you?" And I said "yes" and they assisted me and the result was that 600 people assisted the service. People were singing, and listening and of course there was a sermon by me.
Further on I am very busy building a good relationship with the Roman Catholic Church and also with the eight separated small evangelical movements that are active on IJburg and praying for IJburg. Among them two young families from the USA Pasadena Church of California and the South East
Baptist Church. They too care to represent God and develop activities in the community of IJburg with the purpose of showing people that God is interested in all mankind. And of course the main source also for me is the service on Sunday. Every Sunday: singing, listening and praying.
On his desk, J.F. Kennedy kept a famous poem:
"O, God, Thy sea is so great, and my boat is so small."
And he was right!
Thanks for your attention.