Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Boeklezing on Koningsweg

An interesting but kinda' funny thing happened the other night. It was around 7:30p at the library and a friend, Diek, asked me if I would like to go to a "boeklezing" (book lecture/study) with him. He wanted me know that it was located at a church and asked if I was religious or had a problem with that, although the group was open to anyone. Of course, I said no problem and, sure, I would like to go. I then asked Diek if he was religious, still just a bit curious, and he quickly said "nee."

A tall, lanky man with a good sense of humor, Diek is a retired, although still part-time, school teacher. We've chatted from time to time over the last two years, gone out a few times for drinks at a local kroeg (pub), and enjoy talking about Alkmaar history. Once we read a German newspaper together, just for fun, when he saw me trying to read it and finding the language similar to Dutch―he teaches German. Diek also knows that I've been reading some Dutch novels, so it was understandable that he had asked be to go along.

The "lezing" was on nearby Koningsweg. I know of a Mennonite church up that way, actually a member of our organization (IFOR), that a group of us from the office visited last year for a Martin Luther King Jr. remembrance, so I figured that might be the place. It was! The Doopsgezind Alkmaar at Koningsweg 10 was built in 1617 and is one of the oldest stone Mennonite churches in The Netherlands. We were directed to an adjacent, nicely furnished building that looked more like someone's living room, and warmly greeted by Carolien and a few minutes later by Ytje, the leader of the group.

There were seven of us altogether; the book discussion was on "Eindelijk thuis" by Henri Nouwen. It turns out that Nouwen, now passed on, was an internationally renowned priest and author, born in Holland, and a respected professor that has written over 40 books on spiritual life. He was ordained in 1957 as a diocesan priest and studied psychology at the Catholic University of Nijmegen. "Eindelijk thuis" is Nouwen's interpretation of Rembrandt's "The Return of the Prodigal Son (1668)."

Well, about then it dawns on me that I'm sitting in a bible study of sorts, and I find out later, on the Internet, that Carolien is Doopsgezind Alkmaar's predikant (preacher) and Ytje is their pastoraal werker. A surprise, but a delightful one, as I was enjoying myself, the coffee and cookies, and what I understood of the discussion (in Dutch). In between we watched a video of a talk Nouwen gave in 1992 at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. All interesting stuff; afterwards I had a nice chat with the charming Carolien and Ytje, who invited me back. I think I may take them up on it!

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