I got back from Belgrade, from the European Pastors Council, late on Sunday night. As it’s my second day at home, some dust has begun to settle and it feels like the right time to look back and summarise the event. And as I seem not to be able to muster the energy to give feedback through official channels, may this also be my feedback.
It was my third EPC so I knew what to expect. And I got exactly what I expected. There were countless happy reunions and hugs, there was awesome preaching (whooosh, did Dr Brown do a marvelous job on Friday evening!) and good music, an expensive hotel and hot weather, this and that. But I also realised with a bit of a shock how different everything was this time. The previous times I went to the EPC together with my parents. And now suddenly – all by myself. It was not easy. It didn’t take away any of the joy of meeting my people and enjoying the event but it added an extra layer of emotion to everything. And at times this underlying emotion broke through. Like when I cried my way through the closing ceremony up on the balcony (I had enough brains to stay away from others), missing my mom, missing my dad, missing the easy-breezy-beautiful feeling of the past, feeling so hopelessly sorry for myself. But then the feeling passed – as it always does – and all was well again. It will also come back – it always does – but it doesn’t matter. I’ve become familiar with it, I’ve learned to live with it.
This time I no longer looked up to the preachers the way I had done in the past. I remember my first time in the Netherlands and how I stared at the speakers with my eyes and mouth wide open. I had never heard preaching as good as this in my life! Don’t get me wrong, the people who preached this time did also a very good job, they did it better than I ever could but having dug myself into homiletics, it has lost some of its golden shine for me. Now I analyse things in my head, I analyse different structures, different approaches to the Biblical text, different personalities, different approaches to preaching as performance. But it’s still wonderful when the text becomes alive (and dances in front of our eyes, as G. R. always prays before his sermons) and touches a cord deep inside me. This magic, fortunately, has stayed.
My last blog post got a nice ending in Serbia as after some good conversations it became obvious that I shouldn’t accept the offer which was made a month ago. I said no with half of my heart being heavy an with the other half being very light. But I came back home with conviction that I’m in the right place here even if it feels like losing my life at moments (and I think Jesus once said something about losing one’s life for His sake). So that’s finished.
I also came to the conclusion that my classmates are some of the coolest people I’ve ever had the privilege to know. If it wasn’t for school, I would have walked pass them in the crowd and they would have remained complete strangers to me. But now – such wonderful people I can call not only my colleagues but also friends. I’m counting by blessings, people!
There’s one more thing but I don’t know how to talk about it. How to talk about it without offending anyone and yet staying true to my belief. Well, it has to do with women pastors and the meetings we had there. There were three meetings. I missed the first one because of a study group meeting I needed to attend, then I went to the second one and missed the third again due to an utter unwillingness to go. Let me try and explain. There's stuff that’s wrong in our church, yes. The main reason I'm concerned with the women’s ordination issue is that we’re sending a really poor message and we’re doing a very poor job in representing the gospel to the world. We could and ought to do so much better, there’s no question about that. But when I go to a meeting where the room is full of women and I sense an agressive and somewhat battleful spirit – and I am a highly sensitive person which means that this kind of stuff I feel very directly and heavily – then I just want to pack my bags and leave. And I honestly think there is something very very wrong with the whole thing. Like, ladies, you said yes to the call of Jesus (who, by the way, got killed for living His own message), you said yes to taking your cross (!) and following Him and fighting the spiritual fight, why on earth did you think it would be easy? A walk in a park? Why do I find myself in the middle of pastors’ meeting and people around me seem to be surprised at how tough the pastor’s life is? Like, really! I’ve been thinking about it since that unfortunate meeting I attended and I spoke with some of my trusted friends about it but I can’t come up with good answers. And I’m thinking, maybe instead of trying to find more ways to persuade and pressure the GC leadership, maybe we should all go and re-read Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship? It probably sounds like I’m letting all my sisters down but there is something about the whole thing that deeply troubles me. And I can’t get over it.
On a less emotional note, my workshop went alright. I got good feedback and was very-very pleased to see my classmates come and support me.
The first evening we arrived, there were very serious men in very expensive tailored suits (must have been Armani) and very grave expressions on their faces in the lobby and outside the hotel and in our fancy upstairs lobby. First we joked about elder T. W. traveling with such an impressive entourage but it turned out it was a sheikh from the Arab Emirates staying in the hotel. So. I guess I missed my only chance of becoming a Saudi princess in a golden cage. Oh well.
But seriously speaking, the EPC is really meant to be a couples' retreat. It’s not an event for single people. So, it has been emotional and I have enjoyed it, but that was my last EPC. I don’t want to go any more.
Over and out.