We had the first real milestone with our church planting group this past Saturday when we had our big opening day. I remember when we returned from Riga, from a church planting conference in 2015, thinking that maybe it could really be something we ought to try out here in Tallinn. And I remember the countless meetings and meetings and meetings that followed that conference when the process started slowly and rather painfully. And I remember feeling pretty hopeless. Now, on Friday evening, when the whole building was full on ant-like youth, someone putting up lights, someone dragging sofas, someone glueing photos to the wall, someone practicing the violin downstairs, someone preparing food in the kitchen, someone singing, someone eating someone else's birthday cake, I found myself in the middle of this madness, and my brain still refused to believe. This is like a dream, I thought, and I'm afraid I might wake up any minute. But it turned out to be real after all.
We had the opening day and the building could barely accommodate all the people who came. We had some 150 people attending our first public service. I would say half of them were our friends from other Adventist churches from all over Estonia who came out to support us and see the coming true of our dream themselves. But there were strangers too, dozens of them. People who had never walked into an Adventist church before. And whatever they found there or thought, I don't know. But one thing I do know - they found there a friendly and welcoming community. And that's probably the best thing one could find when coming to church for the first time.
There was a shy young man, sitting in the front of the church hall all by himself some 15 minutes before the service begun and I had never seen him before. I talked to him a little and I found out he had visited our garden cafe day some two weeks earlier and had gotten the invite. And although he didn't have any personal contact with our church, he had decided to come. He spent the whole day with us, and when the day was over and all the food had been eaten and I took a broom and others started to clean up too, I heard him say to someone, "Well, until the next Saturday then". My jaw just dropped and I probably looked very silly, staring at him. But honestly, this is not what I had expected. And yet, this is what gives my heart hope and courage - our church can become home to these young people. It's too bad I have to preach elsewhere this coming Saturday and I can't be there but once I'm back from my Newbold trip and am back to Compass church, I want and hope to see many people returning to our services and to our community.
This is pure awesomeness. Better than anything I could have ever thought or expected. God is good.
As to music and the latest developments on that front, there are good news and bad news. The bad news is that I resumed my singing classes yesterday and the first one was so bad I wanted to cry. It seems like I had not learned nor remembered anything from the last semester. And it is so difficult to start the hard work all over again. I was very disheartened when I left the Music Academy but I also know that this is where I have to endure. There is a price for those who persevere. I won't quit although right now I totally feel like it.
But there are also good news. My latest concert review - on Tallinn Organ Festival - was published in Music in the beginning of September, and a week after the journal was out, the head editor wrote and asked for my permission for that review to be given to the national broadcasting web site that publishes news on culture and art. This was very surprising, and a next step for me. So it turns out there are more opportunities to get one's concert reviews published than just in Music. I will definitely remember that in the future [evil laughter].
I visited my old violin teacher some three weeks ago. It turned out to be a marvellous evening, and it was almost midnight when I left her place. All life - both the joy and the pain of it - was discussed and I love my teacher to bits for being a source of sanity and wisdom for me. But it was more than that. She told me - after I had told her about my Christmas decision to take my violin from under my bed and start practicing again - that I should let her know once I've practiced enough and want to have a lesson with her. She wouldn't mind seeing me in her classroom again, even if just for one time. Now, this offer might seem a small one but it is really a huge one. She is one of the best and most acclaimed teachers in the whole of the country, and a teacher who can pick and choose her students - many of whom will go to London and Berlin and Vienna after flying out of the nest, becoming the best violinists in Estonia in later years. Her experience and expertise are absolutely priceless, and so is one lesson with her. I was very lucky to have her as my teacher for a couple of years although I didn't appreciate this privilege enough back in the days. Now I appreciate it much more and just the idea of having another class with her makes me jump with joy. Oh my!
Yesterday evening I got this year's 26th concert ticked off. It was the birthday concert of one of my favourite human beings in the whole world - Arvo Pärt. He turned 83 and we made our way through the crowd with H. to wish him blessings and shake his hand before the concert started. It was a wonderful feeling. The concert itself was wonderful too. I had not heard his Berliner Messe before and it was heavenly. And afterwards it was almost baffling to see how the packed church, hundreds of people, would stand and clap for minutes on end, tears in many an eye, and so much love in the air that the church seemed to be thick with it when the old Maestro waved and bowed and accepted bouquets of flowers. I don't think there is another person we Estonians love so much as Arvo Pärt. And rightly so. If there's anyone who deserves to be loved with such passion and emotion, it's him - the most brilliant composer the world knows.