Sami looked at me incredulously. I had just done my best rendition of an Egyptian song I learned way back in 1986, when I helped lead a team of Egyptian Christians in an outreach in Amsterdam: “Rabbu-na la-yansana, huwa da-iman maa-na, fi-tariqi del hyatt, ka-idun la-na….” (“Our Lord never forgets us, He is always with us on the road of life, Our Guide….”).
“You can still sing it? How is that possible!?” he said, as he slapped my hand, Egyptian-style, like I had just told a good joke.
My first task in the new parish is to learn names, hear stories, be the encouragement I can be. I met Sami, a regular, at the seeker-sensitive evening service, “Thirst”, and took his cellphone number so we can get together soon. This was right after I met a German man and his visiting father; the younger man works with the European Patent Office in the Hague. I also met a Spanish-speaker (“Como estas?”) and chatted-up a good number of Dutch folk (“You speak Dutch!”). In other words, I felt right at home in my new-found community.
Later, I watch a kid whacking away at a party pinata and others almost getting their heads bashed in with the bat as they hastily collect candies off the floor. An inadvertent “Stupid kids!” slips from my mouth. Instantly a pang of guilt; I’ve promised myself not to speak negatively or disparagingly about anyone in this church community, and here I am calling the kids stupid, right in front of their parents. Still. I mean, really.
The morning had seen me take 3 different services; Tony, the head minister was in bed not feeling well. So the night before I found I would be doing everything at the 8:30 Communion service, and leading the 9:30 Family service as well as the 11:00 main service. Then a quick plate at the pot-luck lunch and home for a nap before coming back to attend a traditional Anglican evensong at 17:00, and finally the “Thirst” event at 18:30. I was beat when I got home, but also satisfied.
Couldn’t sleep well, though. This morning I was up bright and early to take the funeral of a dear friend, a Latvian-Brazilian-Dutch woman whom I’ve known for 15 years. Our visits had always been an easy mix of our three shared languages. They almost always ended with my solo singing, “Ao que esta sentado no trono, e ao cordeiro, seja o louvor, e a honra, e a gloria, e o domino, pelo seculos dos seculos, amen!” (To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be praise, and honor, and glory, and dominion, for ever and ever, Amen!) Another song I learned way back when.
Never got an Egyptian hand-slap from Sylvia though. She was much better with a wink and a grin.