Faith and Place in the Netherlands

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The network leaders, Andrew and Richard, recently visited Amsterdam and the Hague to get a sense of how faith, place and planning issues play out in the Netherlands. Meticulously organised by Dutch network member, Rev Dr Rens Schalkwijk, we met faith group leaders, policitians, architects, academics and spent Sunday at church. It also felt like we had cycled round the whole city!

Ruud Schurmann from Task Force Future Church (translation) explained to us his organisation’s work in preserving historic church buildings, and the parliamentarian, Cynthia Ortega-Martijn, explained some of the political realities for faith groups in Dutch cities. We gained a strong impression of many issues being similar to those faced by faith groups in the UK. We visited network member, Pastor Felix Asare, of Victory Outreach Church in the Hague, who spoke to us movingly of the church’s community outreach programme in drug rehabilitation. Pastor Emmanuel Koney met with us, pointing out there were over 300 ‘migrant’ churches in Amsterdam. He told us the story of the Kandelaar in Amsterdam South East, a purpose-built multi-hall centre for the use of up to 15 faith groups, as well as the trials and travails he had experienced in making this initiative happen. One of their projects with the police department was a ‘Reporting a crime without worries’ card for illegal aliens.

Sunday morning saw Richard and I heading for Escape – the largest nightclub in Amsterdam – right in the centre of town on Rembrandtplein. This is where Hillsongs Amsterdam meet, running four services a Sunday, so as to include all their members in worship. As for many churches who rent premises, whether small or large, setting up and setting down takes many hours of volunteer effort (especially as it was operating as a nightclub into the early hours of the morning). We headed south-east in the afternoon, and joined the Ghanaian majority Pentecost Revival Church, to see the Kandelaar for ourselves first-hand. Called on to speak to the church as a double act, we explained the purpose of the network and our visit, and were very warmly received.

There was time to visit VU University to meet with network member, Professor Hijme Stoffels and colleagues. This proved a very useful opportunity for making connections with their work in urban theology and human geography. A quick tour of faith based business and community initiatives concluded our visit, with Andrew then having to run at top speed through Schipol with all luggage, in order to be the last one on the ‘plane.

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