(written August 2008)
He stood on the steps, looked out at the crowd of faces, young and old, local and foreign and said, “This is a unique event. Some of you will never have seen anything like it before.”
He was right.
We had been asked to video tape this event more than a month previously, and now the appointed time had arrived. I had assembled three cameras for this shoot and all their associated “bits and bobs” – tripods, cables, power supplies, microphones. etc. The task was made more complicated as there were two locations for the event and we would have to move from the first to the second with things basically carrying on around us. A bit of a daunting prospect – no time to set up and check things; just set up and go….
I had scouted the location and determined to put one camera on the balcony with a bird’s eye view of the assembled folk, one at the back of the courtyard to give a wide shot and one mobile camera to be up close and personal.
People had gathered from all across Turkey, from as far as Istanbul in the West and Diyarbakır in the east and others from Europe, Egypt, Syria and various other places in the world.
At the start it was clear that the big camera at the back was too far back, the small camera on the balcony refused to work and the mobile camera was struggling to be in the best position for the best shot… but the event was on, and so, ready or not “lights – camera – action”….. er “lights” is sunlight and it’s too bright; “camera” – ah, one isn’t working, one is too far away and one is in the midst of the crowd; “action” – it has begun, ready or not….
The elder of this assembly of believers spoke briefly on the steps of their new meeting place. He pointed out that the easy work was done – building with bricks and mortar, but now the more difficult work would carry on, shaping and forming people’s lives. He stressed that the physical building was not the goal, merely the means to achieving the goal of building God’s living Church.
After these remarks, the elder and two others took scissors in their hands and cut the ribbon, officially(1) opening this new church building.
As the saints, local and visiting streamed into the building, we rushed to take up our positions, the big camera at the back for a wide shot, the small camera near the front for the close-up of the speakers and the medium-sized camera on the mobile rig – free to wander.
The initial problem with the small camera was sorted with a new tape. The big camera was set up – but I could not check its settings as I had the mobile camera strapped to my chest – by faith I had to accept it was set correctly. The meeting continued; together the saints were worshipping God interspersed with prayers of praise and dedication – dedication of the building and more importantly dedication of the believers who would utilise the building.
The building filled with the combined voices of the saints singing and making melody to the Lord in thanksgiving and praise. It truly is a wonderful building, large, with a good combination of rooms for worship, teaching, fellowship, children, youth and even some guest rooms, but all this is just a means for the local assembly to be built up in the faith and to reach out to their community.
At one point people were invited to come and pray in different languages – Turkish, Arabic, Norwegian, German Danish, Spanish, Nigerian, Armenian, Syrianii(2) and French – a beautiful declaration of the One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism and One Body.
After the morning meeting we retired to the wonderful covered terrace on the top of the building to share a meal together. There, in the shade of the roof, a robust and refreshing breeze flowed through creating a comfortable haven of rest, hospitality and fellowship. From this vantage point we could gaze out at the town knowing that the gaze of the town was also on this building and more importantly on the living stones who will be meeting there on a regular basis.
The afternoon had the second meeting of the day in Arabic and Turkish. In this part of Turkey and in this town most of the people are bilingual – speaking both Arabic and Turkish. Especially for this second meeting, we had visitors from a church in Aleppo in Syria, a gifted Lebanese Arabic singer and a special speaker from Egypt who spoke in Arabic and was translated into Turkish.
We had agreed to shoot this meeting as well, so we took our positions as the meeting got under way.
Now, I do not understand Arabic, but the songs the singer sang were wonderful and I could tell they were meaningful, as people around me worshipped the Lord in Spirit and in Truth.
A unique day, two meetings, much rejoicing and praising God, hearts lifted up to God in many languages; a celebration of what God has done and a commending to God the work yet to be done.
As the elder said, “Many of you will never have been to an event like this,” which was true. But, by the Grace of God, may that statement be changed, in the years to come, to “Many of you will have been to many events like this…”
(1) when I write “officially” this is in the sense that the building was completed and the saints will now be using it. It does not imply “official” recognition of the building as a “Church” – this legal, technical and bureaucratic morass took over five years to resolve.
(2) Syrianii is an ancient language related to Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke and still spoken by the Syrianii (Assyrian) Orthodox Church.