It did seem time to change the banner on my blog. Even here in Latvia snowflakes do not quite represent the weather at the moment, although it’s been very cold here today and is grey and raining as I write. The current banner seems to typify the joy and colour that comes into the world here as Spring approaches. The pansies were part of a thick border of flowers in the city centre Vērmanes Garden Park which is about 12 minutes walk from where I live.
However, it’s food that seems to have characterised events since I last wrote. The title of this piece was the rather clever comment my Swedish boss made when she saw the amazing restaurant shown in the picture which is suspended by a crane high above old Riga, looking out onto the Daugava river. If you look carefully at the gallery, you’ll see that the first picture of the restaurant has the words ‘Dinner in the Sky’ written underneath. Evidently, during the summer months this quite unique restaurant can be found for a week at a time in different cities around Europe. Needless to say, you need a small bank loan to eat there, but it must be quite an experience to do so.
Last time I went to Seda I had a conversation with one of the ladies there about making bread. I’m not a real bread maker you understand, I cheat and make mine with an electric contraption. Vera, however, does it the proper way and makes proper ‘mikla’ (dough) with yeast. So on my latest visit to Seda I came home with a huge bag of dough – a gift from Vera. It is years since I kneaded dough. It’s a skill my mother taught me on the rare occasions she had time to make home-made bread. The repetitive pulling and folding action came back easily, and there was something very soothing about getting into the ‘kneading’ rhythm. I don’t want to get too carried away, but I did think as I kneaded my little bread rolls how this action linked this city woman with woman over centuries who have engaged in the life-giving activity of making bread. Holding one of my little bread rolls triumphantly when it came out of the oven, just the right colour and texture, it was easy to see why Jesus associated himself with this most basic, essential food when he talked of himself as the ‘Bread of Life’.
The Skangali Celebration cake is in stark contrast to the simplicity of my bread rolls! The celebrations to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Skangali being gifted to The Salvation Army by the Palme family started when the Territorial Commander for Sweden and Latvia, Commissioner Marie Willermark, arrived. She, along with Bertil Rodin and his wife accompanied us to Sweden’s National Day celebrations at the Swedish Embassy, celebrations which continued the next day in Skangali itself. What a privilege it was to have, not only the current Swedish ambassador to Latvia with us, along with his wife, but also a former ambassador who had been on the Advisory Board during his time here in Latvia and taken a great interest in the development of the work at Skangali. There were fears that, being only the beginning of June, it would be cold and damp, but it was a glorious, sunny hot day. There were speeches, presentations, ‘thank-you’s’, children singing, and flowers, flowers, and more flowers. It was sheer serendipity that the festivities had been planned on Bertil’s eighty-sixth birthday, and it was fitting, that this man who has worked so hard to make Skangali what it is, and who still has a dream for it, was seated on a special ‘throne’ decorated with oak leaves. The whole occasion was crowned with a glorious buffet and the cutting of this absolutely huge, splendid cake.
The weekend finished with a visit to the countryside, to the corps at Drusti. It was lovely to share with the people there, and with Ilona, the officer, too. It was a good place to celebrate Pentecost. Afterwards we shared food together, accompanied by a cup of the special herb tea which the ladies make from grasses they pick each summer. It is quite the best herb tea I have ever tasted, and the large tin of it that I have in my kitchen means I can repeat the joy of drinking it each evening before I go to bed. I took the Drusti picture, not so much for the food, in actual fact, but because I loved the way the little boy in the picture was dressed up in shirt, tie, and waistcoat to come to church.
I shall write in my next post about the events of this past weekend. They involved me in giving some lectures on the Salvation Army’s perspective on the Sacraments – particularly on Baptism and Holy Communion. It means I’d come almost full-circle back to my bread rolls. Reading and thinking about, and eventually sharing the significance of living sacramentally, I experienced my own sacramental moment, and was drawn back again to the song, so loved by Salvationists of my generation and older, written by a one-time General, Albert Orsborn:
‘My life must be Christ’s broken bread’