‘Many live there with a deeply rooted faith’

Chaplain Beemster often thinks of Volendam

“Volendam was a unique experience for me”, is how Chaplain Nars Beemster sums up his visit to the town. In seven and a half years he experienced so much that he says he can write a book about it. He often thinks of the humor, generosity and faith of the people of Volendam. After a period in Heiloo, he now works in the Haarlem region. There he conducts the holy masses in a large number of ecclesiastical buildings. Eleven years after his departure, De Nivo talks to the chaplain about how he is doing and we look back.
By Laurens Toll

Nars Beemster (52) lives in Heemstede today. His house is filled with many parts that remind her of his time in Volendam.
“Look, this image comes from there,” says Beemster. “Once I had. And this chair, Father Hoogervorst still lived there. The table and chairs also belonged to him. I also have several pictures hanging here that I received from Volendammers. In this way I still deal with the town on a daily basis and I think that’s good. met so many wonderful people there. many live there with deep rooted faith. often educated too.
,,I worked in Volendam for a long time. I came there in 2003. Actually more or less as a replacement for then pastor Jan Berkhout. Because of all his efforts after the New Year’s fire, he was owed time out. That left a big hole. At that time I was still in Heerhugowaard and the bishop asked me if he also wanted to help in Volendam. I found that a challenge in itself. That’s how I ended up there.”

At first, the chaplain came and went from Zaandam, where he later moved to Volendam. Later, at the age of 33, he went to live in the old rectory in Volendam, not yet renovated. He still has fond memories of it. ,,That was also an experience, you know. That thing was very old and crooked. Once that happened, the building sank a bit more. All the beams suddenly creaked while he was in bed. That was kind of creepy, haha. I was very satisfied, but sometimes I complained to the church board. Then my bed suddenly got wet and it wasn’t because I had peed on it, so to speak. The lamp above turned out to have a leak. He also came back to assault forcefully. Then there was a framed window and everything was gone. Nobody knew where he was. It probably ended up in the ditch next to the rectory. Of course, you can still laugh about these things afterwards.”
Fortunately for the current generation of clerics in Volendam, the rectory has since been completely renovated. Chaplain Beemster was the last resident of the old building. The period when he came to live in Volendam was turbulent. The aftermath of the highly emotional disaster for the town was still clearly felt. Beemster well remembers that there were also divisions in this area, for example over financial compensation. However, he never became a part of the aftermath after his arrival. There was a deacon who had built a good relationship with the victims, as well as Father Van der Hulst. Despite that, he noted the necessary consequences in his time in Volendam.
“When the disaster happened five years ago, I participated in the memorial mass. That was drastic. We also went to the graves of all those young people to bless them. That doesn’t leave you cold, of course. Photos of the deceased youths also hang in the Mariakerk. It will just happen to you, you think. Of course, this is also the worst thing you can experience for relatives.”

‘My deepest
belief is
what do you see the world
not in church
you can bring’

The atmosphere during the masses in Volendam is still vivid in Beemster’s mind. Also, the silent services for him were impressive in his own way. According to the chaplain, deeply religious villagers often flocked there, saying ‘amen’ with their hearts and souls after receiving communion. He also remembers how the church choir could play it regularly. ,,The men’s choir, I thought it was great. For example, they always sang a beautiful polyphonic funeral mass. Nowhere have I heard a better one than in Volendam and I have been here for twenty years. Those voices were so balanced and so in tune with each other. They felt exactly, that was beautiful.”
Also, one of my greatest joys in Volendam was Mrs. Tineke Mul’s children’s work, which I attended. It was truly unforgettable that we went on a pilgrimage with buses full of children to the pilgrimage sites of Heiloo and the Lady of All Nations in Amsterdam at that time. Ms. Mul also taught me the art of storytelling. He could hold children’s attention for up to forty minutes. That was inspiring to me.”
Traditional church music can still appeal to the chaplain more than ‘mundane’. It continues to maintain the position that pop music does not belong to the church. “Where I work now, it was also played during funerals, for example. We stopped that. My deepest belief is that you cannot bring the world into the Church. That is a sacred place in the world. When you bring the world into church, it ceases to be what it is: holy. Then he loses his sacred place in the community and is no longer interesting to people. That’s why you shouldn’t give in to that desire, no matter how strong it is at times.”
Beemster’s greatest ambition was to establish a new communion project in Volendam. His failure to do so was such a disappointment to him that he asked the bishop to transfer him to another parish. He still regrets that this hasn’t gotten off the ground. According to him, this is working very successfully in the Haarlem region.

‘primordial faith’
“The old pastor definitely didn’t want this, while he really needed to be renovated. It was a project from the ’70s. There was a lot of good stuff in it, but it didn’t really cut to the core. That to me is: who is Jesus and what is Holy Communion. That’s what it’s about. I couldn’t figure it out, and that was the breaking point that led me to ask the bishop for another appointment in 2010. The schools wanted to participate in the new project, as did the parents who helped teach from it. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there.”
According to the chaplain, this is a missed opportunity. He thinks that there is a kind of ‘primary faith’ in Volendam, with which more can be done. ,,You realize that because the people of Volendam now practice Reiki and go to all kinds of ‘healers’. You will never find it there. If you let a good communion project run for years, the whole community can come back to life. Every year, 300 children receive their First Communion. Six hundred parents and brothers and sisters are also involved. If you continue this for years, faith will be renewed from the ground up. The renewal of this project is therefore of fundamental and vital importance for Volendam.”
Beemster says that he has learned a lot since his departure from Volendam. In his own words, living and dealing with many different people made him wiser. ,,I’ve gotten a little smarter in my choice of words. He used to be a bit reckless at times, he thought that people always wanted to hear and know the truth. That’s certainly not always the case, I’ve discovered. Basically I keep saying the same thing, I haven’t changed in that sense. But I have learned to be smart to tell the truth. You can say the same thing in other words, making it land better. As a result, you create less resistance and that is important in a church community.”
When Beemster was asked if he would like to return to Volendam as a pastor, he said a resounding ‘yes’. However, under certain conditions. “If the bishop asked me to do that, I would certainly go. I would enter with clear agreements. There are still a lot of opportunities in Volendam because, as mentioned, there is a lot of faith. Sometimes I think about that. In fact, I’d rather go back yesterday than today. But then you need the united forces of the people who work with you to revive it. I hope you take advantage of the opportunities that exist. The situation is very different now with the new priests.”

Volendam? Yes.
but then you have
united forces
necessary of the people
who works with you
to weather it

The chaplain believes that the churches in Volendam could be filled again in the future. According to him, the message that the church brings is ‘indestructible’. Everyone wants to finally live in pure love, it is his conviction. In his eyes, faith is an enormous force that made Volendam what it was. If it’s missing, you’re missing out. Because you can have a lot, but you can lose everything, is Beemster’s conviction. “Is this all there is?” Doe Maar sang for a reason. I’m looking for something else, but I don’t know where. We lack nothing, we have everything’, etc. You need people who have found it, who know where it is. I think it lies in a strong relationship with Jesus Christ, in the sacraments and prayers. That’s where ‘it’ is hidden.”
According to the chaplain, ‘evil’ plays an important role today. He himself concretely experienced how strong his power is. Immediately after Beemster’s Volendam term, the then bishop allowed him to go on a study tour to the United States. He said that he experienced a gloomy situation. ‘Literally gloomy’.
,,I saw two young men completely possessed by demons. That was strange to experience. As a result, I ended up in exorcism work. It is an intense pastoral ministry, but also very exciting. You see the opposing forces that exist there. You see there how demons can really take over people’s lives. The last eleven years I have gained a lot of experience in this. But I saw there how important it is to choose Jesus. So the demons lose their power and your life becomes different.”
Beemster’s chaplain today is ‘less theological’ than in the past. Over the years, he has seen that the core of faith is simple. ,,If you read the gospel carefully, you can conclude that it is important to say things simply. My new theory is: good theology is the truth about God, sure. But I don’t think the more fancy words you use, the better the theology. In the Gospel you read how Jesus says things with simple examples, with very simple words. That has been a great learning experience for me over the last few years. And perhaps most importantly: it is very important that you really believe what you say. You can’t light a new fire with an extinguished match.”

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