By Jaap van der Sar, President Oikosnet Europe
On Sunday 19 October 2014, our former President, Peter Middlemiss, passed away. Hearing this made me aware and thankful about the long history he has had with us, with Oikosnet Europe. And it made clear that we owe many things to him.
Peter was the ‘Warden’ of Holland House, close to Worcester, UK. In that function he considered it good to not ‘just’ receive guests in the house, but also to offer context to them about the world we live in. Enjoying a good meal, being present for guests and exchanging stories about life in all its aspects – it was the Peter’s habit of ‘subliminal learning.’ His presence was inviting, supporting the others in their way of being someone to careful listen to. In the real sense he was a host.
Also in Oikosnet Europe he has had a long lasting presence and contribution. He participated in the so called Course for Leadership in Lay Training’ in Erfurt in 1988, one year before the Wall came down. And he was sensitive about the way people played their roles there. Even a decade later, he was still able to point at incongruences, which he discovered in people who probably played a double-role. He was aware of that, but not angry. His wisdom made him careful to not use too many words. He was elected as an Executive Committee member of Oikosnet Europe in 1993. When he finished that term, in 1999, he was elected as President. In his position as president he served Oikosnet Europe another 6 years until 2005, offering all members more than a glimpse of what is, to us, known as English humour. Obviously he set a standard for that, as was visible in many reactions after we heard about his passing away.
Peter taught me how he used to handle meetings, both in his church as well as in Oikosnet. Most of the time he was rather quiet listening to anyone who wanted to contribute. His own contributions were short, most of the time more regarding process. But when he considered it both required and effective, he would influence the discussions, the opinions by a longer contribution. Doing so, he was decisive on crucial matters about the direction to take. For him, this was about the way the laity would have a realistic and respected place in the church. His passion was more on that than on theology, big studies, and long lectures. Together with that passion, he was also convincing in another passion: Enjoying a good glass of whisky. Single Malt – only that! He was experienced with that – with only very small quantities of it. He was a connoisseur and convinced others to enjoy it as well. And even there, he continued to work more on the relationship with the people than on the content. Relationships went beyond knowledge, beyond books and titles. Relationships were about friendship, which could last long.
That is the impression I take with me from our former president. I recall his name with honour and pride: Peter Middlemiss. May he rest in peace.