When we arrived at church two weeks ago, everything looked normal. The building was clean and not a chair was out of place. I could smell some kind of cooked meat, which is not unusual. I assumed one of the families in the ward was preparing for some kind of celebration after church. One of the nice things about attending church in a building used by only one ward is the easy availability of the church building for special occasions.
But there was nothing cooking in the kitchen. Instead, what I smelled was the last remnant of the local Kosovar Albanian community’s celebrating the independence of their–country? region? something in between? In any case, recent events had made quite a few of our neighbors very happy, but they didn’t have any place to commemorate the occasion.
I assume someone from the Kosovar community had contacted the city, and then the city contacted our ward. The ward has been trying to raise its profile within the community for the last few years, and we’ve become a known quantity in the Rathaus. And why shouldn’t we lend our multi-purpose room to the Kosovars? The building was empty that Saturday evening; our ward had held a baptismal service earlier, but in another town. (Our building has a cultural hall with a stage, but no font.) Other wards in our stake, the ones with sizable contingents of soldiers and their families, had been rather more directly involved in Kosovo’s disjunction from Serbia. All our ward had to do was lend them the use our ward building.
There were conditions: No alcohol. No coffee. No smoking. Everything had to be finished by midnight. The caterer, who came early to start cooking the cevapcici, said it would never work. What self-respecting Kosovar would show up at a party with no beer?
He was wrong. Our ward building became host to 500 celebrating Kosovars, dancing to Albanian music with an enthusiasm that the organizers of our stake events could only dream of. Despite–or because of?–the lack of alcohol, coffee, and tobacco, a good time was had by all. The party finished at midnight, and except for some contented and appreciative gentlemen who came by after sacrament meeting to retrieve the remaining soft drinks, the only evidence of the celebration from the night before was the lingering scent of cevapcici.