Ritual facilitator and professor Christiane Berkvens-Stevelinck

Chrischristiane-berkvens-Stevelincktiane Berkvens-Stevelinck will be the forerunner of the Walk of Wisdom. In addition to being a Remonstrant preacher in general service, the endowed professor of European culture at Radboud University is also a ritual accompaniment at Moederoverste.nl.

We are happy with this first female precursor of the pilgrimage route and hope to soon announce other interesting and inspiring women as forerunners. Ultimately, the goal of the Walk of Wisdom is to show that people from different views on life can still have similar values. The values we choose are authenticity, diversity and sustainability. In other words: personal freedom, respect for others and the intention to contribute something good to the world.

Christiane Berkvens-Stevelinck stands in a Christian tradition that attaches importance to the personal design of faith. She likes to think outside the box and has the courage to explore her own spirituality. She has written several books on rituals and meaning in the new age, including Free Rituals and Celebrations and Breviaries.


An article about her in Het Parool

In times of crisis, churches fill up, and when believing is difficult, there are always rituals. Amsterdammers, known and unknown, talk about their spirituality.

Christiane Berkvens-Stevelinck (1946) is professor by special appointment of European culture and Remonstrant preacher. She is also a Freemason and has her own company, Moederoverste.nl: which guides people in designing their rituals.

Faith and religion
“Faith, for me, is what carries me. And that includes values such as absolute freedom, positive tolerance and interest in other people. I was raised a strict Catholic. But over time I could find myself less and less in agreement with all kinds of dogmas. I couldn’t deal with the woman’s place at all. Could it please be a bit more modern? I went shopping and visited all kinds of churches on Sundays. And so I once walked into a Remonstrant church. It was so warm, free and cheerful that I immediately thought: this is where I’m staying! After the service, I went to the pastor and said, “I want to be a pastor in this church!” And that was good.

I have been a Freemason for ten years. That’s where I can work for myself, that’s where I can develop my own spirituality.”

Rituals and symbols
“Rituals are part of human beings. Some events in life have such existential significance and go so deep – you have to express that. You can put it into words, but that is not enough. Symbolic gestures, no matter how simple or complex, can express more than words.

As a pastor, I was often asked to attend weddings or other ceremonies by people who had nothing to do with the church. So I did. But I didn’t want to sell turnips for lemons, and serve people under the banner of the church who had nothing to do with that message. That’s when I started my own company. I started looking for what is useful in this day and age. I take the essence of existing rituals from different traditions and modernize them. I give rituals a secular twist and make them recognizable to everyone. Whether religion is involved is completely irrelevant.”

Funeral and divorce
“At weddings or funerals, for example, I meet people two or three times for about an hour and a half. The conversations are about love, loyalty, grief – about the question of how people stand in the world. These values form the basis of their ritual.

The most beautiful thing to supervise is the funeral ritual. That is such a rewarding job. A carefully and lovingly performed funeral ritual can be very healing. A ritual that is becoming more and more common is the divorce ritual. Partners with children are forced to stay in touch with each other. It is therefore important to have a pleasant relationship. Through the divorce ritual, the ex-partners try to get over the hatred and recriminations in order to achieve a friendly relationship, as parents of the children. Growing up, that’s what I call it.”

Vondelpark and marriage
“I recently married two Canadians in the pouring rain under a tree in the Vondelpark. They had met at this tree. Their relationship had caused a quarrel between the two families, because one was Jewish and the other was not. They had written down this conflict on a piece of paper that they buried under the tree. The symbolism was clear: in the place where they had found love, they wanted to bury the conflict. The municipality probably doesn’t allow something like that, but we did it, with full conviction.”