A visit to Berlin

It was Friday the 13th and my flight to Berlin was about to take off. I’m not superstitious, but …

I’m the regional coordinator for SCA’s International Service Organization for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (or EMEA). What that means is that if anyone (individual member, meeting, or intergroup) has an issue with ISO, I’m the liaison. I’m fortunate to live in Paris, and I’ve been to meetings in Belgium and the U.K. (though the London meetings have since folded). I’ve corresponded by e-mail with people from throughout the EMEA region, but I had never been to an SCA meeting in Berlin.

There are four meetings there now, all conducted in German, a language I studied a bit in high school and college, but that was a long time ago. I knew there was a Friday evening meeting at the gay community center, Mann-O-Meter, but just a week earlier I had sent an e-mail to some locals telling them I’m planning to come — with no response. Well, actually, I did get a reply from Wayne, who used to be our Oslo contact and then moved to Berlin … but his reply was that he was moving permanently to Barcelona and would not be in Berlin.

So I had no idea what to expect. I hoped the meeting would be held as scheduled, at 6 pm, and my hotel was a five-minute walk away. So I got there about 5:30 and walked around the neighborhood a bit. It turned out that it was the weekend of the Berlin Folsom Street Fair, a tiny version of the San Francisco event, and some people asked me if I was in town for the wild parties. No …

So back to Mann-O-Meter, which was quite a nice place. It has a small bar with snacks and drinks at very reasonable prices, free Wi-Fi, and of course all the normal listings of events. It also has a meeting room off to the side, which was empty at 5:55, and no sign of anyone who might be waiting to enter. Sigh.

But just then there was some commotion. Somebody went over to the welcome desk and exchanged a few words of welcome in German, picked up some literature, and entered the meeting room. A couple of others joined him, so I went in, making four of us. I said I would be speaking in English, which one of them, replying in English, said would be fine. Soon the meeting began with a Serenity Prayer, Statement of Purpose, and all the recognizable form of an SCA meeting anywhere, but in German. I found it quite comforting to pass around a Four-Fold with the Steps, even though I didn’t read aloud. Soon a fifth member joined us, and we did a reading from the Little Blue Book on the Sexual Recovery Plan. I was able to follow along with their pamphlet, and even though I didn’t understand a lot of the words, I was familiar enough with the literature that I knew what was happening.

At one point during the meeting the chair admonished a member not to read a news magazine while others were sharing, that the focus of the meeting was SCA and not what was happening outside the rooms. The member put his magazine away, and we all said a Serenity Prayer and resumed. In the middle of the hour, we collected a Seventh Tradition and heard announcements. I mentioned that I was the European liaison from ISO. Someone had an anniversary and we all applauded. No different from other meetings I’ve been to.

There were some variants, of course. Only part of the literature has been translated. The Four-Fold has been split into two pamphlets, sold at 20 cents each. I bought one of everything they had, including the part of the Little Blue Book about the recovery plan and a translation of For the Newcomer. They have a committee working on more translations, which I have been in touch with. Their website is http://sca-berlin.org/

At the end of the meeting, another Serenity Prayer. Then the treasurer tallied up the Seventh Tradition contributions and recorded them in a ledger. We shook hands and said our goodbyes, some in German, some in English. It was a good start to a good and sober weekend.

In service,

John F. 

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