Dear Friends in Christ,

Most, if not all, of us will remember this little Sunday school song: "I am the Church; you are the Church.  We are the Church together.  All of God's people, all around the world--yes, we're the Church together!  The Church is not a building, the Church is not a steeple; the Church is not a resting place--the Church is a people!  I am the Church, etc..."  Besides being a cute, easy-to- learn-and-remember song, it's good, solid biblical theology.  It's reflective of much that is in the New Testament, but the passage that comes to my mind more than any other is in the 4th chapter of John, where Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that genuine worship of God has very little to do with particular buildings and particular places, but that it has everything to do with the spirit in which that worship is offered.  Boy, did I get a fantastic illustration of that teaching last Saturday night!  The occasion:  a church service held in the city of Biarritz, France in a very plain, non-air conditioned (note:  this was during the worst heat-wave France has had since 1945!) church building located less than a city block from the Bay of Biscay (or, if you will, effectively the Atlantic Ocean).

 

That congregation is a Protestant church, which makes it as rare as the proverbial "hen's teeth"; it's part of a denomination officially called "L'Eglise Protestante Unie de France"--the United Protestant Church in the whole country(!) of France. Along with this article I've included that church's standard half-page insert available to any and all visitors; you'll notice that the welcome is given in French, English, German, and Dutch.  You may also notice the listing of three locations (Soorts-Hossegor, Bayonne, and Biarritz) where this congregation regularly meets on Sunday mornings (the afore-mentioned Saturday night service was a rarity). The members of the church need to pay attention to where worship is from one week to the next, as worship is held in only one of the locations each Sunday.  The atmosphere in church last Saturday night was what I would call contagious.  The singing was quite good; the camaraderie was obvious.  There were more people present than usual, as I understand that our granddaughter's baptism was the occasion for which the service was specially-scheduled; that said, it was clear that most of the people present know each other well, which suggests that they see each other a lot on Sundays, regardless of which location worship is each week.

 

From what I saw and heard that Saturday evening, and from what I've learned from my daughter, that is a little congregation of people who are well-aware that they are a small minority of people whose expression of the Christian faith is unique to the world around them, and who are well-aware of how much they need God and each other if they are to continue being a viable, witnessing Christian community.  It's because of that, I believe, that their sense of community matters more to them than the places they meet.  Whatever problems they have (and my daughter assures me that they do have plenty of those), this is something they've got right, as John's Jesus and the New Testament plainly tell us.  Let their example in this regard not be lost on us who find ourselves on this side of the Atlantic!

 

As always, yours in Christ,

Pastor Pete