Christ Church, Clermont Ferrand

A few weeks back I was stuck, not knowing what to write about, and Mags suggested that she’d like to hear more about Christ Church, the Episcopal church I attend in Clermont Ferrand. I don’t know much about its history, so I did a bit of digging, and found some information, including a text from someone writing about the beginnings of the church…

So, here is this small very “Anglican” chapel in the centre (well, on the outskirts) of a suburb of Clermont…How did it get here?

It’s actually in Royat, which used to be a seperate Spa town, until Clermont grew and swallowed it up. Royat was popular with Brits – possibly on the Grand Tour (although as it’s not very well known, it may have been on the not-so-grand-tour)  but possibly just for those who wanted to “take the waters”. There are several spa towns in the surrounding areas – Volvic, Vichy, St Galmier… So in 1886, an Anglican chapel was built here

This plaque inthe church commemorates Amie Brandt who was obviously very involved in the founding of the chapel. As far as I can find, her husband, Dr GH Brandt was carrying out research of some kind on the waters at Royat-Les-Bains (to give it its full title)

The chapel was handed over to the Eglise Reformée (Protestant church) of France, and specifically into the care of the Eglise Reformée of Clermont Ferrand, but they had built their new city centre church in the 60s, to replace an older building, and weren’t too interested in using this small chapel

The inside of the Eglise Reformée Clermont Ferrand

Here we are, with a small unloved chapel needing an occupant…and in elsewhere in Clermont Ferrand, a seed was starting to germinate…

Using the words of a member of Christ Church, the story unfolds:

In the mid-1990’s, a small group of Michelin employees expatriated from the U.S. began to talk about start an English speaking worship service.   They found that there were several American and British families living in the Auvergne looking for a church to call their own.   The Convocation of American Churches in Europe in Paris was contacted for advice and help in starting a new church in France.  With the support of the Episcopal Church, the first service was held in front of the fireplace at the home of Blake and Nadine Redding on May 29, 1996.  The Bishop in charge, the Rt. Rev. Jeffery Rowthorn led five families in that first worship service.

Periodically, services were held in the home for several months, but it soon became apparent that the group did not want to limit the number of worshipers, so a search began for a larger worship space.  The leaders of the small congregation knocked on the doors of the Eglise Reformée in Clermont Ferrand to ask their advice.  The Eglise Reformée had a chapel in the spa town of Royat – a village five kilometers from the center of Clermont Ferrand.  They only occupied the chapel in the summer, so they were willing to let the new congregation use the chapel.

So the fledgling group had a five families and a place to worship – now to secure the services of a priest.  It was obvious Bishop Rowthorn could not lead services on a regular basis, so the Reverend Joe Britton agreed to come to Clermont Ferrand for a short period of time.  Father Joe led services two times per month.  He would get on a train in Paris in the morning, have lunch with some of the congregants in the afternoon, lead services at 5:00 PM, and take the four hour train back to Paris at 7:00 PM Sunday evening.  Father Joe remained faithful to  this “short-term” arrangement from 1996 until December 2002.

Soon after the chapel in Royat was located as a home for the congregation, news began to spread about the availability of English speaking worship services.  Although started by Episcopalians and adding a British family of Anglican tradition, the expatriate community in Clermont Ferrand comes from a variety of Christian denominations.  Everyone arrives with their idea of how worship should be held; what it means to worship, how we pray, and how we relate.  In spite of these differences, here in the Auvergne, these individual perspectives are laid aside in favor of a communal worship experience.

The church expanded and contracted depending on the economic constraints and needs of the employer of the majority of the congregation.  The mission was surviving with the help of the convocation.

Then, after nearly six years, Father Joe accepted a position in U.S. and was no longer able to hold services in Clermont Ferrand.   So the Bishop’s Committee at the church was asked to consider options about how to proceed.  Could the small mission, whose viability to that time had relied on a particular population, hire and maintain a full-time pastor?  After much prayer, a plan was laid to hire an interim priest.  In January 2003, after a great deal of preparation, we welcomed our first resident pastor, the Reverend Karl E. Bell.  Father Karl’s appointment was as an interim priest – meaning he would be leaving in the near future.  This concept wasn’t heavily factored in to the equation of hiring a priest.  More mundane issues such as finding an apartment, paying utilities, furnishing an apartment, and setting up bank accounts took priority.  All of those tasks that individuals do for themselves, in a non-English speaking environment, now needed to be done for someone else.   With Father Karl available, the church began holding services every week rather than twice per month.  Since most of the congregants are expatriates, a lot of families take the opportunity to travel in Europe on weekends during their short stay.  So, many in the congregation believed that weekly services would reduce the number of people in the pews.  Oddly, the opposite was true, and the congregation began to grow.

Due to Rev. Bell’s retirement, Christ Church began a search for its second resident minister in spring 2004.  Father Tony Clavier and his wife Pat moved to Clermont Ferrand to take services as an interim priest.  Now the small but growing congregation had a priest and a pastor’s wife.  The chapel is in the hills outside of Clermont, is a summer chapel, and the winters are cold.  Other than an unreliable (and later proven dangerous!) gas heater, there was no heat.  From December until late March, congregants dressed warmly and we could see our breathe during most services.  So, thanks to a grant from a women’s outreach club at the Cathedral in Paris, we installed infrared lamp heaters.  Also during this time the Bishop’s Committee decided to change services from 5:00 PM to 10:30 AM.  Again, many in the congregation believed that weekly services would reduce the number of people in the pews.  And again, the opposite was true, and the church continued to grow.

After a long and far-reaching search, the Bishop’s Committee sought the help of the Holy Spirit.  After much prayer, the committee discerned that Father Luk DeVolder was called to shepherd our church.  Father Luk and his wife Tiffany accepted the challenge, in July 2005, the Reverend Dr. Luk De Volder took to the pulpit.   And the church continued to grow.

Through a series of true “Leaps of Faith” the congregation has grown and thrived.  It is funny what a bit of success can do for a group. People who in their “home towns” that would not think of attending the same church, worship and fellowship together.  Willingly.  Happily, Faithfully.  I often hear from former members who have returned to their lives in the states.  Overwhelmingly, one of the main things they miss is the fellowship of the church.

The church has grown from being a mission relying on the Convocation for support, to a mission that supports itself, and contributes to the Convocation.  We have members that participate in every area of the Convocation; on the Council of Advice, the Finance Committee, and participation in Youth Events.

Some of our ministries include Sunday school, prayer chain, women’s bible study, men’s bible study, couple’s bible study, youth group, outreach to college students, lots of music, and lots of fellowship. Starting with five faithful families, the support of the Convocation, the vision of Bishop Jeffrey, the continuing support of Bishop Pierre, the commitment of Father Joe, the numerous members of Bishop’s Committees, hundreds of congregants come and gone, until today, our church has been blessed.

After Father Luk left, a new Rector, Rob Warren and his wife Caireen came from Scotland. He led the church for 6 years, with Caireen doing tremendous work with our young people.

Caireen leading Lunch Bunch – our “Sunday School”, held on Friday lunchtime.

Their last Sunday with us, before setting off for a new adventure in Rome, was a bitter sweet occasion….but as the note says: regular services continue, even though Rob and Caireen have left us.

And now we are in a period of interregnum – deciding where we are going next. As the congregation has grown smaller, as Michelin’s policy on ex-pats has changed, we find ourselves unable to support a full time Senior Rector, so we are looking at different possibilities. We have had tremendous support from the Convocation of the Episcopal Church in Europe, and look forward to our first visit from Bishop Mark Edington, the newly elected Bishop, at the end of June. He has experienced bi-vocational ministry in action, and we hope that he will be able to give us advice and encouragement.

Archdeacon Walter Baer, Deputy to the Bishop, preaching a couple of weeks back. Thanks Walter for visiting us and encouraging the congregation with the Word of God!

For the moment, we have Eucharistic services, using reserved sacrament, which I lead, plus morning prayer led by other talented members of the congregation. We have some visiting priests too, but generally, I think we are thriving under this temporary regime. I rather like it, as I’m getting plenty of opportunity to preach!!

Here is the congregation last Sunday, at Pentecost. I’m there, slap bang in the middle, wearing my Reader’s robes, as I’d just led the church in Communion (using reserved sacrament) It is missing some key members, who are on holiday, or visiting family.

We are particularly proud of one member of the congregation, who is away at boarding school in the UK. From our FB page: After a long essay style application and a thorough discernment process, Caitlin Mahoney, one of our youth from Christ Church has been invited to serve on the Planning Team for the triennial Episcopal Youth Event (EYE 2020). The event will be held in Washington D.C in partnership with the Washington National Cathedral, Howard University and the Diocese of Washington. She will be required to attend 3 planning weekends in the USA and EYE 2020 – all in her A level year! She will be representing not only Christ Church but also the Convocation at this large event with 1400 youth. Caitlin says, ” I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of this Youth Planning Team for this wonderful event, where so many young, diverse young Christians come together to strengthen their faith and worship the Lord” Well done Caitlin.

 

So, there you are, Mags, a potted history of Christ Church, Clermont Ferrand. If my readers are so minded, some prayer for the future of our small but lively congregation would be gratefully received.

From one end, and the other!

 

 

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May pictures

Not sure what to blog about, but feeling I should write something, I delve back into my photo archives to see what I can find!

MAY 2010 – I used to do more walks when I had time between or after lessons. Here’s a little garden I found on a walk above Royat. Obviously a beautiful day! I really enjoyed these walks…I wonder why I don’t do so many now. Perhaps I’m too busy!

May 2010 was when I held George for the first time – our lovely cuddly George cat. He went missing almost three years ago, and although we have Jasper now, George is still very sadly missed. He was the most placid of cats, loving nothing more than a cuddle.

 

MAY 2011 – For a few years we had a Fete de Cheval here – it was, rather sadly, mostly a place where knackers came to buy old horses which were then taken to the abbatoir. It changed for a couple of years when our friends, who keep a livery stables and breeding stables took over the organisation, but that was too much work for them, so it stopped happening a few years ago. Here however is one of the animals that wasn’t a horse – there were some llamas one year!

MAY 2012 – The plant seller is out…I always buy my balcony plants from the same guy: he comes to the market in May/June but his plants are always good value and I’ve never had any complaints. The balcony is looking very sad at the moment, so I need to get out there and tidy it up. Because I’m working on Thursday mornings now I may have to ask Friend Cathy to buy my plants for me this year!

MAY 2013 –Here are Mr FD and our friend Louis, on the top of Mont Ventoux, having cycled up. I was the designated official photographer, but due to becoming too interested in the market in Bedouin, I very nearly missed their triumph! I drove up the mountain rather too hastily (there were hundreds of cyclists!) and caught up with the two of them no more than 3 km from the summit! Luckily I managed to get one action shot of them both, as well as this one.

!

MAY 2014 – A card made for my friend’s “Christian birthday” – I think it may have been one of my first “Celtic style” crosses, which are now one of my favourite things to draw.

MAY 2015 – I’m looking a bit blown about! This was taken when we went out for the day on our 30th wedding anniversary. We had a picnic and visited Mont Dore in the Auvergne. It was a lovely day out. I think this was taklen around Puy Marie, but I may be making that up!

MAY 2016 – an appropriate picture for today. Why, you may ask… Well, another blogger, Elizabeth, who used to live in France wrote:

In France we have a delightful custom of presenting our friends with a bunch, or even just a stem, of Lilies of the Valley.
It’s a custom that dates back to 1561, when the then King, Charles 1 received some lilies as a lucky charm. Each year he offered a bunch to the ladies of his court. So the tradition grew, and by 20th Century it was well established.
The flowers are given as a symbol of Spring. I think it is the one and only time that something is allowed to be sold without tax applying. Scouts and Guides will be in our town today, raising a little money by selling these beautifully perfumed flowers.
and mine are blooming in the garden, so I shall go and pick a few for our neighbour.
The photo was of some lily-of-the-valley that we’d been given by Michel across the road. Unfortunately they didn’t take, so we don’t have them any more.
MAY 2017 – One of my students was getting married, so I made him this card – very simply done with an embosser, and lots of little flowers cut out of scrap paper with my flower punch. The pearls were a bargain from Noz – of course!!
MAY 2018 – By now I was half way through my chemo, and had lost all my hair. Here I am in patriotic mode for the wedding of Harry and Meghan. I wouldn’t have bothered normally, but we’d been invited to Richard’s to watch the wedding on TV and to partake of lunch. I made a delicious but nt very attractive mlemon-and-elderflower cake
And May 2019? Well, it’s only 1st May. I’m sure there’ll be photos to share later on in the month…

40ACTS2019 :: 33 :: BIG DEAL

I’m working from home today – preparing next week’s lessons, and catching up on admin. It’s good to have this day with only one lesson, as it gives me a chance to breathe. Mind you, I had a lesson cancelled yesterday, so I was kicking my heels at the office from 1.00 through to 5.00. I guess I should have gone for a walk to clear my head, but instead I sat around rather aimlessly. I should use these moments better I think.

And so to today’s Act:

33: BIG DEAL

PROMPT: You’ve seen the videos: fights over bargains in shopping centres, Black Friday riots, Christmas brawls over best-sellers. Deals don’t always bring out the best in humanity. So, flip that instinct. Today, buy every deal that you reasonably can, and then give it to whoever you can. Make your bargains work for someone else.

REFLECTION: Link here

ACTS: Green: See some food marked at 50% off? Buy two – one to give away.

Amber: Find a deal on your favourite food, drink, or clothes brand. Give it away to someone you think might love it.

Red: Bulk-buy a necessity – toilet paper, cereal, underwear – and give it all away to a charity who can give it those in need.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good…” (Psalm 34:8 NIV)

 

Sigh. Today’s Act is another Spending Money Act…although, to be fair, it does say “buy every deal that you reasonably can,” we are still being asked to spend more money. I guess it’s really hard for the lovely people at 40 Acts to come up with40  Challenges that don’t involve money, and we are able to think for ourselves and come up with our own ideas, but my monetary generosity is definitely starting to wear out!

But as I read the reflection again, there’s less emphasis on monetary outlay: A door held open is a sample of welcome and a sense of belonging. An unexpected gift is a hint of loving grace. A coupon towards some chocolate demonstrates that celebration and a well-deserved treat is within our reach and our budget – for which we can be grateful! Offering glimpses and tasters might seem insignificant, but what a difference a deal can make. Let’s reach out today, connecting the people around us to the goodness of God.

It’s talking more about how our small offerings of generosity can make a difference – whether they are monetary or not. That makes me feel better. Those little actions that I’ve been trying to do through Lent – and beyond – they are “tasters”. If I can get a chance to say why I’m doing them (as I did in the Post Office!) then that’s opening the door to God’s generosity a little wider for someone. A Ninja Note that makes someone feel a little stronger, or more loved, is a word from God. A touch or a word spoken to a person without a home, an offering of a sandwich, can show that we believe this person has dignity and is worthy of respect. Each small thing can actually make a big difference, and who knows? They could start a butterfly effect to a tsunami of kindness and generosity across this world.

So no, I’m not spending money today. But I will make some cookies to take to the family of the student (5 year old Raphaelle) I teach today, and give them a card with the 40 Acts sticker on. It’s a small act of generosity, of love, as I give up a little of my time, and a little of my baking stash, to give pleasure to someone else.

No, I didn’t eat it! They’re all for you!

And the other thing I will do is try to be more regular in my buying-and-giving to the Food Bank collection in church. An extra tin or two of something on the weekly shopping is perfectly manageable finance-wise, and will make a difference each month to those in need.

A Photo an Hour

I enjoy reading these photo-an-hour posts on other people’s blogs, but I always miss what ever is the “official” day, so I decided to do a photo-a-day on a random day.

Thus, it was last Tuesday: I wasn’t working, as one of my students was away on business, another company had cancelled all their lessons, and I wasn’t travelling 80 km to teach one lesson of 1.5 hours – so I cancelled that one. As Mr FD is now in full time training, and I’m in practically fulltime work, the housework has slipped down the list of things we do when we have time, and I knew that on Tuesday I really had to buckle down and do some…

But first things first: 8.00 am

Cats required feeding. Here are Millie and Bib sharing a bowl – which doesn’t happen very often! They obviously both wanted the same flavour cat food!

9.00 am

Straight after feeding the cats I set to, and cleaned the bathroom. After I had finished Jasper came to inspect my work!

10.00 am

Mid bedroom clean-and-tidy, Jasper is back to see how I’m getting on. Just before this shot he’d been outside the bedroom window balancing on the window sill – 3 stories up!

Extra photo, taken at 10.30

I had a sitdown with a coffee and a couple of mini Snickers bars filched from Bonjour World offices. They had an intensive course for young people going on, so chocolate had been provided. I just happened to be passing the plate…

11.00 am

Back to the cleaning! My study got vacuumed and tidied and then the stairs and landing were swept, and washed…

12.00

Actually, it was a bit later than 12.00, but never mind! Time for lunch! A bowl of vegetable soup, a chicken rillette and lettuce sandwich and some sweet chilli crisps. Also a large glass of water.

1.00 pm

Yes! Back to the cleaning!! Huzzah! This time it was the kitchen floor getting swept and washed.

2.00 pm

Cleaning finished, I had to sort out my bill for Bonjour World – they do their accounting from 27th of one month to the 26th of the next. Luckily, Mr FD, who designed my billing system, was able to organise the system so it can generate the bill at theright time – as long as I put the students’ lessons in! Which was one of my tasks for this afternoon.

3.00 pm

Still at the computer, but here I think I’m just surfing! Relaxing was required!

4.00 pm

Deciding what to have for dinner – this is an old recipe from a Good Housekeeping magazine. And here’s the tomato sauce being cooked (extra picture!)

5.00 pm

I sat in the living room and read my book (which reminds me, I need to write a review for Net Galley!) The fire had come on – although it’s been unseasonably warm here, as in the UK too, the house still gets chilly in the evening. Well, it is only February, after all!!

6.00 pm

Bib comes to join me. “Isn’t it time you got on with preparing dinner?” she suggests. “Preferably my dinner!”

7.00 pm

Dinner is served. Mine, not Bib’s! With a glass of something red and fruity from Italy!

8.00 pm

Watching “Endeavour” on catch up. I have to say I have really enjoyed all the “Morse” programmes, and its spin-offs. “Morse” was in the 80s/90s, there was “Lewis”, a short series of “Hathaway”, I believe, and then “Endeavour”. I will be sad when Endeavour comes up and meets the beginning of Morse, as it were! For those who don’t know, the Endeavour series shows the early career of the policeman who featured in Morse…so somewhere along the line the timelines will have to meet up!

9.00 pm

Cats required feeding. Yes, I know feeding them on the worksurface isn’t very hygenic, but they do get wiped down. The work surfaces, not the cats!

10.00 pm

We watched an episode of the US sit-com “Community” before bed – although I think I missed some of it, nodding off. With a glass of wine and the warmth of the fire, together with my cleaning efforts, I zizzed my way towards bedtime!

11.00pm I was fast asleep!

A disgruntled Cat.

I love the word “disgruntled” – but how come one is never “gruntled”?!

Anyway, Pomme is disgruntled today.

Why?

Well, I lured her out from under my desk with delicious ham. Scrap by scrap, her greed got the better of her and she came out for the next morsel…Until she was out in the open, and I could grab her to smear butter-with-crushed-tablet around her mouth, and mostly on her paws. We are finding this is more acceptable for her, and she gets less stressed. We assume she then licks it off her paws – as she washes herself.

She snuck back under the desk, while casting evil looks in my direction, and is now sitting on the amplifier, washing herself and looking very disgruntled.

But the tablets are working: she has gained a bit of weight, and the blood test showed a big improvement in whatever it was testing. She certainly continues to be livlier and more active than she has beenfor a while!

 

Aren’t I lucky?!

I had a company cancel 4 hours of lessons with only 5 hours before I was due to start. That means Hard luck for them, they’ll have to pay for them, but good for me as it means I got to come home at lunchtime, rather than at 17.00; thus missing driving in the dark and the snow that has been forecast.

It’s grey and mibsy and cold so I’ll “do a Lesley” in a while. Mr FD was going to be on cooking duty, but I’ll let him off. This is (near enough) what we’re having: Pavé de cabillaud en croute des herbes but I’m using fresh breadcrumbs rather than packet croutons, & I’m just using parsley with a few dried herbs. We’ll have it with potato wedges, sweet potato wedges, tomato sauce, and green beans. Also I’m using pollock, instead of cod. But apart from that….!!

Other than that, we’re pootling on…

I am a cider drinker

A blast from the past here, with the video of The Wurzels, a British comedy (questionable!) band from the 70s. Does anyone remember them? They had a Number 1 hit with “I’ve got a brand new combine harvester (and I’ll give you the key)” as well.

Anyway…I thought of them as I wrote the title for this post, which is about our cider making exploits, back in November. It was a very mild day – just after a very cold spell – when our friends Jean & Claire called us to tell us that they would be making their cider that day. So we first of all picked apples at our friend Danièle’s plot, singing along to Big Big Train’s “Wassail” which seemed appropriate.

 

I was still wobbly on my feet – apparantly one of the longer-lasting side effects of chemo – so Mr FD did more picking than me, but we got quite a few bags-full between us. Bizarrely we found several “Bags for Life” abandoned in the orchard – we have no idea who left them there. They wouldn’t be from Danièle’s family, as no-one lives in the village any longer, so maybe it was an apple scrumper who was disturbed! Whoever it was, they lost their bags, as we used them and took them home!

It was very pleasant in the warm sunshine, with a view over the village. Here’s a view of the orchard

 

Some of the apples had been eaten away – I imagine from the inside, as some flying creature laid its eggs inside the apple to provide a food source for the hatched babies, whatever they were. The remains were actually rather lovely in their way. We left a lot of apples on the trees and on the ground – hopefully they will provide nourishments for “creatures of the forest” during the winter.

After we’d picked the apples, we headed over to Les Ports, the family home of Jean, now used as a holiday home by his sister, who lives in Lyon. Here there is the old machinery that has been used for generations to make cider. Each year (that the harvest is good enough) Chantelle and her husband, and possibly children too, come across from Lyon, and with her brother, Jean, and his family, the ancient equipment comes to life once more.

This year, Claire & Jean’s youngest were home from their studies: Alyssia and Joe are twins. Joe had brought two sisters from China who are at Uni with him to see what was going on.

 

 

 

First the apples were tipped into the hopper of this machine, which chopped them into smaller pieces. It’s a vicious machine, with blades going up and down really quickly. H&S doesn’t exist here, as Jean pushes the apples towards the blades with his bare hands! The pieces of apple are gathered in large plastic buckets, ready to be tipped into the press.

    

Mr FD, Jean, and Jean’s BiL are manipulating the press. The apples have been tipped into the barrel part, and the top part is weighted down and a huge screw-like mechanism is turned to press down on the apples to extract the juice.

There’s a bucket at the bottom, collecting the juice (which is filtered through straw placed around the base of the barrel-part) and we had to keep an eye on this, ready to whip it out as it got full, and replace it with another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was then taken outside where it was decanted into various jerry-cans, bottles, and demi-johns to be transported home. Here’s Alyssia and one of the Chinese guests carefully pouring the juice into a demi-john.

I was getting really chilled near the end, so I went and sat next to the log burner inside, while everyone finished off, overseen by Jet and Bilout, Jean & Claire’s two dogs

We took home several bottles of apple juice, which Mr FD mostly drank. It was a bit too sweet for me. I suppose (thinking about it far too late!) I could have mulled some of it with spices and lemon juice, which would have been nice! Never mind…

It was a very enjoyable day.

(Sorry the placing of pictures and text is a bit random. I was trying to embed the pictures in text but wasn’t very successful!)