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Church in Paris, Paris, France
in Paris, Paris, France.
Interdenominational. They are sponsored and supported by the
and Foreign Christian Union.
The congregation was founded in 1814 as the first church of
American origin established on foreign soil. The present building,
a large neo-Gothic structure, dates from the 1920s and replaces
an earlier church. The building includes the church itself and
lots of anciliary rooms. The interior features an attractive
sanctuary with beautiful stained glass all around, but it maintains
a light and airy interior. There is a small garden just inside
the church which adds to the peaceful atmosphere. The organ
is in the centre of the church at the front, and the two pulpits
on either side of it. The pews all face the front and a balcony
is situated at the back.
The church has a history of serving the English and French speaking
communities in Paris but is a gathering of people from all nations,
with many cultures, races and backgrounds. It is also a cultural
and community centre and provides a variety of activities, including
bi-lingual nursery schools, aerobics and basketball. There are
two traditional services each Sunday, with holy communion celebrated
each week at the earlier service and once monthly at the later
one. There is also a contemporary service each Sunday afternoon.
The church is situated in the heart of Paris, right by the river
Seine and not far from a host of famous landmarks, including
the Place de la Concorde, the Eiffel Tower and Musee D'Orsay.
This is the district known as Rive Gauche, famous for
its cafes, shops, picturesque streets and marketplaces. Just
opposite is the mooring for the famous Bateaux-Mouches sightseeing
The Revd Dr Scott Herr, senior pastor.
The date & time:
16 November 2008, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
Worship: Gathering in God's presence.
How full was the building?
Mostly full, lots of people but not too squashed in.
Did anyone welcome you
A man with a friendly smile said, "Good morning, sir"
and handed me a notice sheet. After I had settled in my pew,
another man pushed his way past me without even so much as an
excusez-moi. The peace was not done with enthusiasm
– just a case of going through the motions: no invitation
to say who I was, whether I was visiting or where I was from.
Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was cushioned and comfortable just perfect! I could
have nodded off if the service hadn't been so engaging.
How would you describe the pre-service
Not many people were there when I arrived and it was rather
quiet. The organ was playing and it felt like a concert – beautiful
music. The light was shining through the splendid stained glass.
It was a wonderful moment. People started to arrive just before
the service and continued arriving after it had started.
What were the exact opening words of the
"The psalmist said, 'I will lift up mine eyes to the hills
from whence cometh my help.'"
What books did the congregation use during the
Hymns, Psalms and Spiritual Songs, a publication of
the Westminster John Knox Press of Louisville, Kentucky, USA.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and hand bells. The organ was rather loud and the hymns
were played fast (not a bad thing in my view). At times, though,
it did seem as though the congregation were accompanying the
organ rather than the other way round.
Did anything distract
Their website states quite tersely: "Cell phones will not
function during the services." So at least that distraction
was absent. However, a couple in front of me compensated for
the inconvenience by talking incessantly during the entire service
sheer bad manners!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Rather formal but friendly and open, following the order of
service printed on the handout. It did seem a little distant
given that the building and the congregation were large. However,
good participation from the congregation. There were some lovely
extemporaneous prayers led by members of the congregation, and
some short talks. One such talk was about the church's mission
in France and further afield, which suggested the church was
aware of the world in which they live. The hymns were traditional
it would have been good to have one or two more modern songs
to balance it more.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how
good was the preacher?
9 Pastor Herr wove a wonderful variety of stories, Bible
references, personal experiences and fun into his talk, relating
the text to everyday life. It was a well crafted sermon that
kept the congregation's attention throughout (although clearly
not the couple in front of me, who didn't let such a dérangement
as a sermon interrupt their conversation).
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
The title was "Risking it all" based on the parable
of the talents in Matthew 25:14-28. It was about trusting God
with our money and our lives. The master takes all the risk
and it's a story of extravagance and grace. Many of us keep
stewardship and spirituality in two different rooms, and many
live as disciples but it costs them nothing. The third servant
in the story didn't take the risk and didn't receive the grace.
No risk, no reward.
Which part of the service was like being in
The thought provoking sermon was heavenly: a difficult story
to preach on, but it shone in a new light which was related
to our everyday lives.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The wonderful handbell ringing of "Morning has broken"
during the offering a real moment of worship – was ruined
for me by the applause at the end. I had visited this church
once before, and at that time the bulletin had asked for no
applause as this was a service of worship. Perhaps this was
supposed to be a concert after all?
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing. People were talking to each other but not to visitors
(there were several other people hanging around looking lost
too). Clearly the talks on mission and risk in the service were
well chosen, but it seems that the congregation are not even
able to take the small risk of talking to a stranger in their
How would you describe the after-service
Great cup of coffee in a pottery cup. Not sure if the refreshments
were fairly traded, certainly no signs to say so. I thought
the American influence might have meant there would be cookies,
but sadly I couldn't find any! Ah well, probably a healthier
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 The choice may be limited if you want an English speaking
congregation in Paris. The preaching and the worship were good,
but that sense of isolation after the service did not encourage
one to be a part of it all.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
The music and the preaching most certainly.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I'll remember the sermon for a long time. Lots to think about
and work out in everyday life.
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