Life in France, Part Four

Life in France, Part Four April 6, 2008

OK, the question has been, “How can I spend two weeks in France just 100 km from Paris and not see Paris itself?” Since it was becoming clear that I was in danger of doing that very thing, today, Sunday, April 6, became the day to remedy the problem. Although we had originally planned for all to go, it turned very chilly overnight and snow was predicted, so at the last minute, just Jonathan and I went.

As we entered the outskirts of Paris, Jonathan told me to get the map and to navigate our way to the center of Paris, aiming for the Cathedral of Notre Dame. I was completely flummoxed, having trouble reading the tiny print in French and also reading the unfamiliar street signs, but somehow we made it to our goal without a wrong turn–mostly due to Jonathan’s superb sense of direction and a memory of a couple of others time here.

Next job: finding a place to park. Even on mid-Sunday morning, central Paris is very alive with people thronging the streets and every street parking place taken, cars parallel parked with generally less than six inches between bumpers. Twice we thought we spotted a sign for an underground parking garage, but each time we followed the sign, we were unable to actually find the garage. Personally, I think the signs are just there to lead people out of the city. At this point, we are driving along the south bank of the Seine and suddenly the perfect parking space appears. With great expertise, Jonathan maneuvered the car in the spot and hopped out, looking for a place to pay. A minute later he returned and said, “You are not going to believe this: it’s free on Sundays.”

ners were coursing down it. After watching for a while, we realized this had to be a marathon with perhaps 30,000 runners, and we needed to change our route because we dare not cross in front of them. Anyway, a slight detour led us to our goal and we walked up the side of the Cathedral. There were a bunch of people in line for a guided tour, and we did not want to do that, so were just going to look at the outside and then go on. When we got to the front, we saw a place where we could either go in and visit or go in and attend a Mass. As it turns out, the 10:00 a.m. Mass was just ending and we were in time for the 11:30 Mass.

We decided to attend and both were a little surprised to see that visitors were permitted to continue touring during the Mass. There was a constant stream of people in the outer section of the huge cathedral coursing from one end to the other, some even taking flash pictures of the worshippers and celebrants.

Parts of the service were printed in English and German, but it wasn’t all that easy to follow even so. During the reading of the Gospel, when the congregants were standing, three younger people in front of us abruptly sat down, began consulting their tour map of Paris, starting whispering to each other and then walked out.

The music was beautiful, and they practiced a form of open communion with these words in English, German and French in the bulletin: “The bread distributed during mass has a high significance for Christians: it is the body of Christ, their Lord and God. If you do not share our faith in the living presence of Christ in the eucharistic bread, we ask you not to join your neighbors at communion time.” I was able to interpret that as an invitation to participate, so Jonathan and I both communicated.

But . . . and I had this same feeling when visiting the very old Norman church (also called Notre Dame) in Moret: It felt dead to me. I know much of the problem again is my language facility, and my frustration with not knowing the responses. They weren’t even printed in French, so you either knew them or didn’t. But there is something else. The buildings are certainly built to last, and they are very, very impressive. But, as many others have asked, “Is this the Church?” “Isn’t it a lot more than this?” Yet we need meeting places–that has been a part of religious practice from the beginning–we need places to gather, to worship, to learn, to connect, to be launched for service. I have a lot of ponder with this one here.

Anyway, after that, we walked over to the Louvre, and I just stared in awe at the size of what was the royal palace. Didn’t even try to go in, as there was no way to do justice to a place like this in our limited time. But how magnificent! After stopping at a cafe for a lunch (and real “French Fries”–not as good as MacDonalds), we decided to head back to the car. All in all, we walked about seven miles, saw much of the beauty of inner Paris, and then walked along a lot of streets that are almost indistinguishable from streets in NY City. The weather had been cold, but not nasty and on the way back we were kind of wondering at the inaccuracy of French weather forecasters when suddenly we hit a significant snowstorm, and then a mile south it was totally clear and then another five miles and it was sleeting, and then clear again, and just raining slightly when we got back here. However, a few minutes ago, it began sleeting furiously here.

So, that’s my quick trip to Paris. But the real triumph of the day: have finally rigged up a temporary fix to the washing machine so laundry is possible again without constant mopping. As Jonathan said, “Laundry is my reason to be” except he said it in French. I’m so grateful that I can leave Adriana with this much done. It is difficult to describe how impossible life would be here without being able to wash at least two loads a day and most days three.

Tomorrow morning will be my last chance to walk to the town bakery for some fresh crossaints. I will never again be satisfied with an American made one, I suspect. The taste and texture delight the tongue. A special treat. The bakery is closed Tuesdays, as I know now, and Jonathan and I will have to leave for the airport by around 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday in order for me to be at the airport in time for my flight. So, shall arise very early, make my way down there, and then care for the children for the morning and into early afternoon while Jonathan heads back to Paris with Adriana to get her visa. Jonathan is so incredibly patient with the women (and children) in his life.

Hard to believe this visit is nearly over. Has been so full of joy and delight and many things to consider.

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  • >OK, so church wasn’t the same for you in France.Didn’t you worship while you were in France?You are a woman of God and I know that you didn’t leave Jesus in Krum, TX. So what did you do?Didn’t you gather in that small cottage with friends and family? Surely at some point you also shared Christ with those gathered in that place? If you didn’t, then why didn’t you?As for the Church being dead. I’d say that what you experienced was what it feels like to worship in a place where you don’t know how things are done. I’m assuming that the Mass was Catholic?If it was, then those celebrating it and responding all knew the responses. They are the same most Sundays and you just learn them. I once attended a Mass and it was not in English, but I knew the order of worship and I knew what was going on and what to say in English at the proper time. But if you weren’t Catholic, then none of it made any sense at all. In fact, it would have seemed dead just like it did to you in France. Is this the Church? I’d say that for some it is and for others it is more what you had in the fellowship of family and friends in a smaller setting. So, Ponder this Christy. Maybe what you experienced was God’s way of saying to you. Don ‘t let Krum UMC be like that old building in France to the people of Krum. Do you want a building to marvel at, or a place to share Christ with others? Sure you can share the building with others, but unlike the French I’d keep the worship service from being a tourist attraction. The French are a bit different in that respect. Seems like everything goes.One more question. Was communion dead for you in that place too? How could it be, even if you didn’t understand the words being said? You know the story by heart! Is it the words that make it alive for you? I don’t understand.I’ve experienced communion with you and believe me it is not the words that bring it to life. So you didn’t feel alive in that place? Was it because you expected something more because of where you were? Haven’t you celebrated communion without words before? Was it alive for you then? What about on Sunday mornings at 9 am in Krum? Is it alive then? If it is, then what makes it that way for you? I’ve watched you grow over the last few years in your knowledge of what true worship is, but I now ask you is it just words? Or is it more than that?If it’s more, then how do you intend to bring that to Krum?It is my belief that God showed you in a very unique way that you need to make worship come alive for all in Krum no matter the language or barrier. Krum UMC ,as you’ve repeatedly said in the past, has an opportunity to be a place where Christ is present and alive for everyone no matter their language or walk of life.So Christy, don’t ponder if the Church is dead. Ponder instead on how to make those who come to Krum UMC alive in Christ! Don’t let the building Old or New be the Church for you or your flock!Instead, Be Christ’s representative in Krum and show them that Church is more than just words they might not understand. Show those that you pastor what an alive Church is really like. Bring Christ to life everytime you come together in fellowship inside or outside, in the Old or in the New or where ever you find yourself. Be for them what you were looking for in France. BE ALIVE IN CHRIST!