We are in the Dordogne today, one of the most beautiful departments of France and much-loved by English visitors and settlers.
One Sunday some years ago we went to an English-speaking service in a French village. It was a beautiful place, every turning brought another picture postcard scene. The village church was an imposing place, a sign of the village’s great wealth in the middle ages. Built in the local stone and in excellent repair, it was witness to a continuing presence of Christian faith in the village.
The Catholic priest had a number of churches in his care, so that the Mass was later in the morning, leaving an opportunity for a service in the first half of the morning. The Anglican service was advertised as open to all English-speakers. When we arrived, we discovered that by “English-speakers” those leading the worship meant members of the Church of England.
The Church of England Alternative Service Book was thrust into our hands with little explanation as to what it was for or how to use it. The priest launched into the Church of England Communion service, and it was quite clear that the worship was intended for the ageing English expatriate community.
Michael was a toddler at the time and we were handed a colouring sheet and crayons and directed to a seat about half way up the church. Michael became curious after a while and made a couple of efforts at going to explore this interesting building. This attracted glares from those sitting nearby. So much for worship for all English-speakers, worship for elderly, conservative Anglicans would have been an honest description.
The final straw came during the prayers. First, we were treated to a lady’s poem about the buzzing of bees, then came the prayers for rulers and those in authority, “We pray for Elizabeth our Queen and for Francois, President of France.” That was it, I wasn’t staying any longer, this wasn’t a church for English-speakers, it was a colony of English people who happened to be in France.
That service was a wonderful opportunity to tell people about Jesus, instead all I got was a sense of the tastes and preferences of a group of ex-pats. Michael and I went and explored the village. I have avoided expatriate gatherings ever since.