Now I've been to Brethren Assemblies a couple of times in the UK, but always to those assemblies that call themselves "Evangelical Church", and that have basically stopped being ... well, brethren assemblies. But the assembly in Bordeaux is still noticeably brethren.
I went on the number 4 bus. Gwilym went to Cenon. Catrin and Pat were in bed, Catrin ill, listening to Stuart Olyott. At Place Tourny you get off and walk up Rue Fondaudège till you get to Rue du Docteur Albert Barraud, and you're there. (Doctor Albert Barraud was deported by the nazis in the second world war).
As I crossed the road to get to the building, just opposite the Palais Gallien, I was surprised to see a squashed rat in the road. "Aha, there's rats around here, then", I thought, though I know, of course, that in our cities you are never very far from a rat.
The brethren meet in splendid premises. You enter through an alleyway that opens out into a charming little courtyard. Above is the terrace of a house, to one side an entry to a house, perhaps the same one, at one side a bike shed and at the far end of the courtyard a large meeting room with big windows and room for some two hundred people, I should think. This weekend there was a youth meeting so all the younger folk were missing. Not only that but the brethren are in the process of starting two church plants, one in Floirac and the other in Saint-Médard-en-Jalles, but I would say that there were still approaching a hundred folk at the meeting.
We began with songs, readings and prayers. We sang well, in four-part harmony without accompaniment. Then followed the Lord's Supper. Afterwards more songs and prayers, then a coffee-break. There would normally follow a teaching meeting, but this morning it was replaced with a prayer meeting, but well introduced by a brother speaking on how the church in its earliest days devoted itself to prayer.
Afterwards some folk who live out beyond our neighborhood gave me a lift to the end of the road. Folk were very welcoming. Of course, I knew a number of people through our collaboration at the Maison de la Bible. I chatted with the lady who runs the christian bookshop opposite the Palais Gallien about how difficult it is to get "passing trade". She's wondering what to do. With someone else we talked about the need for witness in the city centre of Bordeaux. The folk have a stand at Quinconces and that was good to hear about.
It was a good morning. Very, very different from anything I have been to before, but serious, joyful and serene.