les Davey de France

Alan and Pat live and work in Bordeaux. Alan is a pastor and Pat was a nurse. Now we work with UFM worldwide. Read on! (If you'd like to know what took us to Bordeaux, then start with the archives from September 2004)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Massimo La Rosa-Marco Cadario: S. Sulek, Sonata Vox Gabrieli

It's a long time since I put any music on.
You may find this music hard to like, I don't know.
I find it amazingly beautiful. The title is, I think, a pun on the angel Gabriel and the Venetian brass composer, Gabrieli.

More on Confessions of Faith 4

So why not use an established Confession of Faith ?

Many Christian groups do just that. They identify with a short modern confession like that of EMW. Others, one of the longer confessions of the 17th century. Still others, aware of the need to state one's place in the flow of church history, adopt a 17th century confession plus the historic creeds (Chalcedon, Nicene, Apostles', etc.)

I think another strength of this approach is that it avoids the "not invented here" approach that can sometimes make evangelicals appear arrogant and divisive.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

More on Confessions of Faith 3

Another strength of writing your own confession of faith is that it allows and encourages you to address the contemporary eccentricities of the world 'christian' scene from the standpoint of the Bible. 'What do you think about : elders, healers, prophets, modern songs, tongues, falling on the floor and barking, "kicking people in the face in the Holy Ghost", prosperity teaching, the DPP, etc ?' people ask. If it's in your confession of faith they can read it quietly at home and reflect on it.

Of course, this is also a weakness. After all, who still falls on the floor and barks ? In five years' time who will still 'kick people in the face in the Holy Ghost' ? Our contemporary worries are often passing fads (thankfully !). Then we are faced either with revising our confession of faith to remove all references to barking, lowing and bleating, or with explaining the historical context in which it was written.

But of course, it was ever so. It is striking to see how the historic creeds and confessions develop. Not everyone who subscribes to a 17th century confession of faith in the Westminster family would see the Pope as the antichrist, for example, though some still would. And when we say "I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins", do we mean exactly what the authors mean when they penned confiteor unam baptisma in remissionem peccatorum ?

There's always something new to learn, eh !

There are about 500,000 cases of tapeworm in France each year. The larvae of the worm in question ténia saginata, live in the muscles of cows, and so the worms are contracted through eating beef that is not thoroughly cooked.

If this expression (beef that is not thoroughly cooked) rings any bells with you, it does with me, too.


Really you're pretty unlikely to catch a viral infection from breathing in droplets in the air.

(A possible exception may be in planes, where air is pumped round and round the cabin !)

Normally we pick up the viruses on our hands and then transfer them to our mucous membranes by displacement behaviour (nose-picking, etc...)

And don't imagine that you don't pick your nose. I have seen you do it during the sermon.

Moral of the story ? WASH YOUR HANDS ! OFTEN !

After taking publc transport ? WASH YOUR HANDS !

Also here in France people will often say "on fait pas la bise, je suis enrhumé" and attempt to shake hands instead.

Bad move ! Either wave from a distance or put your hands in your pockets and do la bise.

You're NOT VERY LIKELY to pick up the virus from touching cheeks - but shake hands with them (and they've just blown their nose in a sodden paper hankie which they stuffed back up their sleeve etc...) and then pick your nose and the deed is done !

If you do shake hands with people who have colds or flu - pop into the toilet and WASH YOUR HANDS.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

This'll be interesting !

This morning I meet up with a student to go and visit one of the low-cost housing agencies. I'm accompanying him because he has almost no French. The agency is near where he's doing his research and he's hoping to get a bedsit ready for when his wife and child come to Bordeaux in September.

It'll be interesting because one of the BIG ISSUES with work in the big cities is the cost of accommodation. We pay out a fortune in rents (and a mortgage). Monthly (approximately) :
Church: 1200 euros
FAC : 450 euros
UFM Housing : 1000 + 900 + 600
Church housing : 1200.

Add it all up - you get 4450 euros in rent and 900 in mortgage.

I have always wondered whether there would be a cheaper option if we tried to rent in HLMs, in low cost housing. However because we are paid from overseas it is very difficult to find people who will take the risk of renting to us.

Not only that, but we looked at the low-cost housing agency website to see what they advertise as being available and basically their studios (a bedsit, basically) start at 300 euros a month. NOT SO LOW-COST ! And family accommodation would not be much cheaper than what we are currently paying.

Still, it's good to look.


OK, the guy in the office was helpful. He said that to start with we have to fill in a form to request accommodation and return it with a tax statement from 2007. I said "But he only just arrived in France." The reply, "then he needs a letter from the tax people saying that as he only just arrived in France he cannot have a tax statement for 2007."

We filled in the form together in a local cafe. Then I went home and phoned the tax people.

"A student has just arrived in France and to get accommodation he needs a letter saying that he cannot have a tax statement for 2007. How can we get this letter ?"

The very helpful young man replied : the best thing to do is to contact us saying he has just arrived in France and needs a tax statement for 2007 so please can he declare his income for 2007 when he was in his home country. We will reply that he cannot do that because he was not in France and then you give our reply to the housing association.

I said "That's a strange way to do it."

"Yes, it is" said the helpful young taxman.

Monday, April 27, 2009

More on the Confession of Faith thing 2

When your group decides that it needs a confession of faith you have a choice to make. Do you adopt an existing one or do you write your own.

There is something to be said for writing your own.

For example, you may not want to identify yourselves with any particular movement within evangelicalism.

Again, the nature of your group may impose particular constraints - you may need a confession of faith in very simple English, for example.

Whatever the reason, it's a good exercise to try to write a brief confession of faith - to try to set out in a structured way the basics of what you believe as a christian. Then to look at some other examples (e.g. UCCF , EMW , AECW, Prison Fellowship) and to reflect on what you wrote and what you read.

Les ponts de mai

When a bank holiday falls on or near a weekend it's an occasion of great joy, because you can take an extra day's holiday and have a long weekend (faire le pont).

This May is very auspicious because we have : Fri 1 May, Fri 8 May, Thu 22 May. That makes THREE LONG WEEKENDS ! Amazing.

It does mean that the roads will be completely blocked with holidaymakers, mind you.

Meanwhile the Assemblée Nationale are debating le travail dominical (Sunday working), at present strictly regulated to preserve the calm and quiet of a continental Sunday with the shops all closed.

Ubuntu 9.04

Upgraded on Friday or Saturday.

The system said 'You can upgrade.'

I thought, "OK".

It took perhaps 1/2 hour and I had to say "Yes" a few times.

Voilà !

I am SO TEMPTED to replace XP with Windows 7 RC.
But I can hardly moan about having to fool around so much with computers and then go and fool around EVEN MORE without due cause !

Something ROUSING for a sluggish Monday morning

Viento Sur Trombone Quartet performs Casterede lll

Saturday, April 25, 2009

More on the confession of faith thing. 1

I woke at a strange hour last night, listened to the rain and thought about confessions of faith.

Sometimes when Evangelicals get together they decide that they need an agreed confession of faith. This is really important because of the 'culture' and 'tradition' thing. (See 'Assumed Evangelicalism')

For example, and I apologise right now for probably misquoting him, but when Rowan was enthroned I think I remember him saying that he valued the evangelicals because from time to time he just needs "to bash a tambourine and sing Blessed Assurance".

He meant this kindly, I think, though it is a startling caricature of evangelicalism and makes me wonder if he knows any evangelicals at all. No, he must. Mustn't he ?

Anyway... The culture and tradition problem is that movements start with a statement of truth, a shared belief system, a common conviction, at first proclaimed, then assumed, then remembered, then neglected, then forgotten. Meanwhile the culture and tradition remains.

In Britain many people equate evangelicalism with praise bands, Towndrickman and preachers in sweaters. It has become in the minds of many, a culture. A way of doing things. It started as shared convictions. Now it has become shared habits.

In France people talk of "a shared Reformed culture". Sometimes that means a form of worship, sometimes synodo-presbyteral church government. It certainly doesn't mean adherence to the Confession of Faith called La Rochelle.

However God in the Bible doesn't just give us a culture. He gives us truth to change our convictions.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tell us :

"Why do innocent people suffer ?"

A question over dinner last night.

It's great to be able to say that the most innocent person that ever lived suffered the most extreme suffering ever known willingly for our sakes so that we will never suffer as we deserve but receive the rewards of innocence.

OK, that's the flights booked.

There's a 48hr period to accept the quote for car hire, so I want to just catch my breath before forking that out too !

Today's Family Fun Time ?

Breakfast at Ikea, with a large quantity of Griffins.

We have vowed not to be drawn into going all round the store. Can we keep our resolve ?

I have one or two little tasks I need to do - like book flights and hire-car for the visit to Britain in May, plan the order of service for Sunday and be ready for English Service Sunday evening. Some emails to send. But probably the family will not notice that I am sharing my day between them and these little things.

Brilliant idea - a car-sharing/car-rental scheme

Right here in Bordeaux. Not in Pessac, but they now have cars in Mérignac so it's only a matter of time.

This would be great for us because from time to time we need two cars, but not enough to justify the expense of buying, insuring, servicing etc.

It's sunny. Spring is here. Time to dance.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My birthday party

I had a milestone birthday on Saturday during the FAC Outreach. I used to think 40 was old. Now, with ever-increasing hindsight, I know that these numbers change nothing. Anyway one of the students had said ça se fête, and so it proved to be.

There I was innocently sat in my dressing gown of many colours / with sleeves (there's a textual variant) sending a video of a guy playing Bach on piccolo trumpet to my trumpeter friend, Joseph, when I glimpsed him out of the corner of my eye (j'hallucine, thought I). Then his mother. Then his sister.

I retreated to the bedroom and donned some garb.

Students arrived. MV team members. Other folk from the church. Eventually we were more than 20 and it was a very happy time.

I thought that Pat had made rather a lot of chilli for just the MV team and us, but far be it from me !

Not only did we have a fine fête, but we also had a splendid cake made by Catrin's fair paws and I was given a copy of Calvin Héraut de Dieu by Eric Denimal, signed by all and sundry. This very book I had ordered from an Amazon bookmonger recently and had that very morning received an email saying they were refunding me because they couldn't supply it.

Eric Denimal is that rare beast, a pastor who can write. (No offence meant, people) He used to be a journalist before becoming a pastor in the Eglise Libre in (I think) Nîmes, so his stuff is well-written and sells to the general public as well as to Christians.

How Wales leads the world !

Oh come on. I live in France and you don't get that much jingoism on the site do you ?

Anyway, I used to be a pastor and an apparatchik in the AECW, the Associating Evangelical Churches of Wales, and I hereby salute and applaud this worthy group. It has many faults - in fact all the faults that its constituent churches bring to it (and they bring the faults of each member - let us not forget !)

However the AECW has one humungous strength - it exists to unite confessional churches in Wales - that is churches that hold to, preach, express one of the reformed confessions of faith (e.g. 1823 Calvinistic Methodist, 1689 Baptist, Westminster, Savoy, etc. etc.)

This is a brilliant expression of gospel unity because it defines what we mean by the words evangelical and church - a confessional church, a gospel with content - but it also allows for diversity of conviction regarding church government, baptism, etc.

AECW accepts that its member churches have deep and strong convictions about baptism, independency, etc., but that they belong together because they believe, preach and express the same gospel in similar ways.

I mention this in the light of the American movements such as Together for the gospel and the Gospel Coalition (Why the two ? What am I missing ?).

This confessional basis is really important. It defines the gospel that we say unites us.

iPhoney baloney

Speaking to my friend, confidant, mission-council-member (yes, sir!) and info-guru yesterday I realised that my Nokia N95 (old style - 4c on SFR at the moment, I think) is still the tool for me, and not these new-fangled iPhones or iPods Touch.

My N95 has better speakers.
My N95 takes memory cards so I can increase the storage or swap cards if I want.
My N95 has lots of programs I can put on it. I don't but I could (thus apps-store, schmapps-store...)
My N95 has a better 5MP camera - great for the blogo-reportage pictures that I usually do.
My N95 makes good videos, too. The iPhone can't.
My N95 works great as a phone, as does the iPhone.

What does the iPhone have that my N95 doesn't ?

It looks cool and it has a little Apple logo on the back.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Some family time

The kids are off school. The students are on vacation. The sun is shining. I'm only preaching once on Sunday (and I COULD use the message I did in French last Sunday...)

So I am taking some time off and spending it with the family. This sometimes means us all being in different rooms doing our own thing (families get to that stage, I guess). But this afternoon it meant us going into Bordeaux for a kebab. One of the students had recommended this kébabberie which is super-bon and pas cher du tout. I asked her where it was and got brilliant directions so we all went in to Victoire and walked round the Capucins market to the designated place. For 19 euros we had our four kebabs with salad and chips (served in a big wrap rather than in a pitta bread) and four canettes (two cokes, two ice teas, guess who had what). The owner asked "Vous êtes d'où ?" and I said my usual. 'On est de Pessac'. "Oui, mais vous avez un accent." 'Ah oui, le Pays de Galles.' "Aha, la reine Elizabeth ?" He gave us two free espressos on the strength of that. Cheers, your majesty !

Afterwards we followed our noses to the Flèche St Michel and thence up Cours Victor Hugo past the kaftan shops and halal butchers to the Hotel de Ville where we got the tram home. This is a really different kind of area of Bordeaux, narrow streets, funny cafés, lots of North African folk. An ideal place to do muslim outreach.

In fact once we did just that by accident. One Friday a student and I placed ourselves outside the student refectory just behind Capucins. He was by the door, I was in the middle of the road. In my defence I must point out that lots of French people are pretty dark with curly black hair. Anyway we had a great time leafleting - the road was really quite busy and people were very willing to talk. Then a friend from the language school came along. We talked for a while, till he said "Well I must dash or I'll be late for the mosque". It's just down the road !

One café had a notice that said (from memory...)

Le Coin.
Ouvert mardi à samedi
de 11h à 23h
et à midi

On accents - last week one man said "Vous n'êtes pas de Bordeaux ?"

'Non, je suis de Pessac.'

He looked startled, then said "Ah bon, c'est l'accent de Pessac."

'Oui, c'est ça', I said, finally realising what he was getting at.

Later on a lady : "Vous êtes Belge ?"

'Non, je suis Gallois. Et vous, vous êtes d'ici ?'

"Non, je suis Portugaise".

It sort of took the edge off her thinking I was Belgian...

Aubergines and artichokes

at the supermarket (some time ago !)
Posted by Picasa

When trombone players go on holiday

Measuring success


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Colin Marshall writes about "Bruce Ministry" in the briefing

The church Sheilas are progressing in the faith, but how to encourage the Bruces to grow ? Colin reflects here.

Monday, April 20, 2009

S. Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances op.45 (I) Non allegro (Part I)

Please make sure you listen beyond the 4 minute mark.
You get one of Rachmaninov's incredible melodies that make you want to laugh and cry at the same time.

A N Wilson on his return to faith

It's so well worth a read I've copied it all below :

Why I believe again
A N Wilson

Published 02 April 2009

A N Wilson writes on how his conversion to atheism may have been similar to a road to Damascus experience but his return to faith has been slow and doubting

Unlike his conversion to Atheism, Wilson's path back to faith has been a slow one

By nature a doubting Thomas, I should have distrusted the symptoms when I underwent a “conversion experience” 20 years ago. Something was happening which was out of character – the inner glow of complete certainty, the heady sense of being at one with the great tide of fellow non-believers. For my conversion experience was to atheism. There were several moments of epiphany, actually, but one of the most dramatic occurred in the pulpit of a church.

At St Mary-le-Bow in the City of London, there are two pulpits, and for some decades they have been used for lunchtime dialogues. I had just published a biography of C S Lewis, and the rector of St Mary-le-Bow, Victor Stock, asked me to participate in one such exchange of views.

Memory edits, and perhaps distorts, the highlights of the discussion. Memory says that while Father Stock was asking me about Lewis, I began to “testify”, denouncing Lewis’s muscular defence of religious belief. Much more to my taste, I said, had been the approach of the late Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey, whose biography I had just read.

A young priest had been to see him in great distress, saying that he had lost his faith in God. Ramsey’s reply was a long silence followed by a repetition of the mantra “It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter”. He told the priest to continue to worship Jesus in the Sacraments and that faith would return. “But!” exclaimed Father Stock. “That priest was me!”

Like many things said by this amusing man, it brought the house down. But something had taken a grip of me, and I was thinking (did I say it out loud?): “It bloody well does matter. Just struggling on like Lord Tennyson (‘and faintly trust the larger hope’) is no good at all . . .”

I can remember almost yelling that reading C S Lewis’s Mere Christianity made me a non-believer – not just in Lewis’s version of Christianity, but in Christianity itself. On that occasion, I realised that after a lifetime of churchgoing, the whole house of cards had collapsed for me – the sense of God’s presence in life, and the notion that there was any kind of God, let alone a merciful God, in this brutal, nasty world. As for Jesus having been the founder of Christianity, this idea seemed perfectly preposterous. In so far as we can discern anything about Jesus from the existing documents, he believed that the world was about to end, as did all the first Christians. So, how could he possibly have intended to start a new religion for Gentiles, let alone established a Church or instituted the Sacraments? It was a nonsense, together with the idea of a personal God, or a loving God in a suffering universe. Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense.

It was such a relief to discard it all that, for months, I walked on air. At about this time, the Independent on Sunday sent me to interview Dr Billy Graham, who was conducting a mission in Syracuse, New York State, prior to making one of his journeys to England. The pattern of these meetings was always the same. The old matinee idol spoke. The gospel choir sang some suitably affecting ditty, and then the converted made their way down the aisles to commit themselves to the new faith. Part of the glow was, surely, the knowledge that they were now part of a great fellowship of believers.

As a hesitant, doubting, religious man I’d never known how they felt. But, as a born-again atheist, I now knew exactly what satisfactions were on offer. For the first time in my 38 years I was at one with my own generation. I had become like one of the Billy Grahamites, only in reverse. If I bumped into Richard Dawkins (an old colleague from Oxford days) or had dinner in Washington with Christopher Hitchens (as I did either on that trip to interview Billy Graham or another), I did not have to feel out on a limb. Hitchens was excited to greet a new convert to his non-creed and put me through a catechism before uncorking some stupendous claret. “So – absolutely no God?” “Nope,” I was able to say with Moonie-zeal. “No future life, nothing ‘out there’?” “No,” I obediently replied. At last! I could join in the creed shared by so many (most?) of my intelligent contemporaries in the western world – that men and women are purely material beings (whatever that is supposed to mean), that “this is all there is” (ditto), that God, Jesus and religion are a load of baloney: and worse than that, the cause of much (no, come on, let yourself go), most (why stint yourself – go for it, man), all the trouble in the world, from Jerusalem to Belfast, from Washington to Islamabad.

My doubting temperament, however, made me a very unconvincing atheist. And unconvinced. My hilarious Camden Town neighbour Colin Haycraft, the boss of Duckworth and husband of Alice Thomas Ellis, used to say, “I do wish Freddie [Ayer] wouldn’t go round calling himself an atheist. It implies he takes religion seriously.”

This creed that religion can be despatched in a few brisk arguments (outlined in David Hume’s masterly Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion) and then laughed off kept me going for some years. When I found myself wavering, I would return to Hume in order to pull myself together, rather as a Catholic having doubts might return to the shrine of a particular saint to sustain them while the springs of faith ran dry.

But religion, once the glow of conversion had worn off, was not a matter of argument alone. It involves the whole person. Therefore I was drawn, over and over again, to the disconcerting recognition that so very many of the people I had most admired and loved, either in life or in books, had been believers. Reading Louis Fischer’s Life of Mahatma Gandhi, and following it up with Gandhi’s own autobiography, The Story of My Experiments With Truth, I found it impossible not to realise that all life, all being, derives from God, as Gandhi gave his life to demonstrate. Of course, there are arguments that might make you doubt the love of God. But a life like Gandhi’s, which was focused on God so deeply, reminded me of all the human qualities that have to be denied if you embrace the bleak, muddled creed of a materialist atheist. It is a bit like trying to assert that music is an aberration, and that although Bach and Beethoven are very impressive, one is better off without a musical sense. Attractive and amusing as David Hume was, did he confront the complexities of human existence as deeply as his contemporary Samuel Johnson, and did I really find him as interesting?

Watching a whole cluster of friends, and my own mother, die over quite a short space of time convinced me that purely materialist “explanations” for our mysterious human existence simply won’t do – on an intellectual level. The phenomenon of language alone should give us pause. A materialist Darwinian was having dinner with me a few years ago and we laughingly alluded to how, as years go by, one forgets names. Eager, as committed Darwinians often are, to testify on any occasion, my friend asserted: “It is because when we were simply anthropoid apes, there was no need to distinguish between one another by giving names.”

This credal confession struck me as just as superstitious as believing in the historicity of Noah’s Ark. More so, really.

Do materialists really think that language just “evolved”, like finches’ beaks, or have they simply never thought about the matter rationally? Where’s the evidence? How could it come about that human beings all agreed that particular grunts carried particular connotations? How could it have come about that groups of anthropoid apes developed the amazing morphological complexity of a single sentence, let alone the whole grammatical mystery which has engaged Chomsky and others in our lifetime and linguists for time out of mind? No, the existence of language is one of the many phenomena – of which love and music are the two strongest – which suggest that human beings are very much more than collections of meat. They convince me that we are spiritual beings, and that the religion of the incarnation, asserting that God made humanity in His image, and continually restores humanity in His image, is simply true. As a working blueprint for life, as a template against which to measure experience, it fits.

For a few years, I resisted the admission that my atheist-conversion experience had been a bit of middle-aged madness. I do not find it easy to articulate thoughts about religion. I remain the sort of person who turns off Thought for the Day when it comes on the radio. I am shy to admit that I have followed the advice given all those years ago by a wise archbishop to a bewildered young man: that moments of unbelief “don’t matter”, that if you return to a practice of the faith, faith will return.

When I think about atheist friends, including my father, they seem to me like people who have no ear for music, or who have never been in love. It is not that (as they believe) they have rumbled the tremendous fraud of religion – prophets do that in every generation. Rather, these unbelievers are simply missing out on something that is not difficult to grasp. Perhaps it is too obvious to understand; obvious, as lovers feel it was obvious that they should have come together, or obvious as the final resolution of a fugue.

I haven’t mentioned morality, but one thing that finally put the tin hat on any aspirations to be an unbeliever was writing a book about the Wagner family and Nazi Germany, and realising how utterly incoherent were Hitler’s neo-Darwinian ravings, and how potent was the opposition, much of it from Christians; paid for, not with clear intellectual victory, but in blood. Read Pastor Bonhoeffer’s book Ethics, and ask yourself what sort of mad world is created by those who think that ethics are a purely human construct. Think of Bonhoeffer’s serenity before he was hanged, even though he was in love and had everything to look forward to.

My departure from the Faith was like a conversion on the road to Damascus. My return was slow, hesitant, doubting. So it will always be; but I know I shall never make the same mistake again. Gilbert Ryle, with donnish absurdity, called God “a category mistake”. Yet the real category mistake made by atheists is not about God, but about human beings. Turn to the Table Talk of Samuel Taylor Coleridge – “Read the first chapter of Genesis without prejudice and you will be convinced at once . . . ‘The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’.” And then Coleridge adds: “‘And man became a living soul.’ Materialism will never explain those last words.”

Don't miss our web exclusive Q&A with A N Wilson
A N Wilson is a novelist and biographer

Quick mission report

Thanks to all who have been praying for the special time of outreach with the folks from Mission Vacances. One of the peculiar frustrations of a week like this is that at a time when we most want to share what's happening there's least time to do that ! Anyway :

We spent the mornings doing outreach on campus : door-to-door tracts and invites by the tram stops and cafés. From this have come a nice handful of contacts to follow up - they've passed on their email address.

The afternoon found us in the town centre with the Calvin expo and in the square round the cathedral inviting folks in. Between 40 and 50 people came to the expo and many of them had useful conversations, too, and/or took leaflets, Bibles, etc. The MV folks say this was a very good number and I confess that I was surprised how popular an expo on Calvin proved to be.

The evening events were more mixed. The Calvin conférence was well attended and of a very good quality, though it was not as evangelistically pointed as the other evenings. The Soirée Film brought in some outsiders and was a useful time. The films we showed were from Moody Science and now somewhat dated. The Soirée Anglaise at the church was the poorest attended - perhaps partly because we didn't give out any invitations (!) but also possibly because it was held at the church, not at FAC. We need to reflect on this one. Some folks who I thought would come didn't. If I'd chased them up would they have come ? Is that the point, though ? And so on.

So lots of folks contacted, some to follow up. Also one or two people from here expressing interest in helping on MV in France.

Oh, and we had lots of conversations with the JWs in the cathedral square and they showed me how to make one of their little trolleys for carting leaflets round. (Basically a book table is illegal, anything you plonk in the street has to be mobile, i.e. it has to have wheels on it, so they buy a shopping bag on wheels, discard the bag and build a little stand on it for "La Tour de Guet" ( ? ) and "Réveille-toi". Of course - we'd need something a lot stronger because we'd want to put Bibles in it as well as leaflets and flyers.

1. Monteverdi: Vespro della Beata Vergine, 1610 / Jean Tubéry

Sackbutts !

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Paris Gare du Nord

Go George. Listen folks !

Friday, April 17, 2009

A la maniere de schumann-Jacques Mauger

Mission week

So far so great.

Beau temps.

Visitors to Calvin expo.

Happy team.

Good session last night with Daniel Bergèse.

All in fifth gear and steaming on through !

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Castérède Jaques - "Flutes en Vacances", Flutes légères

It's Castérède season

Team here, expo looking good, tract written

but it's raining.

Still, an expo is a good idea in the rain !

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Santi Novoa y Ramón López - 1er mov. Casterede Sonatina

Cracking, this, isn't it !

Nice and bright and sunny with a happy bouncy pianist.

OK Team arrives today

Fiona and a gang of students are sticking the exhibition all over the student centre with gay abandon and a lorry-load of Pritt stick.

I have just written my tract and Pat and I are on reception duty so I have been to buy half a tonne of pork chops and the European Sweet and Sour Sauce lake to feed the troops when they arrive.

As I wrestled to write just 50 words about Calvin (yes - but they had to be the right words, and all in the right place !) I thought about how, just 10 years ago, or even less, if you had told me that I would be in Bordeaux, France writing a tract in French about Calvin I'd have thought your were utterly barking.

The Mission begins in earnest tomorrow.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Joshua Griffin

goes into hospital this evening for the battery of tests the French doctors want to help them to understand his problems with co-ordination and why he is still prone to febrile convulsions.

Please pray for them all.

The website

Honestly, the quick and shoddy websites I threw together for www.facasso.org and for www.bordeauxchurch.info were well worth the minimal effort involved !

I used blogger and just took out as much as I could to stop it looking quite so much like a blog. Blogger is easy to use but limited, so you can't do much fancy stuff, but who needs that anyway. The Bordeaux Church website is basically just our leaflet put online.

And this week, listen to this - this week alone - we had four enquiries from people who found the website: 3 e-mails and one person who just came to church without emailing first.

Easter report

Easter weekend began with the Good Friday service at 6pm at the church. But not for us ! As I made my way home just after 5 I saw that the rocade was completely blocked in the Bordeaux direction and Pessac centre itself was pretty impassable.
The problem ?
Three things : 1) end of working day. The rocade is always a problem around that time 2) beginning of Easter hols. People hit the road for Spain and the sun on Friday evening. 3) a trailer load of wood had caught fire on the Pont François Mitterand.
So no Good Friday service for us !

Easter Day began bright and early at church for the setup and the service. The folk from Blaye were there and together with some other visitors we were pretty full. Sammy preached from the Emmaus Road and Romans 6 on reckoning yourself dead to sin and alive to righteousness.

Pat had invited three families back for lunch and we press-ganged another friend into coming too. This is what enormous slow cookers were invented for. So we ate chilli and sticky thai rice (I think we overloaded the rice-cooker) with chocolate mousse, Vienetta and chocolate nests for pud.

At lunch we talked about all kinds of things, among them one friend's breadmaking machine. "I use any old flour - the cheapest", she said. The bread was fine. Boulangers who make their own bread from flour are dying out. "All the chains use frozen baguettes that they just thaw and bake, apparently, and even the proper boulangers use frozen croissants now", said another friend who should know because he delivers to them all.

I confessed to our non-French ways. "We buy cheap baguettes in the supermarket and freeze them", I said. "So do we", quoth the multitude, "it's good bread. They bake it from fresh".

The English service. Well I must post separately about something in particular, but we were about 15. Some old friends were not there but we had some new faces. I preached on Emmaus and how Jesus had to suffer and enter his glory like the Old Testament says. It was a good time together.

Santi Novoa y Ramón López - Cavatine - Saint Saens

To celebrate an Easter Monday lie-in !

Tom Wrights On

the resurrection.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bach - Matthaeus Passion - 67-68

The final moments of Bach's St Matthew Passion reflect on Jésus' burial. It's Passion music, meant for Good Friday. For the resurrection we must wait. It's Friday (but Sunday's coming).

The soloists say goodbye. Everyone says "All your work is over. Sleep now."

Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

Je remets mon esprit entre tes mains,
tu m'as libéré, Eternel, toi, le Dieu véritable

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bach - Matthaeus Passion - 19-20-21-22

This is the Gethsemane section.

I like the way this tenor sings, with no showmanship. He is like an earnest witness in a trial.

At the SFR shop

Well I picked a bad day to take Pat's faulty phone back - the day the iPhone came out on SFR, and they were selling like bread rolls, as one says. I joined the queue. An elderly lady joined the queue behind me. There was another queue on the other side of the shop. It moved quicker than ours. It always does.

The chap in front of me was buying a new mobile for his mother. She destroys phones. There were 10€ off. To get it you had to fill in lots of forms. The salesman said "Why don't you insure the phone ?"

"Well, yes, but what does the insurance cover ?"

"Loss, theft, accidental damage, oxidation..."

"Yes, but if I am attacked in the street and someone takes my phone in my backpack ?"

"That's theft."

I noticed that the young man had a slight tremor. He seemed very nice.

"Yes, but what if I am attacked in the street and I drop my phone ?"

"Then that's accidental damage."

"But what about oxidation ?"

"Well that's if you have the phone in a wet or moist atmosphere."

"But what counts as a wet or humid atmosphere ?"

The lady behind me said "This is almost comical..." I was thinking of other questions that needed asking, like "What if I drop my phone in my cup of tea ?" "But what if I have already drunk my cup of tea and the phone falls in the empty cup and breaks ?" "Would it make a difference if it were coffee ?" "Chocolate ?"

In the queue opposite there was now just one elderly lady. I asked the lady behind me if she thought she could beat her in a fight and take her place.

"I am not good in a fight", she said. By this time we were getting on very well. I noticed that the salesman had started to tremble.

"So what number do I put here ?" The salesman read it to him.

"And the serial number ?" The salesman waved the box in his general direction.

Our friend sensed that his time in the shop was coming to an end and packed his things away.

The salesman disappeared into the back of the shop, then reappeared, walking swiftly to the exit. A coffee ? A cigarette ? A tranquilliser ? We all thought he had been wonderfully patient.

Meanwhile I helped a young man from Saudi Arabia choose an internet provider. Well there were no free staff around. I recommended Free or Darty. SFR are probably OK too though. 

We talked about the exorbitant price of mobile telecommunications in France. 

I said to the elderly lady "But the French put up with it ! And the French are militant ! They express themselves !"

"Ah yes," she said, "but we express ourselves and then say 'Oh, well, OK'".

"The British are different," I said, "We say nothing, but we just won't buy."

We talked about manners. "Oh the French are increasingly rude." she said.

I told her that I find the French wonderfully polite and helpful, but that my colleague, younger than me and a woman, finds them rude. "Are women despised while big men respected ?" I surmised.

"The elderly are despised", she said. Hmm. Maybe it's a macho culture thing. We're pretty near Spain, after all.

We had a nice time in the SFR shop, if slightly long. 

I am going to try and think of a suitable tract to carry, because one does spend quite a long time queuing in this kind of shop. 

Is there a tract in French about the length of eternity, I wonder.

A bit about music exams in UK and France

They're really different. I think I have already mentioned that while in the UK people generally find a private teacher for their instrument, or do it through a school scheme, here there are municipal music school, conservatoires and so on. The situation is a little more complex than I had first understood, because the schools vary in the rigidity of their organisation: the most, the conservatoires, next the municipals, then the associations. Our music school is an association, but it tends to apply the standards of the municipal schools with its programme of cycles, etc.

Britain - grade 1 to 8, grade 8 being roughly equivalent to A-level, pre university/conservatoire.

France - 3 cycles, each taking about 4 years, with 3ème cycle being roughly equivalent to grade 8.

Theory of music - UK to take grade 8 you need theory grade 5. In France you study theory alongside your instrumental studies, very slowly. Catrin's flute music is MUCH more difficult than the stuff she does in theory.

And exams. 

UK - two pieces, one study, scales and arpeggios, sight-reading, aural tests or keyboard harmony. The lists are published and they change them each year, but in theory you can have up to a year to prepare your piece.

I only ever took one exam but it is pretty well etched on my memory ! It was held above Gamlin's music shop in Cardiff. I met Nest, my accompanist, downstairs and at the appointed hour went up the stairs into the exam room where the examiner, Adrian Cruft, was waiting. I was rather in awe of him because I'd seen his name as the composer of various pieces of music. (He died a few years after my exam.) 

We played the accompanied piece (Poulenc). Then Nest left and I played the Telemann and the Koehler study. Then a couple of scales and arpeggios. Then the sight-reading. The keyboard harmony (at which I was rubbish). Then the briefest chat with the examiner. Your results come in the post. It was just me and him.

France. One piece. And there's a roomful of people. I don't know who in total was there for Catrin but I had my three man jury composed of François the bass-trombonist from the Airforce, Albert the director and A.N.Other. The pianist, a nice young chap who had trouble with my piece! Then Renaud making encouraging grunts from alongside the piano and making me tune within the millimetre. Lastly Jérôme, the trumpet teacher, who was page-turner for the pianist. You enter, you play your piece, you leave. (Jérôme makes his pupils do sight-reading as well. Caroline doesn't put her adult pupils through exams.) A couple of minutes later all trombonists go back in together (me and Thomas) and get our results. We both passed.  For me an appréciation (play louder, lift your trombone up, watch your intonation - mention bien). For Thomas a decisive result because he goes from 1er to 2ème cycle. 

Our friends the trumpeters who took their end of 3ème cycle both played the same awful piece. It was written to be an exam piece and has every time signature known to man in the third movement but no melody at all. They both failed. Just before Thomas and I took our exams. Hmm. Afterwards Jérôme the pupil trumpeter arrived to take his exam. From the opening notes I knew he'd pass and well. He did. Très bien.

Bach - Matthaus Passion - 8. Aria S - Blute nur

The iPhone and competition in France

Thus far the iPhone has only been available in France on the Orange network at a price of 99 and 199 euros, with rental costing about 50 euros a month upwards.

However one of the good things about France is that it is far more interventionist than Britain, and as of tomorrow the iPhone will be avilable on the SFR network, at a price of 99 and 199 euros, with rental costing about 50 euros a month upwards.

Linked sales are also illegal in France, which means that in a French computermonger if you buy a pc and don't want Vista on it ( imagine the thought ! ) you can just say "Take off that ... software please." and they have to deduct the price of it, too. 

Meanwhile, Bouygues Telecom ( boo-eeg, not boogie-woogie ) have yet to announce their prices, but I reckon I could give a good guess.

Because one of the bad things about France is that there is a lot less competition than in Britain, so lots of things are more expensive and there's fewer killer deals around. For example, I get emails from companies advertising 5% off things as if that was impressive ! Also eBay.fr now has a banner advertising searches in Britain because the pound is weak and there's no duty to pay on imports from Britain.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Bach - Matthaeus Passion - 02-03-04-05 - Tom Koopman et al

In this section Caiaphas plots to get Jesus killed, but the Sanhedrin say "Not during the feast or the people will riot".

Meanwhile a woman breaks her life savings of perfume and pours it on Jesus' head. The disciples complain about it, but Jesus defends her.

Bach gives us great crowd scenes contrasted with a calm self-controlled Jesus.

Trouble at 'mill - what will happen to this university year ?

The students have now been on strike for about 8 weeks in some departments, a bit less in others.

Some are beginning to wonder what will happen to their university year.

Can there be exams in June ? If so to examine what ? There were already exams in January to test the studies from October to December. In theory exams in April / May would test the studies from January to March/April - but these are what have been interrupted.

Can the year be validated without exams ? That would mean that for some people their degree would have been gained with a lot less study than for other people. This seems unlikely to happen.

Third option - redo the year. Redoing the year is a pretty common choice anyway in France - many if not most students take a few goes at at least one fo their university years.

O well, it's all grist to the mill.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

O Waly, Waly / Andreas Scholl

Suddenly coming across a spring

Today in preparing for the English class I decided to use the BBC's 6-minute English broadcast for April Fool's day and I also found on Youtube the classic broadcast of the Swiss spaghetti trees.

Now then where to go with that ?

I thought about the fool saying in his heart that there is no God, but I think the majority of the class are theistic.

I thought about Nabal, Abigail and David - I could have preached an evangelistic sermon on that but there is a limit to what you can do in the English Class !

I thought about 1 Corinthians, and I still really want to do that - especially for those in the class who believe that Christ was not crucified.

I thought about the wise and foolish builders.

But I think I will go with Luke 12, and the fool who built bigger barns but was not rich towards God.

But en route I stopped and drank at Isaiah 35, echoed in Hebrews 12.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Chop the tail off it

I have long been sceptical of alternative therapies.

Years ago I tried little homeopathic pills for hay fever - you dissolved them under your tongue. The ingredients were silica, sucrose. Yep - sugar and sand. They didn't work. I shouldn't have read the ingredients.

A friend used to look at me through half-closed eyelids and mutter "phosphorus". Not for me.

Chinese medicine ? Well I am not Chinese.

However such is the persuasive skill of my friend Andy that he has me drinking pomelo pith and lily bulb soup for the next ten days to "chop the tail off" my asthma.

I have dark misgivings. I know that grapefruit are now supposed to interact with all sorts of things and so on... Still, if it chops the tail off my asthma I won't complain.

Ride on, ride on in majesty

RIDE on! ride on in majesty!
Hark! all the tribes ‘Hosanna’ cry;
O Saviour meek, pursue Your road
with palms and scattered garments strowed.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
O Christ, Your triumphs now begin
o’er captive death and conquered sin.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
The angel armies of the sky
look down with sad and wondering eyes
to see the approaching sacrifice.

Ride on, ride on in majesty!
Your last and fiercest strife is nigh:
the Father on His sapphire throne
awaits His own anointed Son.

Ride on! ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
bow Your meek head to mortal pain,
then take, O God, Your power, and reign.

Henry Hart Milman, 1791-1868

All Glory, Praise and Honour / All Glory, Laud and Honour

Saturday, April 04, 2009

In honour of the two ... elder ... sisters

Cheers Kath and Haze !

Essential supplies for sermon prep.

Incidentally somone gave me a piece of "chocolat noir au poivre rose" the other day.

It was very strange but very nice indeed !

That is SO WAY COOL !

While not going to the mairie Gwilym and I went to the Post Office then to a supermarket to buy him some Coke where we saw what must be the coolest toilet paper possible.


Isn't it GORGEOUS !
Posted by Picasa

"I say, you're English, aren't you !"

was the greeting on the stairs. I said "Kind of...", but I am not really English at all !

Friend D a f y dd Job writes four short pieces on The Welsh Connection here.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Well I got to within about 300 yards of the mairie !

But one of the documents we need to submit is not where it should be. So we'll have to wait for the new copy to come by post and then I'll hand in the form when we have it.

Please continue to pray that the mission week will be honouring and useful to God, that the exhibition will be attended and the various evening events useful, too.

Alastair Miles sings "The trumpet shall sound"

Handel's English wasn't brilliant and at first this went:

'and the dead shall be raised

He changed it in version 1.5 (no major upgrade, just bug fixes)

Dietrich Henschel sings "Großer Herr, o starker König"

Thursday, April 02, 2009

At the mairie ( one day I must read "The trial" by Kafka )

Anyway at reception they said 'Third floor'.
On the third floor they said "Second floor".
On the second floor I found someone who said 'Oh yes, that's my office, come with me'

We went. The office was empty of people but full of files. We waited. Someone came. They always do.

The guy said:
"Where's this exposition ?"
"Who owns the building ?"
"Who told you to come here ?" ( at this point I thought he would say "Just do what you like, we don't need to know, but... )
"Fill in this dossier and return it as soon as possible - you'll need to cross out lots of sections that don't apply to you".

The form has about 30 pages and asks if we are using fireworks, helicopters or interrupting the trams for our Calvin exhibition, if we are holding a cremation and if we have informed the police in case of public panic.

As you guessed, most of it does not apply to us at all, but rather to demonstrations in the street, but we do need to attach the statuts of our association and our contract of public liability insurance.

I'll take it back tomorrow.

A day to fill me with fear and trembling

Firstly I visit the Mairie.

As part of our Easter mission we are mounting an exhibition at Centre FAC which has free admission. We are told that the Town Hall must be notified of all "Portes Ouvertes". So I am off to do that today. It is not easy to convey the degree of reluctance that the French administration can inspire in the heart. I have previously reported on the ongoing saga of our friend who is seeking French nationality which entails repeated 7-hour waits in the préfecture. I try to help myself by reminding myself of how to deal with dogs in the street. If you show that you are intimidated they attack. If you appear nonchalant they accept you and leave you alone.

Secondly Bible study tonight is on the second coming.

This would not be at all problematic in Britain but in France the Scofield Bible is still immensely popular and its teachings dearly held by most churches. Some demand acceptance of some kind of dispensationalism in order to become a church member. It is not our role to challenge the teaching of the churches, nor to sow seeds of discontent with the position that churches hold. However many christian students are confused about the second coming ( fancy ! ). So tonight the big challenge is to stay on the essentials. So we are heading for 1 Thessalonians. One drawback is that the translation of the BIble we use (the Segond édition Genève 1979) has the title "L'enlèvement de l'église, l'avènement du Seigneur" above 1 Thess 4:13. Humph !

So pray that we can stay in the light and not head off into the shadows !

History repeated at Saddleback ?

Anyone know if the target was reached ?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

"I know you're very busy, but..."

I started my first job in computing in October 1980, the year of the info bubble. My firm took on LOADS of new graduates and for some months had nothing for us to do. We were given desks near the entrance to the office suite and told to look busy. This was important because if clients visited and saw us loafing or reading the Beano this would give the impression that the firm didn't have enough work. Of course, it was perfectly in order to loaf or to read the Beano as long as we looked busy. (After a couple of weeks we got assigned to projects, one by one..)

One of my pet hates as a busy pastor was to have people say to me "I know you're very busy, but.." It's true, I had a lot to do but after all I was there for people, and if I didn't have time for people then I was too busy. Not only that but think of all the people who wanted to dicuss things with me but decided they couldn't because I was too busy. Anyway, people shouldn't have to begin their conversation with the pastor by apologising for talking to him !

So I decided to try and change my behaviour to try and look less busy than I was so that people would feel I was more available.

Being busy - what's that all about anyway ? Busy doesn't necessarily mean productive or effective. You can be, as the song says, "Busy doing nothing, working the whole day through, trying to find lots of things not to do..."

The Saviour doesn't say 'Hey chaps, look busy !'. He says, 'Turn the whole world upside down with my message'.

Now in France I have to relearn this. After the services there's always lots of things to pack away and I am aware of the danger of little feet knocking the church's expensive equipment to the floor. But if I am busy packing away I miss out on being there for people. Perhaps the people are more valuable then the church's expensive equipment after all...