At the mairie

We went into the entrance hall which, I think, doubles as the council chamber. M. Sarkozy gazed gravely down at us from high on the wall. Everyone is awaiting the official photo of M. Hollande.

"You can go in now". I was first into the room. "Bonjour." Then Elyane. "Monsieur le maire". Ah bon. Again I don't know how to behave...

"So what can I do for you."

"Well you asked us to come. We're from the Eglise Réformée Evangélique."

"Oh yes ! The temple !"

It had come to the attention of the town hall that we intend to sell the church building that's in the middle of the village. The building dates from 1892 and is in very bad condition due greatly to the presence of termites, but also to the decline of the church from the early parts of the last century.

The church in the Blaye area owes its existence to a revival in the 1890s. A protestant gentlemen married to a catholic lady passed away. His widow wanted to give him a protestant burial, so she wrote to the church in Bordeaux to ask for a pastor to come. One came, the funeral took place and people were so struck by what they heard at the funeral that they asked if he could not come back weekly.

Within a couple of years there were hundreds of new believers, two church buildings and outreach in all the surrounding villages.

The little out-lying town where we were was divided in two - there were two football teams, two town bands and never any problems between the two communities. Just friendly competition.

The mayor said, "That's all part of the town's history. It's very special. Although I am personally atheist I want to preserve the heritage of the town and keep the temple as a temple. We bought the catholic church and renovated it - we still have some things to do, but it's in good order. And what we did for the catholics we want to do for the protestants, too. You do it for everyone or for noone."

The town in question is a tidy little town with the kind of businesses that small French towns need - a butcher, a baker, a vet, a hairdresser, a restaurant, a couple of bars/cafés, a post office and an african goods shop (don't ask). Here's some photos of the town.

It's the kind of place where everything is neat and well-looked after, where there's lots of space between people's houses, where the sun shines warmly and where the wind could whip your ears off in no time.

Another of our group arrived. "Monsieur le maire". OK. Go on. Rub it in.

So we'll discuss the sale of the temple to the town hall at our council tomorrow and the town council has it on the agenda for Friday. I mentioned the key words I had to get in - "domaines" and our goal to see a pastor in the Blaye area to work in the area.

Back to Bordeaux to get stuck on the ring-road on the way to the prayer-meeting.


Emmanuel said…
Does Mr le Maire mean that they would consider buying the building and let you use it for free?
From what I understand, the 1905 law on the separation of the Church and the State seems to allow that. But check with a specialist first.
Alan said…
Yes, that's exactly what he means. Many of our "older" churches further south in France function exactly like that, churches already in existence in 1905. Usually the manse is owned by the town hall, too, and maintained etc. by the town council.
Emmanuel said…
Great, you're selling the building and still use it for free, without having to worry about maintaining it.

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