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)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 - a litany of deaths

It was interesting earlier this year to preach on Genesis 5, a litany of deaths with the constant refrain, "and then he died...".

2016 has seen the death of a long list of celebrities, young and old, from screen, stage and song. I think it's fair to say that lots of people have expressed their protests in the media. Even Fidel Castro, who apparently survived over 600 assassination attempts, found that 2016 was too strong for him and got him in the end.

2016 bit hard in my family, too. We knew a tragic and sudden death that hit us with great force.

2017 won't be any better. Why should it? There are still lots of celebrities left and death is still as widespread as ever - 100% mortality rate, they tell me.

A year like 2016 is valuable and important. We are confronted by the reality of death, and we try to cope with it in different ways. Sometimes we defy it : 'death is nothing'. Sometimes we try to ignore it and forget it. Sometimes we glorify it, whether by the idea of glorious death - dulce et decorum est - or by the "justification by death" that our society so loves. Everyone's a saint once they've died. Sometimes we just hope to stave it off as long as possible by dieting, fitness drives, health fads, green tea and ginseng, whatever.. But it stalks us all the same.

2016 doesn't hold out much hope in and of itself. But Genesis 5 does. Amidst the list of deaths there is one who didn't die, but who walked with God and then one day went to be with God.

It's a pointer to the great hope we have in the face of 2016 and of every year where death dogs our steps. Our great hero died and rose again, he conquered death, so that we need not fear death or fear any killer year. He rose and we rose in him and we will rise to be with him and so we will be with him for ever.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

My family does not eat cake

Hey, it's not my fault!

Farewell to Dan

I took the keys back. It was not without incident.

I suppose I arrived at the restaurant at about 3 in the afternoon and the grill was open but the door was locked. The lights were on, a computer was turned on on a table, but there was nobody around.

I knocked. No answer.

Meanwhile a woman was hanging out of an upstairs window across the narrow street crying.

I phoned the restaurant and got the answering machine.

A man came round the corner and yelled instructions and insults to the woman. "Die, son of a prostitute," he cried.

She threw a glass down at him, which shattered and spread shards all over the street.

I sent a message to Jérôme via sms and Facebook.

"Phone the police!" yelled the woman. And say what, exactly, I though to myself.

The man periodically left and returned, repeating his instructions and insults to the woman.
He noticed me and decided I was calling the police and taking photos. I assured him that I was waiting for the restaurant, but then I decided that it wasn't absolutely necessary that I hand the keys over in person, posted them through the door, left a message saying the keys were there and left.

Jérôme later phoned me and we had a nice chat. He'd been in the kitchen preparing the New Year's Eve meal.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas thoughts - food

It's hard to imagine Christmas without especially nice food, be it wintry cakes with lots of dried fruit, or rich puddings, or good meats, or roast vegetables.

I am sure a lot of this is from old practical customs - because of the cold season you need more calories! And because harvest is past and there is little that is fresh, then you need to eat things preserved by drying, sugaring or curing. In warmer climates the customs are different. Here in France Christmas dinner has a large element of seafood - shellfish or lobsters - as well as various kinds of poultry - capons, guinea-fowl, geese, ducks etc...

Christians are sometimes ambivalent towards Christmas. We can't be sure of the date. There's this suspicious coincidence with the pagan celebration of the winter solstice. There's all the materialism and consumerism. And then surely all that fat and sugar isn't good for you.

So some avoid Christmas like the plague. Others argue that it is too good an opportunity to miss to share the central Christian hope with a world that for once seems willing to listen a little.

But others embrace it and go for it.

I'd vote for that.

After all, if we celebrate Christmas at all then we are celebrating the birth of hope! And that hope is of a world renewed, fruitful, abundant, a world where the Kingdom of God is described in terms of feasts and festivities. What earthly nation could be described in those terms today?

So to enjoy a moment of plenty, as best one can, in the middle of the winter seems to me to be a very fitting way of looking forward to what God had promised he will do when he refashions everything just right.

We had a very decent chicken, corn-fed, accompanied by all the usual trimmings, except no parsnips. Parsnips are not popular in France and when we saw them we did not snap them up. We had a splendid Waitrose Christmas pudding with a nice rum and raisin ice-cream - an inspired combination! And a very swanky bottle of wine from the posh château next door - well, from their wine shop. The chap in the shop persuaded me to buy it, though it cost about double what I intended. I don't regret it. It was a fine 2007 Medoc and absolutely delicious.

As good a foretaste as possible of the peace and plenty to come.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Some Christmas Eve Dvořák

8th symphony.

Back on track

This morning I went out running again, after a two week break.

The first break was after I phoned the doctor and she told me to see her the following day and meanwhile to rest all day with my feet up. This had two effects - firstly I learned how annoying it is to rest all day with your feet up and secondly I put off going running till I had the all clear from my blood tests, which happened on the Thursday.

The break continued because of late nights and consequent lie-ins! The early morning runner needs to get to bed on time.

Anyway, I got back out there this morning and, apart from sluggishness, it felt good!

Some Christmas thoughts - loss

This Christmas especially I am thinking about friends and family who are spending Christmas without their better half - perhaps for the first time. And other friends whose better half is victim to dementia and in that twilight world of not being really present but not being absent either.

Some have the bittersweet experience of happy memories of past years. Some have the assurance of a better eternity to come, reunited with their loved one at Jesus' feet.

For all of them Christmas brings pleasure and pain, warmth and a chill, smiles and hidden tears.

For us all Christmas demands patience and understanding, as well as cheer and festivity.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A taste of a British Christmas

It's a rum do, this music thing. We were engaged to go and sing for a Christmas evening when some friends and colleagues who are engaged in street evangelism here invited friends and neighbours round for a Christmassy evening. We had to sing "Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer" as a family, then lead everyone in singing "Oh little town of Bethlehem" and "Silent night", this latter in French.

It was a pleasant evening and I got to know our friends' neighbour, who works in information technology.

The first Day of Christmas

Gwilym our son is with us at the moment. He arrived on Saturday with his girlfriend, Beth, who is also a student at the London School of Theology. Beth returns to the UK on Friday so we decided to have a phased Christmas this year.

Today was the first Day of Christmas. This entailed:

. The postman bringing parcels of 480 PG Tips tea bags - that will keep us going for about 3 months, I reckon. He also brought some jars of really good chutney. I'd forgotten how good really good chutney is.

. The opening of the stockings and one present.

. Christmas dinner. We got a nice, free-range corn-fed chicken from a local store and we ate very well. Dessert was French-style, an ice-cream log.

. A snacky tea of Waitrose "stollen bites" and a mince pie.

. Playing Monopoly and Bananagrams

although we did not go for the planned walk to the gardens of Château Pape Clément, it has nevertheless been a nice day.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Thanks for clearing that up!

One of our neighbours, an elderly lady, said to Pat, "Come with me".

Pat followed her into the bathroom...

"That is a shower. What you have is a bath."

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The last Friday night of the year

Christmas Carols, short reflection on Luke 2:8-14, prayer time, jacket potatoes and Christmas cookies.

Then hugs as folk leave, some for good...

Friday, December 16, 2016

Carols by Candlelight


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Off to be bled

I had the prescription for my annual blood test - my doctor likes to know what's coursing through my veins - she said, "We need to get that done now." So off I trotted at about 7am to the local blood-letting parlour which is just at the end of the vineyards.

By 8am I was back home having left my samples for testing and bought a nice pastry for breakfast for being a good boy and bleeding nicely.

The results will land in my email this afternoon, I expect.

This is what I saw on my way:

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Carols at the Palais Gallien

All went off well.
It was happy, direct, honest, straightforward, Word-centred, friendly and we had some great cakes!
People brought family and friends. Some people just came from invitations etc.
It was a good occasion.
Thanks for praying!

The Minister's Fainting Fits

Here's a funny one.

We'd just opened up at Dan on Sunday and three new folk arrived, from Réunion Island. As I was getting to know them a little I was aware that I had lost part of the sight in my right eye. Or at least that that part of my field of view was not clear. I blinked and rubbed. No, it wasn't tears. Maybe some strange retinal problem. I could still see, however. I said nothing and carried on.

Then during the service I had a paragraph to read from Acts 2 in French. Much to my horror, I read it like a 10-year old, or possibly like someone with dyslexia. I skipped words, read things that made no sense to me, then realised what it said and had to go back over it. I realised that something was wrong, and I was concerned, but there wasn't anything anyone could do, so I carried on.

"That was a struggle!", said Pat. "Yes," I said.

By the end of the service I was feeling OK again. It had lasted about 1/2 hour. In the tram on the way home I told Pat what had happened. We wondered what it could be - it didn't seem to be a stroke, though I have maternal aunts and paternal uncles who died young of strokes. It didn't seem to be anything permanent. Perhaps one of those transient ischaemic attacks people have? Or a migraine?

I decided that unless it happened again I would not worry about it. Then I thought the better of it and decided to phone my doctor.

"Oh", she said, "that's a vagal malaise - a fainting fit, a sudden drop in blood pressure - come and see me early tomorrow morning and we'll check you over and get your bloods done. Meanwhile rest today with your feet up."

I hate resting with my feet up, especially on sunny days, but hey...

And so I went. She said, "You've lost weight!"

"Yes, about 5kg since I've been running."

"Hop on my scales. No, you've lost about 10 kg, and you look well."

She listened, measured, counted and did the stuff doctors do.

"Tell me all about everything", she said.

"OK. Everything you've said is reassuring. I think we need to reduce your meds. I think as well that it's just your way of coping with a stressful and busy weekend. I think it doesn't do any harm to faint now and again. It gets stuff out. I don't want to philosophise medicine, but you're a man who takes the Word and looks life and death in the face. I'm not concerned about you. We'll check your bloods, however."

So there we are. Now then, do I tell folk in the church or let them just think I had an off-day? I mean, in a way, that's what it was.

Friday, December 09, 2016

"Throw away your cheap running shoes"

This was the title the inimitable Tim Challies used for an article based on Hebrews 12. His title provoked a reaction from some people who can't afford expensive running shoes! Maybe the text needs some careful reflection in order to bridge the gulf between the world of the 1st century despised apostles and the world of 21st century first-world Christians who jog. It made me laugh, anyway.

And it set me thinking about my running shoes. Soon I will have been running for a year. There's a sentence I never thought I'd write! And it is recommended that you replace your running shoes after a certain distance, in my case that works out to about a year.

When we started running we both bought the cheapest shoes that our local Decathlon had. Mine are a kind of pale bluey grey, with white soles. The thought was that if we didn't continue running we would not have made a huge investment in paraphernalia. We could always buy better shoes later on if we needed to.

And the shoes have been excellent! They're light, supportive and comfortable and apart from the initial adjustments that my tendons and ligaments made, I have had almost no discomfort whatsoever.  It was perhaps the finest 13 euros I have ever spent!

While in the UK in June I visited a Nike outlet shop. I had heard of these amazing light running shoes made of a knitted fabric and specially designed to give you the impression of running barefoot while still protecting your feet. I saw some pairs. They were beautiful. Normally they cost about 10 times what I pad for my shoes. In the outlet shop they cost just 5 times as much. I was tempted, but they didn't have my size.

Now it's time to think about replacing my shoes. I won't be near a Nike outlet shop any time soon. And meanwhile Decathlon have reduced the price of the same shoes that I have.

I think I know what I'll be getting.
"Throw away your cheap running shoes" and buy another pair just the same!

Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir

At Aberystwyth I sang this with the Bach Society Choir. The same evening we did Cantata 4, Christ lag in Tödesbanden.
At the time I thought it was entirely normal to sing Bach motets for double choir, and settings by Pergolesi, Schubert, Wolf, etc.. while a student.
I'm only now realising how privileged I was!

Overnigh dodes

Lots of recipes are being suggested for overnight oats. I always eat porage for breakfast and I am very happy to continue doing so, ringing the changes by adding mashed banana, sliced pears and a couple of squares of chocolate, etc...

But never let it be said that I am an old-guard stick-in-the-mud reincarnation of Colonel Blimp, living in the past and unwilling to try anything new! I tried overnight oats.

This is what you do (for the recipe I tried):

In a jar you put a teaspoonful of peanud budder (peanut butter) and a teaspoonful of honey.
(They also added chia and flax seeds, but there is reason!)

Then you add 3/4 cup of milk and shake as if your life depended on it. This will disperse the peanud budder throughout the milk (ha ha! the glob of peanud budder just sank.)

You then add 1/2 cup of oats, screw the top on the jar and leave in the fridge overnight before eating in the morning.

Well it was OK. I may try this again in the high summer when the thought of hot oats in the morning is unappealing.

Ce n'est pas essentiel

Two things spark this brief reflection:

1) A tweet from John Stevens saying this:

I genuinely didn't know that the FIEC is a network of complementarian churches. Or maybe I knew it was de facto, but not de jure. Anyway, I guess this is specified somewhere in the confessionnal documents.

2) A recent CNEF meeting where significant growth and direct preaching was noted in one of the institutional churches of Bordeaux. Many evangelicals are finding a home there. Someone asked about the issue of same-sex marriage. I remarked that while the denomination had approved same-sex marriages, individual parishes and clergypersons were not obliged to perform them. "She's already done some! She's already done some!" came the quick and loud reply. And the evangelicals think? "It's not of the essence! It's not of the essence!"

It's all very interesting, isn't it. I suppose we draw lines in the sand, but then when people cross them we can rub them out, pretend they were never there and draw another one. Or just forget lines and sand altogether, and go with the feeling.

I suppose what I think is that it's all much more complicated than one issue politics divisions suggest. Faithfulness to Jesus doesn't boil down to one issue, but to many - with one thing at the heart and core. He is Lord and not me.

The hunt for new premises


Various folk have made various helpful suggestions:

1) talk to the Université du temps libre

2) talk to the leaders of Eau Vive (a charismatic Catholic group)

3) talk to the hotels

4) talk to the institutional church in the heart of Bordeaux

Helpful suggestions all, and behold! as I was in the Maison de la Bible on Tuesday morning the pastor fo the institutional church came in. I didn't recognise her at first, I've only seen her once at a service back during my sabbatical. Anyway, we talked. A couple of things she said stood out from our exchange and communicated the subtext "you, of course, should not exist". Things like, "but you are not a pastor?" "Oh yes I am." "Trained?" "Yes, everything. Fourteen years of pastoral ministry before coming to France." "But how far are we going to go with all these churches...?" 

It's clear that the CNEF's goal of a church for 10 000 people has not yet been adopted on a wide scale.

I'm a simple soul and didn't notice how thoroughly I'd been dissed until my colleague remarked on it And of course, once you notice it stings. But anyway, after the initial smart wore off I came to this conclusion: Start with the people closest to you and work out.

Now there's nobody who is both geographically and theologically close, of course, so it's the next sphere out, and I wrote a quick letter and friendly email to the nearest churches asking if we could conceivably rent their building on a Sunday evening. After sending by email yesterday I'll post the letter today then phone early next week.

Meanwhile we don't yet have an answer either way from our closest collaborators. 
Then I'll hit the trail big time.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Simonetta Carr's little illustrated biography of Martin Luther

I recently saw that this book was being proposed for review. Now some time ago I read and reviewed Simonetta Carr's little biography of Renée de France - see here - and really liked the book. So I was keen to give her treatment of Luther the once-over. However:

1) it's a book for younger readers (no problem - I was younger in the past)

2) it was being sent out in print to reviewers in the USA.

But hey, if ya don' ask ya don' git, and so it was that I received by email the first pages of the book in pdf format - just enough to get to see the writing style, a good look at the type of illustration and the approach that the author adopts.

And it's charming. It didn't feel like an infantile read, so I'd suggest younger teens would be a perfect target readership, as well as a suitable coffee-table book to leave around for folk to pick up and leaf through quickly. The sample I got went as far as Luther's studies in law and the thunderstorm experience, so I'm not able to comment much on how the great conflicts and upheavals are dealt with. However, from the map supplied and the treatment of plague I would expect a very sensible approach, serious and weighty but not heavy.

I think the adult reader would appreciate being reminded of some things, informed of others and shown again the remarkable work of God that the Reformation represents.

So often we are like republicans, we praise little men who did things that they thought were little things and - like a cigarette end thrown from a moving car can set a whole forest ablaze, they, too, saw their little spark light flames that would engulf the whole world and never extinguish. Little men who did little things and saw them fanned to flame by the Spirit of the Everlasting God.

And Joel Beeke likes it, too, see!

Friday, December 02, 2016

And the next one please!

I'm almost back to normal.

Meanwhile Mrs. Davey came home from her day in the bookshop floored by a body blow from a cold that she has been brewing for a few days. The poor thing, she is suffering gravely.

Catrin's OK, however.

Meanwhile we were waiting for a delivery from Amazon.
Chronopost very helpfully tell you when they are coming.
Between 12:35 and 13:35.
So after a couple of errands I made sure I was in.
At 12:50 Chronopost sends another message.
"We have put your large and heavy parcel in a little supermarket just a kilometer and a half away. Have a nice day."

Great! So after some phone calls establishing that "everyone is very sorry about it and nobody can do anything about it and yes, you'll either have to walk three kilometers to get the thing, lugging it back somehow or hire a car, have a nice day" I have been left disillusioned with Amazon, with Chronopost, with the whole sorry outfit.

So I went to see my new friend Eddy who teaches English through theatre in a super little premises right near Victoire. He reckons I should ask if we can use it for Bordeaux Church.

I'll certainly ask.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

This wretched 'flu vaccine

So I am like an old crock.

My ribs hurt on my left side because of applying some force so that Pat could bolt the kitchen door at Dan.

My neck has seized up after the session of massage.

I have frequent bouts of shivering and aches everywhere, especially the head, because of the 'flu jab.

This is not turning out to be the brightest week of my life, not yet, anyway.

Still, as quoth the immortal bard, "even the bad times are good".

And it gives me the opportunity to rehearse the riches of how to express annoyance in French:

Ça m'énerve.
Ça m'agace.
Ça me gêne.
Ça m'incommode.
Ça me fâche.
Ça me daille.
Ça me casse les pieds.
Ça me prend la tête.
Ça m'irrite.
Ça me gonfle.

Some of these are informal, some are regional. And there are more that I have not recalled.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

At La Grande Poste

I had a rendez vous with a friend who wants to buy a computer and needs me to translate for him - nothing to do with French - just that he is the least tech-savvy person I have ever met, so ... well you know.

Anyway on the way I decided to check out La Grande Poste. This splendid place is an old post office that has been turned into a kind of concert hall and restaurant with shops in a gallery above and a couple of salons around the side. I wondered if there might be rooms to let.

The place was wonderfully impressive and some trombone brothers are playing there in a couple of weeks' time. It was good to look round, but there's no chance of us using a room there.

Meanwhile the owner of the theatre we visited last week is a good egg and has had his thinking cap on. He has come up with various suggestions for us, too.

Anyway I managed to steer my informatically-challenged friend towards a tablet rather than a fully-fledged computer, knowing that whatever he ends up with he needs to be able to use without me looking over his shoulder telling him what key to press!

At the massage parlour

So in my new resolve to be a good boy and do what the quack says I booked an appointment with a local physiotherapist for 10 (ten) sessions of massage on my neck. I was then thrown into confusion because the physiotherapist has two surnames and one was given in the yellow pages but I had written the other  in my diary so when I checked the address - just to be sure - I was plunged into the most profound uncertainty. But reasoning that surely I'd choose the nearest I went along and, thankfully, got the right place.

After some administrative 'ow's yer father I went up the the massage parlour, was told to strip off to the waist and lie on the bench with my nose through the hole. Then the fun began.


It was not at all unpleasant.
"If I fall asleep you will forgive me."
"You will be forgiven, and you will not be the first."

I was told to behave better, to elevate the screen of my computer and wear my stupid glasses, stupid.
OK. I get the message.

We talked about physiotherapy and the health service.
"Long may it continue"
"There's some concerns. 500 000 civil servants is an awful lot"
"It's true. We're a profession libre, so we're ok, but even so."
"Yes, that means a lot of unemployed all of a sudden who don't know how to do anything..... else"

Meanwhile in other news the nurse came on Saturday and gave me my flu jab.
8,80€ and they do it in the comfort of your own home.
If you go to the doctor you have to go to them and it's 23€!

However yesterday I broke out in a nasty case of mini-flu:

aches and pains,
longing for death,
constant desire to burst into tears,
hearing the celestial choir,
the kit and the kaboodle.

A tisane of thyme is very good for this - so at 5am I was sat in the kitchen nursing my thyme and feeling comforted.

Off to find my glasses...

Monday, November 28, 2016

They're not very happy this morning

So this morning I learnt that the day after an election it's a good idea to go to Lidl for the weekly shop.

The good folk of Pessac were unrestrained in giving their opinion of the result of the election of the presidential candidate for the Republicans (right-wing). They see M. Fillon as a "catho intégriste" (an extreme catholic), as someone who will not be able to resolve the problems facing ordinary people because he represents all the old catholic families who are loaded with money (bourrées de pognon).

They're not keen on Hollande either, especially because of the extreme measures that have come from Valls.

I think people here see M. Juppé as a moderate pragmatist who manages to find a way to make things work.

I thought about saying that we could be thankful that Mme Fillon is Welsh, but then decided to keep my big Welsh trap shut.

Friday, November 25, 2016


I've always thought of myself as a person with convictions.

Oh well.

It's a drag these cold, dark, wet mornings

6:18 - no, I'm not going to go for a run this morning. It'll be a rush anyway today.

6:22 - come on, you're awake, you feel OK, just do it.

So I trotted off through the drizzle. Just 3 kilometres this morning, though. Faster than usual, though.

I passed a chap running the other way, young, lithe, swift, running with grace.

I thought of my crazy friend, Desmond, the evangelist who lives in a van.
"What's happened to you?" he said again yesterday, "you've lost a lot of weight, sure you have*"

I haven't. Perhaps between 3 and 8 kg. That's not a lot! However:

1) All my life I have inflated in people's memories. I put on weight in their recollection. 
This means that almost every time people see me for the first time in months, they think I've lost weight.

2) Redistribution. I'm like a good French steak, whatever colour the outside is I'm pink at heart, and I've redistributed some weight from my haunches to my legs.

I thought of my good friend Larry in Leipzig, who I've never met.
He says I got him running and awarded me kudos. (I ducked and the kudos got someone else)

I thought of my good friend Gary Benfold, who I've also been able to encourage to run.
'Run, Benfold, run for your life!' I tell him.

And I gallumphed happily on.

* Desmond didn't actually say "sure you have", but he jolly well ought to have done

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Boy, I feel like such an old croc!

I have to have a 'flu jab, and to do that the nurse will come to the flat, would you believe!
Doctors' surgeries don't have nurses attached, and nurses don't have surgeries.
They come to you.

I also have to have a physio look at my neck, but for that I'm going to their office!

I've been a good boy this afternoon and sorted out appointments for almost everything.


So this morning was the pastorale of the CNEF33, the Conseil National des Evangéliques de France for the Gironde. I had foolishly agreed to bring the "meditation" so I "exhorted them to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace".

I told them from Ephesians that how we express our real spiritual unity, accomplished by the Holy Spirit revealed:

1) The triune God
2) My character
3) My commitment to it

There were about 25 people there. It was good to see our mates, colleagues and folk from the various churches. You sow and wait and see what God does with things.

One guy afterwards said he doesn't have a preacher for the 16th January and could I help them out, so it couldn't have been totally inadmissable, I suppose.

Someone somewhere has suddenly realised that M. Fillon is a practicing Catholic

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Ok - the plagiarism thing

I know pastors who have been fired for it. I have seen quarrels over it.
Plagiarism in the pulpit.
Pastors who download sermons and then deliver them to their folk.

Now to put this in context - when I was training for pastoral ministry I remember someone teaching us that when time is short and you're stuck you can do a lot worse than to find a sermon outline from Spurgeon or Whitefield, take the skeleton and put your own flesh on it. This was WAY before we had access to the internet, of course.

Many years ago I remember buying a commentary on a particular book of the Bible and being surprised to find structures, approaches, illustrations, sections that I remembered hearing just a few Sundays previously from the preacher in my church.

Not only that, but in my early days in Deeside when preaching through Acts I found one particular book so helpful that I wrote to the author and told him, confessing that much of what I said depended largely on the spade work he had done.

That's not really what people are talking about, though. My use of this guy's book - well I couldn't just take his text and read in in an animated way and pass it off as my sermon. That would never work. He was a different character entirely from me, his church was different from mine and there was a whole process of bringing God's word through me to his people that needed to happen.

As for intellectual property, creativity, rights etc - I really hope that we couldn't care less about all that. I'm not an artist and although I do occasionally try to think, I don't consider myself to be an intellectual, either. Nothing flatters me more than those odd occasions when people have told me they've used my  illustration or whatever. Great!

Though I need to inform you that I have patented the Davey Blue Peter flowerpot illustration - it is available to use at a cost of £1.50 per sermon delivery or £15.00 for a lifetime licence.

I've been stewing on this for a long time. I've heard people express their concerns about all sorts of issues:
What is our pastor doing if he isn't studying the word and praying ready to preach?
What about the rights of the famous preacher to be known as the origin of the message, shouldn't he be acknowledged. (Incidentally what could be more tiresome than systematically acknowledging all the people who have helped in the preparation of a sermon?)

I was lost in a morass of "Why do we care so much about this? We aren't artists!"

Until I remembered back in Deeside when we used to run Christianity Explored a lot.

I LOVED the Rico Tice videos. He's so nice, funny, sensible, clear, helpful, direct and likeable.
I YEARNED to use the videos for our Christianity Explored groups.
But our folks said no. "We want to hear you", they said. (I know! They were mad!)

So I'd take the Christianity Explored talks and strip out all the references to Rico's posh upbringing and the illustrations from boarding school, Rugby and Australian beaches and instead put in my illustrations and my background and stuff. Mark, our assistant in those days, did the same.

And that's what people wanted. And what they probably needed. Because Rico wasn't their pastor or evangelist. We were. They didn't live in the West End of London. They lived in the scrag end of North Wales. And they needed God's truth to be conducted to them through us and through our personalities.

When you download the latest offering from Tim Piper and deliver it verbatim, then you're short-circuiting that, circumventing it, by-passing something that is really important.

And I think that thing is that your folk need to hear God's truth coming through you - through your mind, through your heart, through your life-experiences, through your personality, through your relationship with them, through YOU.

So I'd say, preachers, use whatever help you can. But don't forget that your people need to hear you, not Stuart C J Lucas.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Lunch with my friend Didier

My friend Didier is ... shall we say a trifle eccentric ... and now and again he decides to take me out to lunch. His taste in restaurants takes me to places I would never find otherwise, and this lunchtime I found myself in the depths of Bègles.

Bègles isn't my favourite suburb of Bordeaux. It's quite famous for its green mayor, the first mayor in France to conduct a same-sex marriage - the supreme court sanctioned him for it and annulled the marriage because it was against the law in those days. However you'd never guess from looking at Bègles that its mayor is green - the town is full of ugly apartment blocks, the new ones built too close together with few trees and wide concrete plazas everywhere. Older places are covered in graffiti. Basically ... well ... you get my drift.

Didier lives in a new flat in one of the new areas and he's just got a quote to put blinds up over his window wall because he reckons the people in the flats opposite are fed up of watching him all evening. Certainly as you hang out of his window - which I do a lot because he smokes very heavily - I could imagine each of the fifteen or so windows opposite filled with faces gazing with rapt attention at what Didier is up to.

After a lot of talk - Didier loves to talk - we took a tram to the middle of Bègles and walked to the restaurant of his choice. It's not posh, but you get a lot of traditional food. It's a shop-front restaurant with perhaps eight to ten tables in the main building but the part Didier likes is behind, a large marquee fills what was once the garden and allows another 20 or more tables where you can smoke, because you're not actually inside a building, are you. Didier smokes throughout the meal.

"Do you want the soup?"
"What's the soup?"
"Vegetable soup" - sooperderlégumes it comes out.

It reminded me of my mother's cawl - there were big chunks of vegetables loaded throughout a thin broth - it was very good and hearty.

"Elle est bonne la soupe."

After the soup came the entrée - moules or jambon macédoine. Here the wise chose mussels, they came in a big pan and Didier consumed them with gusto. I chose the ham - a slice of ham wrapped round some chopped vegetables in mayonnaise, accompanied by a bit of salad.

Next course was andouillette - pig's bowel sausage, which smells just like you'd imagine - or grillade de porc (mixed grill), which I chose, mainly because I didn't want andouillette. Now then, because my friend spends all his time talking and smoking and not eating, by the time we got to this stage there was no more grillade de porc, so I ended up with steak and chips. I wasn't complaining. Didier needed a doggy-bag to take his andouillette home. He'll eat that tomorrow.

Then comes dessert or cheese. I got a nice piece of raspberry tart, replete with big, firm, fresh raspberries. Didier got some cheese that went into the bag with his andouillette. I ought to explain, too, that the meal comes with copious amounts of wine and a coffee at the end. All for 13.50€.

I'd love to take you there. I'd love to take photos of it. The flustered waitresses charging round at a rate of knots. The substantial gentlemen doing the cooking, ladling mussels into pans, the marquee with the gas powered space heater blasting, the carafes and jugs of wine, the LOUD conversations. It is not at all what you might expect of a French restaurant.

After all that it was a pleasure to stride through the damp streets of Pessac, breathing hard. It'll take more than that, at least a few days to clear the smoke from my tubes, though.

And I shan't need to eat much for a couple of days!

The forthcoming French Presidential Election

Last Sunday was the open vote for the candidate for the Republicans, the broadly right wing party which has in the past been called other things, like the UMP, etc. The name changes are very confusing for me, which explains why I have no idea what party that nice Tim Farron chappie represents in the UK.

Anyway. As you can imagine, I look at these things with a mix of feelings.

For one thing M. Juppé has served Bordeaux so well, and he represents a moderate, broadly right-wing, liberal kind of outlook. He believes that France has a lot going for it. He doesn't much care what women choose to wear on the beach. He does believe that a woman should have the fundamental right to have her unborn child surgically removed. He doesn't believe in drastic cuts or shock taxes. He's an easy-going, good-humoured kind of guy, and I think his generally benevolent, peace-seeking attitude has contibuted greatly to making Bordeaux the pleasant city it is today.

M Fillon is an admirer of Margaret Thatcher. He wants to cut 600 000 civil servants (In France this wide category includes teachers, some doctors, etc.) He wants to cut taxes on business and increase VAT to compensate. He wants to ban the burkini on beaches, apparently. He is more to the right than M. Juppé. Sometimes he sounds like an American right-winger - he talks about small government, though not in those terms, of course. His position on abortion is not very clear. But he has a Welsh wife, Penelope.

M. Juppe was the favourite for a long time, but suddenly M. Fillon is ahead of M. Juppé. So who knows. One wag has coined the verb "filloner" - to come up unexpectedly. If M. Fillon wins the presidency then at least we can keep M Juppé as Mayor. So in Bordeaux we can't really lose too much.

Someone in the UK has suggested that to combat the trend towards post-truth, kids should learn philosophy in school, we should teach them how to think. Well all French sixth-formers do an examination course in philosophy, so I suggest we wait and see whether our dear French people can resist the force of post-truth, with its propaganda, hyperbole, exaggeration and empty promises. If France can conduct a sensible election campaign, then maybe courses of philosophy might help - or perhaps at least of logic.

If not. If not.

Mrs Davey's birthday

Yesterday was Pat's birthday. HURRAH!

With somewhat unfortunate timing the day started with a meeting at Maison de la Bible. These meetings are always a joy, and this time it included a really nice chocolate cake with 25 candles on it (representing Patricia's ceremonial age).

We then scuttled off for lunch at a new pancake place that gets decent reviews (I felt it was OK) and a nice long walk up rue Fondaudège to the Palais Gallien before coming home to watch a detective film.

Monday, November 21, 2016

We're moving on

For some time Bordeaux Church has been too big for Dan Restaurant. Dan has 30 chairs. We are often more than 30 people. One evening we were 37.

We've prayed and waited for a bigger restaurant to become available, for months and months.

But we can't carry on as we are. So we have set a date of 18 December when we will hold our last service at Dan. It will be a time of thanksgiving and of sadness as we say goodbye to a place that has become very significant to us.

Please join us in praying for the continued success of Dan Restaurant.

Please also join us in praying for a new home!
We have one possibility of meeting in the premises of another church in the city.
Maybe we need to take a further step forward and look at renting a function room in a hotel?
Maybe we need to start thinking about renting our own premises?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

It takes it out of you, all this fun

Well this week has been a week of two parts.

Firstly, administration.

We have two things on the go: our application to Acts29 and our application for French nationality.

OK, Acts29. At the weekend, faced with something like 7 hours of video to watch and comment on in paragraphs of 250 - 500 words, I hit the wall. It then transpired that I didn't need to do that part (yay!) so I got back to the rest of the process, having moved from discouraged to merely daunted. People prayed. By Wednesday morning I'd finished my part and by Wednesday afternoon Pat had finished hers.

Now, Frenchiness. There is a very handy government website that tells you what forms you need and what supporting documents. So I have a checklist. Some of the documents will be hard to track down, like my parents' birth certificates. I think I know where my father was born, but opinions vary as to my mother's place of birth. Anyway, my sister has found a certificate, so that's OK. Some of the documents are inscrutable to me - like something I need to get from the tax office. Some are straightforward. Then there's the issue of official translations. According to the website our birth certificates, our parents' birth certificates and our marriage certificate all have to be translated into French (Nom du père, Nom de la mère, Lieu de naissance) by an official translator at exorbitant cost. That's seven documents, meaning hundreds of euros cost. However, we are reliably informed by our friend Vicky that since the law of 2012 it is illegal to demand official translations from one official language of the European Union into another. Obviously we care about this quite a lot.

Then, culture.

While in town the other evening we stumbled across an old friend, the splendidly named François-Marie Moreau and his group Monk, playing in a café. We went to hear, along with old friend Sally. To me the café is the archetypal French café, le Café Brun, and it was full of people. For a while we stood, but then three seats became free right in front of the band. Of course, this was a temptation too strong to resist for F-M, and so it was that the Café Brun was treated to me warbling forth "I'm a legal alien, I'm a Welshman in Bordeaux..." Monk do a kind of jazz-funk-pop thing, with Sting and Stevie Wonder featuring strongly and saxophone and accordina solos. It was the first time for me to see an accordina, and I fell in love at first sight. However they cost muchos euros, so forget it!

Then yesterday evening to the Grand Theatre for a quick aperitif concert given by the choir of the opera. The aperitif was 10€ a head at 6pm, and the concert also 10€ at 7. Well we can get a snack free at home, so we just went to the concert, and they did a variety of pops and standards from opera and operetta: Carmen, Faust, Cavalleria Rusticana, Nabucodonosor etc... I had never warmed to the conductor - his twitter account is @maestrosalvator - but he was very warm and friendly and good fun, and he seems to want to open up the opera beyond the traditional rich bourgeois regular customers. For example, students and people under 26 could get into last night's concert for 1€. "That's not bad!" he said, in his really not very good French. He is latin-american.

Then quickly on the tram to get back to Pessac for a quickie concert given by Catrin's university group at the cinema as part of the annual festival of film about history. A guy was talking about songs and his contribution as a poet, I think, though we came in just at the end of his part, and then the group would perform five different songs. Catrin was due to sing a song about the fate of a refugee in Paris along with another girl, but the other girl pulled out because of a serious attack of a cold, so her place was taken by Catrin's faithful friend, Bérénice. The songs were hurriedly prepared and there were occasional ragged moments, but the effect was good.

That's it for Patricia, but on Friday I have another shot of culture with a lunchtime concert by one of the opera's baritones, Florian Sempey.

Then it's back to normal! Youtube at home and Spotify in the tram!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

List six things on which you would not compromise

and give three Biblical references for each.

The question put to me is about "basic ministry values", but it struck me as an interesting and useful question.

What principles are absolutely non-negotiable?

How much does your list reflect your personality and how much your convictions?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Remembrance Day in Pessac

Cats! They drive you nuts!

Catkin (aka Caramel) is messing with my head.

In the morning when I am sat at the kitchen table eating my porage and checking emails he comes and asks to be let in through the window.

When I open the window he turns round and walks away, while I try and coax him with "Come on! In or out?"

I'm renaming him Brexit.

We have now been tenants here for a year

We got the keys in early November of last year.

This week has bene marked by a few events:

1) we swapped car parking spaces with a new tenant - or at least we THOUGHT we had

An elderly man has just moved into one of the first floor apartments and he called one day last week to ask if he could park his car in our space. Pat was a little puzzled so I left him a note sugessting we meet up to talk about it.

Then one day we went down into the car park and saw him - and his car was in our space - or at least we THOUGHT it was.

So we talked and arranged to swap spaces - his space is too tight for his ENORMOUS car and as we don't have a car, and the citiz cars we occasionally use are all quite small we thought it would be fine.

Well, anyway it turns out that for the past year whenever we have parked a car in the car park we've been using the wrong space! We've been using our neighbour's spot. She doesn't have a car either, so she never noticed.

What dummies, eh!

2) We discovered Sumo's name.

We hardly ever see our neighbours on the other side - they tend to enter and leave the building in their car and their apartment faces completely the other way from ours. But their cat visits us often, the redoutable Sumo.

Anyway yesterday I was coming in as they left their flat - they were startled to see someone in the corridor and once they'd settled down we talked about the cat. It turns out that his real name is Popite. The other, timid cat is called Archimède.

Oh, we call the fat one Sumo and the other Susan.

They laughed. The neighbours down the corridor call Popite Bouddha.

Poor cat!

We'll get together for an apéro or something before Christmas.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Well I have made fair progress with administration

Mainly ploughing on with a long application process.

Meanwhile Mrs Davey is struggling with a painful herniated disk once more, and has been confined to barracks since Saturday.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016


Our rice cooker still functions well though it had lost its on / off switch. You had to poke your finger into a hole in the body of the machine and press a little metal plate up or down. It worked but it was hardly satisfactory.

Enter Sugru, the amazing modelling paste. I fashioned a new switch out of yellow Sugru and applied it to the little metal plate with the help of the handle of a plastic fork. I then held my breath, hoping that I had not made the switch too thick such that the thing wouldn't work any more.
It appears that it's OK! Hurrah for Sugru!

Bordeaux boasts the largest independent bookshop in Europe, Chez MOLLAT

It's a real treasure, and if it only had a small cafeteria then it would quickly become my favourite place in the centre of Bordeaux.

Watch a special programme about its 120th anniversary, in French, here.

Well, the world has gone nuts

In the UK certain "newspapers" labelled three High Court Judges, including the Lord Chief Justice, "Enemies of the people".
I am shocked even as I type it.
I guess I didn't realise just how far right the right wing was.
Jesus said that those who live by the sword perish by the sword, and history tells us that those who unleash the mob perish by the mob.

Meanwhile the US elections take place, and tomorrow will reveal just how crazy the world has become.

Oh well, we are only seeing a little of what some of our friends live with day in, day out, year in, year out.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Disturbing news from Villa Koralli

Our neighbour's lawn mower was stolen from the terrace by her window! It appears that we are not as secure as it may have at first appeared. First indications are that entry was effected over a part fo the fence that was not properly re-attached after recent works undertaken in the garden right in front of our neighbour's flat.

Our plan is to get one of those big plastic lockable chests in which to store our garden tools to prevent them being taken by the thief who passes in the night.

Ten reasons why I don't like lists

1) They are highly subjective

2) They are inevitably incomplete

3) They give a false impression of order of importance

4) Little great literature takes the form of lists

5) Despite their importance, the Ten Commandments are just a small part of the Bible

6) You almost always forget something

7) You sometimes repeat yourself (see 2 and 6)

8) They're adolescent (see Nick Hornby)

9) They are pretentious - "Ten greatest albums of all time" - yeah, right!!!

10) I can never think of the right number of things to fill the list.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Oh man, what a day!

Poor Patricia.
On Friday evening she started to feel ill.
All Friday night was punctuated by visits to address herself loudly, kneeling, to the lavatory pan.
We think it was a bug. Once she had had one last big final bout at about 4am or 5am she settled down.
I, however, was in the bookshop. A friend had offered to replace me but not wanting to phone him before 9am I sent a text message. There came no reply so I hauled myself to the bookshop where several fine and wonderful people nevertheless had the impertinence to require my help or to buy things. Honestly!
A call came. Could I stay till 4? Ah no! Not today! So at 1 a redoutable young lady came to take my place and I returned home where I was greatly encouraged by Pat's recovery, by our accompanists and by some baked beans.

Oh man, what a couple of weeks!

I have made no progress with our administration at all.
No progress with requesting the final refund for Pat's cataract operation.
No progress with Acts29.
No progress with French nationality (DEntry).
Two weeks ago I spent lots of time helping a friend in a pickle with their administrative problems, which left no time for mine.
This week I had three wonderful days off.
So tomorrow I must do at least something! I'll go to the insurance office, if it isn't closed...
Then Tuesday forge ahead with Acts29 and with DEntry.

Political reflections

No, forget it. It's a minefield.
Don't step in the minefield.

Aha! To run faster

I have to sing something faster in my head.

This morning I turned away from airs from Figaro and sang through mu old friend, Saltarello instead. It's a sort of comic patter song and it got my running faster.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

So Monday to Wednesday we had a break

On the Wednesday the weather was a bit less inspiring so we abandoned our planned walk of the two riverbanks crossing the Pont de Pierre and the Pont Chaban-Delmas and instead stayed in a watched a film. Maybe two.

We had also been to the cinema to see "The Girl in the Train" which we were able to see in English with French subtitles.

So from Monday to Wednesday we had a break - Tuesday at the Jardin Public

Tuesday we spent drinking in autumn colour at the Jardin Public before eating lunch at the restaurant we went to with the folk from UFM.

So Monday to Wednesday we had a break - Monday at Arcachon

On Monday we went to Arcachon, wandered along the seafront, ate in a nice brasserie and ate ice-creams as the sun went down before coming home on a beautiful double-decker train.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Tear-jerkingly beautiful

I like the nice relaxed pace. Sometimes this first aria is taken a lot faster, which means the flute player has to either breathe and stumble, or die of asphyxiation. At this pace it can be played with clarity and the flutist lives to play another day!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Come over here, come on, you'll discover something good!"

We would not normally respond to an invitation like this, even from... especially from such a friendly security guard, but he happened to be beckoning us into the very place where we were headed, so in we went.

The concert room was lit with lovely mauves and blues and we happily took our seats and waited. I waved to one girl then realised it wasn't Catrin - I KNEW I should have worn my glasses. Eventually, not quite on time, Catrin and her friend Bérénice were introduced by M. Didier Beaujardin, their peotry teacher, and the concert began. Bérénice goes under the name of BenLou and her style is very sweet and feminine, singing songs of lost love and longing. She sang three songs alone, sometimes accompanied by Catrin on piano, sometimes by another student on guitar. Then they sang two duets, including one comic song, a parody about a woman who drinks everything in sight and ends up "weeing wine like a grape".

Then Catrin sang two songs at the piano and one accompanied by guitar. Catrin's songs were also songs of longing, but more about nostalgia for her country of birth (Il est une isle) and the struggle to integrate (Je voulais être comme vous). She managed to sing past her sore throat and chest infection and carried things off very well indeed, even making some mistakes at the piano and covering them up nicely.

The girls were followed without interval by the main act, M. Bastien Lallemant, who sang a variety of songs accompanying himself on his huge electric guitar. I slowly realised that the guitar was normal size, but M. Lallemant is very small and very thin. His spindly legs were fascinating as he sometimes kicked and stamped in time with the music. He sang songs of loss, one funny song about nothing at all, which he said was a kind of exercise of style and would last over 15 minutes (it didn't really), one was about a beach where the waves rolled the corpse of a drowned woman to and fro ("it's not very cheerful", he said, "but the setting is described quite prettily"), he sang a berceuse inutile "a useless lullaby" which he wrote for his third son who, unlike his first two children, slept easily and long, and he sang a very touching song inspired by the refugee crisis, On dormira la nuit au chaud "We'll sleep at night in the warm". I thoroughly enjoyed his charming presentation. "You'll have to ask for an encore", he said, "because the students are going to accompany me for it."

Afterwards I told the security guard that we were the parents of one of the girls.
"The one in white?"
"No, the one in black. Did you enjoy the concert?"
"The guy was OK" (he wrinkled his nose) "but the girls were wonderful." he said.

"Come apart to a quiet place for a while and rest"

That was how our MPEF retreat started, with our President, Emmanuel, sharing this passage and then benefits of being together, of sharing our news and our loads, and of praying together. The focus was on sharing news and praying together and this seemed to be a wise and helpful choice.

The first day was at our flat and began early to mid afternoon, with plane arrivals dictating the start time. Emmanuel kicked off with the scene-setting and agenda-setting passage, then we shared news of those MPEF folk who could not be here and prayed specifically for them. The evening meal was a vegetable curry prepared by Patricia, which went down very well, followed by verrines of fruit compote topped with home made yogurt.

The second day was at a hotel where our colleagues were staying. We had a Citiz car booked and hit heavy traffic on the rocade, so when we arrived everyone was patiently waiting for us in the conference room. The person detailed with bringing short talks to fuel prayer had had to pull out, so on Saturday Emmanuel had asked me to do something. I was in full-on Sunday preparation, so Monday morning I had got up early and my thoughts had been turned to Acts 16 - verses 6 - 10 where the little missionary band cross Turkey not being able to carry out any of their plans until finally they find themselves at Troas on the beach. The perplexity of following a plan that is revealed just one step at a time. I speculated on how they travelled the huge distance - 400 miles as the crow flies. We must assume they did the bulk of it on foot. 700km à pied, I said. "ça use, ça use les souliers" came the response in chorus. Well, it's cheesy, but it gets it across.

The time of sharing and prayer focused on UFM, the wider mission and those in special need of prayer as well as the mission staff. At present the Mission is advertising for a new Director, see the advertisement in Evangelicals Now.

Lunch was at the hotel. Salade de gésiers (lettuce with gizzards on top - very nice) followed by steak and sautéd potatoes and a fruit tart dessert.

The morning had been misty, damp and drizzly. In the afternoon a trip was planned to Bordeaux to see the sights and then to eat in a restaurant "pas cher". And the clouds cleared and Bordeaux put on it's best show for us. I scuttled back to Pessac to drop my computer in at the flat, to leave the car at the station and to hop on the tram for Victoire. Meanwhile Pat guided the intrepid band to the bus stop for the number 11 which would bring them to Victoire. I happily beat them by several minutes and watched their bus arrive.

We then hopped on the tram to the Place de la Bourse and the world-famous Miroir d'Eau, before jumping on the boat to the Cité du Vin. For some reason the boat didn't stop at the Cité du Vin, so we had to stay on to go to Lormont and then come back. "Just validate your tickets again", said the man. I was fearful that people's tickets would have expired by now, but they validated them and it seemed OK, so we disembarked at the Cité du Vin without incident.

We walked through some of the building - the snack bar, the cave, the entrance hall, and then walked back along the quays to our restaurant. It was like herding cats, but we managed to all get to Dan, where we meet each Sunday, and people enjoyed looking through the door as the house staff got the place ready. Then we continued just a short distance to eat at Caffé Cajou, where for under 15 euros we ate salad with hot goat's cheese, followed by steak and chips (some people chose this) or baked hake (delicious) followed by a pear muffin, accompanied by a glass of wine or a bottle of mineral water. Very good value, and the fish was very good indeed. We popped our friends back on the bus to the hotel - this time the number 1, and crawled onto the tram for Pessac.

The third day we rose bright and early to get the room ready and to get lunch going. I had three cups of coffee in quick succession and eventually got going! This time the Bible focus was on Paul and Silas in prison. I have an old sermon I managed to find, entitled "Singing in the chains", but sadly it was on the wrong passage. Oh well. Then we went round the table sharing particular prayer needs. After lunch, with much more rice this time, we waved our friends off and took a nap!

Monday, October 24, 2016


Because our old house was so much bigger than our flat our taxe d'habitation is much less, so we're getting a refund!

18 October 1966

So, about that evening in the Westminster Central Hall,

Ok, I was 7, and growing up blissfully unaware of free churches, ecumenism, potential splits, or of any of the principles involved. I've read Lloyd-Jones' address and the articles describing that evening, but that doesn't qualify me to pronounce on the Doctor's forethought, aims, practical implications or whatever. Others, more ... intrepid ... than I have made their assessments, and doubtless they were right so to do.

Stuart Olyott gave a talk recently at Christ Church Deeside, which is available here. Stuart was there that evening and he gives a very characteristically clear account of the context of the evening's address, the address itself and its consequences. He also gave me an idea of the way ahead for me in talking about that evening, namely to give my reflections and to recount my experience.

I grew up in the Church in Wales and was sent to church as a child. I must have gone fairly regularly because I sang in the choir, resplendent in ruff, cassock and surplice - a photo exists somewhere - and I can still chant the major elements of the 1662 Communion Service. We believed the facts we rehearsed in the creed, but we also believed that it was a mistake to let these things take too much of a hold in your life, so in teenage years I would feign sleep till I heard the church bell ring, and by the time I went to University I described myself as a "lapsed" Anglican.

Wales is a funny country. It has no established church, the Church in Wales having been disestablished early in the 1900s. The free churches were historically strong because of the waves of revival that swept the country in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, but later they declined dramatically. On the corner of our street was an Apostolic church, the "Oh be joyfuls" we called them, and a friend's family went to the Salvation Army. I went along to their youth club a few times, but I wasn't really interested.

Then in 1979 I was converted. Everything changed overnight. I went with my friends to the local Baptist church. My Christian friends came from all sorts of churches: Methodist, Baptist, Anglican, house-churches, Elim, Brethren, you name it, we had it. And people's denominational background made very little difference to us at all.

Most of us attended the Baptist church while we were at University, but the Elim folk went to Elim, the Brethren went to the Brethren and some of the Anglicans went to a local Anglican church. They expressed mild reservations about the preaching, but they went anyway. Later on a vicar called Bertie Lewis came from Aberaeron to Saint Michael's and we went along to his induction (I remember giggling when the Bishop prayed, "Bless, O Lord, all those who minister in holy things." I wondered about the condition of Bertie's socks, invisible under his robes.) One Sunday night we went along again and heard Bertie preach about the centrality of the cross. "I don't mind what Bertie preached tonight", said one of my high Anglican acquaintances. "That's very big of you," I thought, but I kept my big trap shut.

As I said, Wales has had a funny Christian history, of revival and decline. The last national revival in 1904 resulted in many conversions and a lot of growth in the churches, especially in industrial South Wales. However the seminaries and theological colleges were still teaching theological liberalism, questioning the most basic truths of the Christian faith, sometimes going so far as to deny the very existence of the supernatural, reducing Christianity to a system of morality.

This meant that many Christians were to be found in churches where the preaching and teaching explicitly denied the reality of what they had experienced. People found help and support in fellowship groups that crossed the denominational boundaries. Meanwhile there were few conversions and the churches declined, "killed by degrees" people said. So by the 1940s there was hardly any denomination in Wales that had stayed entirely faithful to the gospel and its fundamental truths, though some individuals in the churches had a true and living faith and there were a few preachers who still preached the Bible, conversion and "a felt Christ". In the Church in Wales there was little of the Evangelical tradition that had existed in England. The valley I grew up in was littered with free church buildings, "chapels" we called them, some disused, some now carpet warehouses, or flats, or nightclubs, or whatever. On the way to school I can't remember ever walking past a tree, but I would pass about ten chapel buildings.

Then in the late 1940s a group of students came to faith. Some of them prepared for pastoral ministry. They went to liberal Free Church seminaries, and supported each other through it. Then they went to be pastors in liberal churches. Their group grew and became the Evangelical Movement of Wales, a movement designed to support and sustain evangelical faith across denominations. (This is a very brief and caricatural account of the Movement's origin, but you can find a proper account elsewhere.) Some churches were transformed by the gospel newly preached. Other were not. And as churches became more evangelical in their stance sometimes there was a reaction.

One situation resulted in the formation of the church where I became pastor in North Wales. A handful of churches in an area which had not been touched by revival in past centuries called evangelical pastors. One man saw his church transformed by Bible truth. People were converted. Attendance grew. A prayer meeting was started. The Sunday School grew. People gave generously and the church's books were balanced. There was real new life. Then came the five-yearly inspection of the church. The people were excited. For once there was really good news! However, the report that was produced was extremely critical. For example, the church had ceased to hold sales of work and jumble sales! The new life of the church was ignored, even despised. Some people reacted angrily. "Now, calm down, remember we are Christians." said the pastor. "So you are saying that we are not?" said the inspectors.

Misunderstanding grew and relationships became more and more difficult. Five pastors from the area came to the conclusion that the struggles they were experiencing within their denomination were an obstacle to the real work that they had been called to. Some resigned, found work and then later started new churches. Others left accompanied or followed by groups of church members. In this way five new churches started, each taking the name "Evangelical Church". The desire was to unite Christians around the centrality of the gospel and to reach those who had never heard the gospel.

By 1990 there was a network of independent evangelical churches across Wales as well as evangelical ministries and churches within the historic denominations. Some of the independent churches were Baptist, others called themselves simply "Evangelical Church". Disappointed with theological training in the liberal seminaries, the Evangelical Movement organised a Theological Training Course, designed to train pastors, but which did not offer any paper qualifications. There was a general distrust of denominations, and some people, with fresh wounds from battles fought with denominational authorities, had a kind of allergic reaction even to the word "denomination". The informal support of the Evangelical Movement of Wales, which organised conferences, pastoral fellowships, pastoral training, youth camps, and ran bookshops and generally did sterling work to sustain evangelical faith across the denominations generally worked very well. Christians considered that, whatever their convictions about baptism and church government, the truths of salvation conceived by the Father's plan, achieved by the Son's cross, and applied by the Spirit's power were of greater importance and crossed all denominational barriers.

However a desire for closer relationships between churches, for greater cooperation and for a more visible gospel unity led to the formation of the Associating Evangelical Churches of Wales, a grouping of about 60 or so evangelical churches all of whom hold firmly to one of the reformed confessions of faith, usually from the Westminster family (Westminster, Savoy, 1689) or the 1823 Calvinistic Methodist Confession of Faith.

This is the context in which I grew up as a Christian. It's a context where:
... gospel unity trumps denominational unity
... evangelical Anglicans are mostly an English phenomenon
... people move quite easily between denominations
... few think of themselves as Baptists, Presbyterians or whatever
... church life is easily complemented and unthreatened by fellowship and activities between churches
... cooperation with, for example, student Christian groups is often very easy and positive

Now, in France, I find myself in quite another context.

For example, during a difficult period here when we tried to take refuge in one local Baptist church I was seen as a threat, largely because our team of missionaries had worked with a Presbyterian church. In our discussions we just didn't understand each other's point of view at all. Well, I think some of us did, but not enough of us.

Again, people feel constrained to belong to a denominational group, be it Baptist, Presbyterian, etc. It was recently suggested that Bordeaux Church join one of the Baptist denominations, a group which is currently unrepresented in Bordeaux. I am not convinced that this is the path of wisdom for us!

On the other hand, within certain of the evangelical denominational groups the pressure of pluralism is nevertheless very present - by which I mean the view that the gospel is wonderful, and to be evangelical is important, but there are also other non-evangelical forms of Christianity which are equally valid, equally salvific and from which we can learn and which we can blend with biblical spirituality. This is obviously toxic. To admit anything other than the gospel as salvific is to deny the gospel. To redefine the gospel is to deny it. And that, it seems to me, is much more serious than to differ on questions of church government or baptism.

And so we relate easily and positively to the CNEF, the Conseil National des Evangéliques de France. One friend said, "Ah, you're joining with the arminians!" Another friend finds the presence of the charismatic and pentecostal churches a problem. I rejoice in the shared real evangelical faith AND in people who have read and who hold to their evangelical confessions of faith.

I realise that I have made very little direct reference to Lloyd-Jones' address whatsoever. However I hope that you can see how the historical context of the address, its influence on those who heard it and subsequent events have both shaped the world I grew up in and the way I see the world in which I now serve.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Fête de voisins

OK, so we had a little apéro entre voisins this morning. There were six of us, all women except for me. It's my animal magnetism. It seemed to go pretty well, I think, with an exchange of phone number between the ladies afterwards and a pledge to do something for Christmas.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


I've had, and I still have so much admin to do - my own and some for other people - so this morning I planned a little trip to brighten the gloom - a trip to the waterfront to see two wonders!

1) The launching of a new pleasure boat on the quays by Quinconces

2) The arrival of a Russian tall ship.

The tall ship was planned to arrive at 11am and I was pretty excited to see it pass under the new lifting bridge, so after a couple of annoying phone calls, irritating emails and stuff, I hopped on the tram. I arrived at the quays a little late, but within normal Bordeaux margins, and hastened off towards the new bridge to see the ship arrive.

No sign of no launching, the bridge was lowered and being crossed by all manner of roadcraft and I saw no tall ship.

Oh well. It was a gorgeous day - like August at Llandudno - so I continued down the quays. As lunchtime approached I thought I'd get a sandwich.

The sandwich man said, "You are English? Vous êtes Français?"

"Je suis Gallois." was my proud reply.

He reflected a little. "Mais vous parlez français?"

"Ça m'arrive", I said, thinking that one day I really must ask someone if they speak Welsh.

I ordered my sandwich and scoffed it happily in the sunshine.

I watched the people running by. Few ran faster or better than I do. One older man ran beautifully. Most just shrugged, shuffled, shambled and shimmied along, whether young or old. I felt reassured.

I decided that instead of hopping on the tram to Pessac I would continue my walk to the Pont de Pierre and catch bus 24.

It was than that I saw her.

 The Russian tall ship had evidently come up the river earlier than planned as was moored all splendidly just before the Pont de Pierre.

I paused to take some photos, then carried on up to the 24 bus, which started its journey just after I boarded.

I missed the boat, but at least I didn't miss the bus.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Monday, October 17, 2016


One of the advantages of having kids who study music is that they expose you, willy-nilly, whether by accident or design, to new singers, musicians, styles that you never took any notice of before. Gwilym got me listening to Ed Sheeran and to John Mayer. Catrin was recently given this song to analyse and I find it all very fascinating, dovetailing very well with the minimalists like Steve Reich, etc. The musician, James Blake, won the Mercury award in 2013 for the album which contained this piece.

1966 and all that (a)

A for Aberfan.

One of my earliest memories is of playing in the street as a seven-year-old with my friends and being very worried about my aunt and uncle who lived in Aberfan and who kept a fish and chip shop there at the time. I'd seen aerial photos of the landslide and the devastation it caused, but strangely none of the photos indicated clearly to me the position of Daveys' fish bar, so my mind was not put at rest. They were at the other end of the village, however, so the disaster had an indirect impact on them. They stayed open all night the night of the landslide, providing meals for the rescuers. And they were involved, like all the villagers, in the aftermath of the tragedy for years to come.

Because we lived in another mining valley the Aberfan disaster had other, continuing effects on our lives.

Perhaps the first thing was the hand-wringing of the National Coal Board and the action taken - too little, too late for the poor families of Aberfan, of course - to make the coal tips safe. As a kid I roamed wild on the tip behind our house. Oblivious to any danger, we'd drink from the streams that bubbled up here and there - careful only to avoid any that contained sheep droppings or - horror - dead sheep. We'd dig dens in piles of coke and clinker - it was only years later that I realised that the pile of coke and clinker was the waste from the steam engine that my grandfather look after which drew the trucks of waste up the mountain.

The National Coal Board gave a contract to Ryan, I think, to come and landscape the coal tip, extracting all the coal dust in the process. There were massive earth-scrapers, bull-dozers, lorries and dumper trucks and a temporary road that gave access further up the valley at Dinas Rhondda. When they landscaped the mountain they did it in terraces that made it look less natural than even the tips, then they spread tons of chicken manure everywhere - the smell was astonishing - before seeding it with grass. It took years for these human efforts to catch up with what nature had done more effectively in the preceding years.

I think it may have been at this time that the cottage my father grew up in was bull-dozed. Both my parents' ashes are scattered where we think the cottage was - we found it as best we could judging by the position of the park fence and other landmarks that had not been eradicated by the earth-movers.

Our valley was littered with conical tips, always placed on the mountain top pretty well directly above the villages which were, of course, in the valley floor. By the mid 1970s only Tylorstown Tip remained and it is still there to this day. I don't know why it escaped.

Now the Rhondda is clean, green and devoid of any heavy industry. There are fish in the river and lots of wildlife in the hills. It's become a beautiful place again, a real testimony to the power of nature to recover and restore.

In 1977 I went off to university at Aberystwyth. My aunt and uncle told me of a lad from Aberfan who was a student there. Just a little older than me, a survivor of the landslide, he had been pulled from the slurry in the ruins of the school. His name was very ordinary. I thought there was little chance of me meeting him amongst 3000 students but I said that I would look out for him. Well, I met him in my first few weeks. We sang together in the Gilbert and Sullivan society's production of Mikado. We never talked about the disaster, though he knew my uncle and aunt, of course.