On October 13, I joined the temple du Mazet for worship. The congregation of Mazet is part of the Consistoire de la Montagne of the United Protestant Church of France. This Consistoire is part of the Huguenot family noted for their resistance culture against Catholic persecution, but especially that of saving thousands of Jewish children during the 2nd World War.
With my limited French and Leonora serving as occasional translator when needed, I was struck by the simplicity, warmth and subversive content of the worship. I expected a very wordy service. This was not the case. Perhaps, with so many children present from all the congregations comprising the Consistorie may have been a contributing factor. I think it was the simplicity and clarity of the newly arrived minister who was presiding may be the reason.
The architecture inside the building, though sparse spoke volumes and allowed my imagination to play with some wayward thinking and fascinating juxtapositions.
Here was a community, had you not known anything about them and their history, actually living out the words of the stained-glass window: ‘We do not preach ourselves – only the Lord Jesus Christ is proclaimed’, you could never imagine that this small group of ‘rebels for Jesus sake’ could be as subversive as Christians ought to be. They still welcome and offer refuge for persecuted and displaced people today.
The thermometer hanging blissfully suspended from the side of one of the tall wooden pillars allow some play for the imagination. The church is in the mountains, where it can get very cold. I thought, though, of that open-bible obliquely beyond the temperature gauge which will offer some perennial heat and heated conversations (as may have happened over the years in the story of the French Protestants). Besides the pulpit is not far away from this suspended gauge – a timely reminder as to whether the message will be hot or cold. This Sunday it was spot on!
But the icon that caught my eye was the wooden cross on the wall. I wondered about the shape of this cross. It looked so different from those I have seen before. There was nothing proportional about this cross. If you may – it was not ‘orthodox’! The longer I kept staring at it the more I became convinced that I was looking at someone/something sprawled out and suspended on the wall. Perhaps the point of the one who made this is precisely that of shafting our tidy assumptions of the way of Jesus the rebel and drawing us out of what has become so familiar that it can no longer stir us.
The notion of ‘suspend’ which I used twice above may be something I will need to further reflect one when I revisit temple du Mazet during my holidays.