The Spirit breathed its presence into our bilingual meeting for worship here at the Maison Quaker in Congénies in the south of France. (Trilingual, actually, if I take into account the crickets who gave nonstop vocal ministry the entire time!)
We were Friends from Scotland, England, Ireland, New Zealand, and Philadelphia (moi, bien sûr !), gathered by Louise and Françoise of the Quakers Languedociens. Françoise, who lives just up the road, had invited us for a welcome, refreshing dip in her pool last evening. Felt so good after dragging my heavy suitcase around Nîmes all day yesterday.
Themes that emerged from ministry ranged from a reminder to live in the eternal now, since the past no longer exists and the future does not yet exist, to the words of Teilhard de Chardin who reminded us that "Nous ne sommes pas des êtres humain vivant une expérience spirituelle mais des êtres spirituels vivant une expérience humaine." We are not human beings having a spiritual experience but rather spiritual beings having a human experience." Coffee and conversation followed.
The garden at Congénies is bursting with greenery. Tall, narrow cypresses live side-by-side with short, silvery olive trees. Jacqueline is the jardinière and has been working for several years to tame the former weed heaven.
|Friends-in-residence Deborah and David|
In the afternoon, Arthur generously gave of his time to drive Deborah, David and me to the Musée du Désert, about an hour away in Mialet, in the mountainous Cévennes.
The birthplace of the Camisard rebel who came to be known as Roland, the museum houses the largest collection of artifacts attesting to the period of religious persecution suffered by the Huguenots of the south from the time Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes until the Revolution. Those Protestants who were not won over either by money provided by the crown or by a sword to the throat went underground. A generation later, a bloody period of Camisard guerilla warfare was waged for about two years, followed by continued suppression during which the Protestants were again forced to practice their faith in secret. Little pockets nestled between the mountains served as their places of worship where they could assemble to sing the psalms and hear their ministers' sermons, as look-outs kept watch. Men caught doing such things by the authorities were sent to the galleys...if they weren't hanged, burnt at the stake or broken on the wheel. The women were sent to prison. But as one of these steadfast believers declared, "Je ne changerai pas !" (I will not change !)
On to Nîmes again tomorrow to hop a bus to Arles and see the haunts of the fou roux, Vincent van Gogh.