Welp, I had a bizarre church experience yesterday. I decided to check out one of the few Lutheran churches in France – St Sauveur Lutheran Church. The church is a part of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), and I found them by typing in “Lutheran Church in Paris” in Google. (Note to all churches: your website is important!) I had no idea what to expect, but I was excited about my solitary adventure. I arrived at the church about 30 minutes early and found that it was locked. Strange for a Sunday morning, I thought. So I walked around the block slowly, and by the time I got back, I was greeted at the door by Pastor Roger Jones. We greeted one another in French until he found out that I’m from the U.S., and I learned that he’s from England. As he frantically stuffed bulletins into hymnbooks, he explained to me that although the church has about 70 members, he never knows what to expect during the summer. You see… French people aren’t allowed to work more than 35 hours per week (jealous jealous jealous…), and must have at least 5 weeks of vacation per year (ahhhhhhh)! These numbers are set in place because family time is a huge priority for the French. (Aha! Americans do have something to learn from the French!)
I’ve spent so much of my job at Luther Place thinking and talking about how the church is dying in America. Well, if you think the American church is bad…check out the European church! 10 people ended up coming to the service. Of those 10, three were children, one was probably in her late 30s, and the rest were old (including one old man from Arlington…weird). It turns out that it’s a good thing not so many people came. Pastor Roger explained to me before the service that French laws were recently changed so that churches have the same fire hazard rules as bars/nightclubs. Because St Sauveur only has one door that exits out onto a main street, the church is only allowed to have a maximum of 49 people inside at one time. The Pastor said that there have even been times when the police quietly step in on a Sunday morning and count the number of people present. If it’s over 49, the church will get closed for six months. So I suppose 10 was good after all.
In addition to warning me before the service that there might not be many people who attend, Pastor Roger also mentioned that their organist was gone on vacation. Getting myself into an awkward situation, as I’m prone to do, I said, “I could play hymns if that would be helpful!” PR’s eyes lit up as he said – imagine the British accent – “Oh that would be fantastic if you could!” So there you have it. I ended up accompanying the service on a 4-octave keyboard from the 90s.
One last thing. The Pastor was so thrilled that he asked me to join him and his Chinese wife for lunch at a “French fast food” place. I’m always up for free lunch, so I accepted the offer! We needed to swing by their apartment first for them to drop stuff off/pick stuff up. As we headed that way, PR asked, “Are you afraid of birds?” Ummm. I laughed to myself because one of my friends here is terrified of birds, and my two housemates last year hated birds. I think I like birds. But geez… if you’re gonna ask that question…what awaits me on the other side? I said no, I’m not afraid of birds. And he said good, because they have one. Phew. What he didn’t tell me is that they don’t keep their bird in its cage – it’s free to fly around the apartment. Man, Tom and Allison would not have been down with having an uncaged bird in our apartment. Crazy.
In any case, the morning overall was a success. I understood most of the French service, I played the hymns almost flawlessly, the communion wine was awesome, and I didn’t get attacked by the bird. Win.