January: a big month in France this year!
There are usually 2 different weeks which emphasize Christian Unity. The third week of January for the Catholics, Orthodoxe, Protestant and now Evangelical churches. Apparently, this effort has been around since 1908! This year's theme based on the meeting between the Samaritan woman and Jesus at the well (John 4) was prepared by Brazil.
The other is organised by the CNEF: a week of prayer by all Evangelicals. We don't participate in this one, since we are not close enough to other evangelicals in the region.
At our local level, we also organise an ecumenical Christmas celebration early January for the residents of the Aged Care Home in Lamastre. Three of the four communities in our town participate and a special support club organises bringing all the residents to the main meeting room and distributes Christmas gifts as well. In a militantly secular country, this practice is holding its own, especially in smaller communities where church culture is still very present. But it's one of the last bastions of 'free expression' where religious matters don't raise allergic reactions.
Then yesterday we were invited to attend the consecration of one of our Union colleagues who is now a part-time Army chaplain for the Reserve Army. He was 'prayed in' by other Christian military chaplains and the local pastor of our Churches.
In the light of recent events (terrorist attacks in Paris, massacres in Nigeria, attacks on Christian properties in Niger ...), these Christian unity events take on an extra dimension. We are witnesses of a Great God; we value diversity and now accept it enough to participate in these events together; we want to be visible and voluble in a society that has been trying to avoid public expression of religious beliefs; and we are making the most of this confused time where many are recommitting to the 'republican' value of 'freedom of speech, expression and liberty to choose one's belief system.'
There have been numerous calls on all Christian sides for the French Christians to be at the forefront of discussions on faith, respect, value of humanity, and then all the Christian core beliefs. The idea is that in this confused world, people need to hear about God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, they need to find anchors in an ever-changing and now, for the French, dangerous world.
This month I've repeated the Apostle's Creed and the Lord's Prayer 3 times! Thank you, Jesus, for this prayer which allows your followers to experience a time of unity. And thank you to all those anonymous Christian leaders who worked on the Creed centuries ago, which still allows us to summarize our beliefs today.
Note to self: make sure we teach it properly to our young people so they know it by heart ...