porte du temple après rénovation en 2007In 2009, I went to a service at Église Reformée in the Rue Notre-Dame in Cannes (right behind La Croisette and the Hôtel Majestic).

The pastor, the Revd Paolo Morlacchetti, was on holiday at the time, and Pastor Tambon took the service. My review of it was mixed, particularly the sermon.

(Photo credit: huguenotsinfo. Note the wrought iron Huguenot cross on the doors!)

In June 2015, we were in town during one weekend, so I went back. The church’s name has since changed to l’Église Protestante Unie de Cannes, which I’ll explain at the end of this post.

Perhaps providentially, SpouseMouse and I got a very early wake-up call via the violent thunderstorm which ripped through the Côte d’Azur. Nice-Matin has readers’ photos of the dramatic lightning and flash flooding from that morning.

I am happy to say that my church experience could not have been better. Pastor Morlacchetti was there. As was an organist! Gone was the little machine with recorded hymn music!

There is no Peace with handshakes and hugs, thankfully. In Continental Protestant tradition, people talk to each other in church before the service, sometimes rather loudly. The clergy also appear briefly. A lady came over to speak to me, complimented me on my French, told me there was someone else there from England that morning and cordially asked why I hadn’t gone to the Anglican Church instead. I said that our hotel was but a two-minute walk away.

Beautiful service

Most of the liturgy was sung to organ music. These prayers praised God in His glory. The melodic public confession in minor key was lengthy and meaningful.

Hymns were traditional and serious.

The readings were as follows. First, the Psalm:

Psalm 134

Come, Bless the Lord
A Song of Ascents.

134 Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
    who stand by night in the house of the Lord!
2 Lift up your hands to the holy place
    and bless the Lord!

May the Lord bless you from Zion,
    he who made heaven and earth!

Then the Epistle, 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, rather apposite for me and the other Briton in the congregation (see verse 9):

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

The Gospel reading was Mark 4:26-34:

The Parable of the Seed Growing

26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

30 And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? 31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. 34 He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

Pastor Morlacchetti tied the Epistle and Gospel together in an excellent sermon on developing one’s personal faith.

He advised us to resist the world and focus on pleasing God instead. This world is not our natural home. He discussed the mustard tree growing abundantly, almost miraculously, from an incredibly small seed. That is how we should be growing in faith.

He said this would come about if we prayed regularly and studied the Bible daily! (A man after my own heart.)  He explained that the more we focus on prayer and Scripture, the closer our relationship with the Lord becomes. We begin to put away the things of this life and focus on pleasing Him, as Paul says. We also give a true Christian example to others in demeanour and deed.

I wanted to applaud.

After the service, Morlacchetti — in full Geneva gown and starched bands — seemed genuinely happy to greet everyone, including visitors. He seems to be a godly man, truly serving the Lord in ministry.

Pastor Morlacchetti

Paolo Morlacchetti’s theological speciality is Italian Protestantism, particularly at the end of the 19th century.

The revolution in Italy of 1848 resulted in a decree by their king which permitted freedom of worship for Jews and Protestants. Protestants living in the Piedmont region were finally able to escape their mountain ghettos, where they had been forced to live in isolation for centuries.

Morlacchetti preaches on Pasteur du dimanche (Sunday Pastor), a site which features short videos from Protestant clergy on Scripture.

In July 2015, Morlacchetti briefly discussed the miracle of the loaves and the fishes, emphasising that Jesus’s multiplication took place only once the disciples believed that He could feed everyone. Therefore, faith brings abundant blessings:

Unfortunately for the Cannes congregation, Morlacchetti has been called to continue his ministry in Nice. His last Sunday with them was July 5, 2015. I’m sure they will miss him greatly. I wish them all the best in a search for a new pastor. Their newsletter L’Arc en ciel (Rainbow) explained that it would take at least a year to find a suitable replacement. They have been able to arrange for clergy to take Sunday services in the near term.

L’Église Protestante Unie de France

In 2007, France’s Lutheran and Reformed Churches began unifying both denominations. In 2012, this process resulted in the creation of a United Protestant Church of France.

Whilst l’Église Protestante Unie allows the Reformed and the Lutheran churches to maintain their own churches and theology, they are unified as a Protestant body following the example of United Churches in other countries.

Although France’s Protestants are a small group, indeed — 400,000, or 2.3% of the population — immigrants from Africa are steadily increasing these numbers. An African family was at the church in Cannes the morning I attended, and two African youngsters were confirmed there on Pentecost Sunday this year.

France’s Protestants have 500 clergy, one-third of whom are women. They have 1,000 churches and two seminaries.

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