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This year, I was pleased to have been able to attend two Sunday services at the Reformed Church in Cannes, 7 rue Notre-Dame.

The name in French is no longer ‘Reformed’ because, those churches unified some time ago with the Lutheran churches in France to create L’Eglise Protestante Unie.

That said, L’Eglise Protestante Unie in Cannes offers a Reformed service rather than a Lutheran one.

2017

Although I went there in 2017, I did not document it. I previously posted on the church in 2015, in the final weeks of Pastor Paolo Morlacchetti’s tenure there. He went to Nice to serve at l’Eglise St Esprit that summer.

I appreciated my visit in 2017. At that time, they had a newish pastor, the Revd Philippe Fromont, who is still there today, I am happy to say. His sermons are very good.

Their organist that year was excellent. I could have listened to him play for hours.

2019

I attended Exaudi and Pentecost Sunday services, both of which were very good.

Pastor Fromont has cut back on the liturgy somewhat. We had only one reading each Sunday and no Psalm. By contrast, in 2015, there were two readings and a Psalm.

Both were Communion services.

When entering the church proper, congregants take a hymnal, a Bible and the liturgical booklet, all of which are neatly stacked in the back pew. The liturgical booklet is colour coded for the Church year.

Exaudi Sunday

Exaudi Sunday is the one between Ascension Day and Pentecost.

The reading was from Acts 1:

And while staying[a] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The Ascension

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Pastor Fromont’s sermon followed the traditional, bittersweet Exaudi Sunday themes: the feeling of sadness that the disciples had following our Lord’s Ascension and the anticipation of a new beginning.

He said that they had no idea what would happen when the Holy Spirit came and asked how often we feel that when an abrupt change comes into our own lives: a severe loss, followed by a new beginning. While the new beginning is not what we had expected, it is often better than we had feared. His sermon was far superior to my summary, by the way. It was actually comforting and inspiring.

After the service, on the way out, he wished me a pleasant stay in Cannes.

Pentecost Sunday and Confirmation

This service was exceptional, as it included a Confirmation service.

Fromont said that it was the first he had performed thus far during his three years in Cannes. He confirmed two boys, Alexei and Dmitri, both of whom are probably 16 years old. If I remember rightly, both have French fathers and Russian mothers.

I spotted Dmitri straightaway as soon as I entered the nave. He was dressed in a suit, white shirt and bow tie. He was talking with family and friends, bussing them, shaking hands and so on. His comportment was very advanced for his age. He was intriguing to watch, because he was very much at ease with young and old alike.

The reading

The reading was from Acts 2:

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Fromont’s sermon expanded on the Exaudi Sunday one, which was a good segue, especially to get us into the mindset of the disciples.

He continued to explore the idea of an end and a beginning. One stage of the disciples’ lives had ended and another began at that first Pentecost. They entered into a powerful new phase not only of their lives but that of the Church. Again, my summary doesn’t do it justice, but I could have readily listened to more.

The sermon ‘joke’

Fromont then turned his attention to the two confirmands.

They, too, he said, were ending one phase of their lives and entering into a new one through Confirmation.

He told an all too real ‘joke’. (By way of explanation, many families stop going to church once their children are confirmed.) A Catholic priest had problems with pigeons in his church’s belfry. He’d tried everything, but they would not leave. So, he decided to consult the other clergy in his small town. He enquired of the rabbi, who offered his commiserations but had no solution. He then asked the Protestant pastor for his advice. The pastor said, ‘Baptise them, confirm them and you’ll never see them again’.

Fromont said he hoped that would not be the case with the two boys he was about to confirm. Each is going to study abroad during the next school year. He said, ‘We won’t be seeing you for a while, but we hope that you will not forget your church family. We look forward to seeing you again upon your return.’

Confirmation, he said, was a beginning of a new life with the Triune God, not the end of attending church. (How true.) He said he hoped that they would continue to grow spiritually and manifest their faith to others, including in the countries where they were going to study.

I pray that they do, too.

Confirmation

I was encouraged when Fromont invited both sets of parents and both boys’ godfathers to speak individually to the congregation. Both sets of parents said that their sons had begged them for Confirmation classes. Fromont catechised the boys in meetings and discussions over a period of months.

Dmitri’s father gave a sermon, giving his son — and us — his favourite Bible verses ‘to live by’. The man, who is an instructor at the Conservatory in Cannes, is a powerful speaker. I can see where his son gets his self confidence.

I should say that both boys spoke before their parents and godfathers did. Both thanked their pastor for the catechism instruction and thanked their parents for allowing them to be confirmed. Dmitri is incredibly comfortable speaking in public. He spoke at length, only glancing at his tablet now and then. He will go far in life, I’m sure.

After the speeches, Fromont prayed over both boys and blessed them. There was no anointing with chrism (blessed oil), but I did not expect that.

Music

There was no organ music that day. Dmitri’s father played guitar, accompanying another Conservatory instructor who played the piano. The two were so good that I felt we were listening to recorded music.

Students from the Conservatory also made their contributions, as Dmitri’s friends. The first group were three little boys who played ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ on violins. The lady playing the piano conducted them. She also conducted one of the violinists and played a sombre duet with him.

A teenage boy played a Glenn Miller number on his saxophone. He was very good, too.

So, although these students’ contributions were not religious, they were, in a sense, offerings to God of the talents He had given them.

Communion

There is a certain etiquette to receiving Communion there, which is why I prefer the services without the Sacrament.

Everyone gathers around the altar. The bread is cubed brioche. Some people offer a cube to the person next to them. I did that years ago and the woman to whom I presented it gave me the side eye, so I never did it again. This year, I took mine and passed the plate to the man next to me. He side-eyed me, probably because I didn’t put the bread in his hand. I don’t know.

The cup is then passed in two forms: the chalice and little plastic cups. Whether one drinks from the chalice or the plastic cup, it’s grape juice, not wine.

Fromont gave us his views on Communion on one of those Sundays in his sermon. He adopts the Zwinglian approach, that both the bread and the ‘wine’ are symbolic of the Last Supper. He does not believe in a sense of Real Presence. However, he did say the Sacrament was a means of grace, which was why we needed to partake of it.

On Pentecost Sunday, the confirmands came by with the bread and the wine, which was really nice to see. This was their first Communion, too.

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I hope to report on church again when I next visit Cannes, God willing.

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