My visit to St. Michael’s Paris had been planned a long time ago. But I was thrilled when it turned out to coincide with the installation of President Emmanuel Macron. The Champs-Elysées was decorated with flags for the occasion. St Michael’s Paris is just around the corner from the Elysée Palace where the passation took place, so we felt very much at the centre of the action.
To get a sense of a church’s history, there’s no better place to start than meeting its most senior member. Rene (pictured below) is a former architect who joined St. Michael’s Paris 65 years ago. She described to me one crucial event in 1973. Anglicans and Methodists in Paris had gathered to decide whether they should unite into one church building. The proposal was controversial. It was decided to take a vote. Rene was in favour, but had visitors staying for the weekend so didn’t attend the congregational meeting. In the event, the vote was lost – by one vote! Today the Anglican St. Michael’s and St. George’s remain as separate congregations, each flourishing in its own way, though the Methodist chapel is no more.
Chaplain Alyson Lamb is a delightfully warm and caring pastor, and an immensely gifted communicator. During her ministry, she has guided St. Michael’s through a period of significant change. She was joined last year by The Revd. Dale Hanson who returned to Europe from Hong Kong. Alyson and Dale had planned our visit meticulously.
St. Michael’s has recently re-formatted its Sunday services so that the morning service is informal in style, whilst the evening service is more formal. The church was packed full for the morning service. Our worship included modern songs led by a band and traditional hymns accompanied by organ.
Alyson took an opportunity early in the service to interview me and Helen. Lots of folk have little idea of what a bishop is or does, and an interview is a great way to get some of this across.
St. Michael’s is currently running a sermon series called ‘Church Alive’ with reference to St. Paul’s visits to cities in the Book of Acts. Alyson had encouraged me to use the sermon as a significant teaching opportunity, and I was impressed with the rapt attention given by the congregation.
After the sermon, I had opportunity to receive Carolyne Powell from a Roman Catholic background into the communion of the Church of England. The ‘reception’ was both memorable and emotional. Only two days previously we had learnt that Carolyne had been successful in a ‘Bishops Advisory Panel’ and will be beginning training for ordination at Ridley Hall, Cambridge in the autumn! She was duly ‘received’ with rapturous applause from the congregation.
For the last twenty years, St. Michael’s has hosted a Tamil service. The community meets in the afternoon, and over lunch I had the pleasure of meeting some of their members.
St. Michael’s is a lively church that supports a women’s meeting (‘Eve’), a men’s breakfast, Alpha courses, a gathering for young adults (‘Celebrate’), a café for English-speaking Au Pairs, children’s, youth, music and prayer ministries. The monthly costs of mission and ministry are 39k€: the stewardship challenge is significant, but God is faithful.
In our morning service we prayed for France and its new President, aware that just a few hundred metres away the new President was being installed – perhaps at that very moment. The next phase of St. Michael’s life is likely to involve a more intentional focus on mission ‘beyond the walls’ of the church. Please do join me in praying for the next steps in mission for a Christian community that is strategically located at the very heart of one of Europe’s most important countries at a key time in its history.