How good to have a Sunday worshipping in the pew for a change. I understand that Swiss Reformed clerics have one Sunday free each month, just like their Scandinavian Lutheran counterparts. And most only have one service a Sunday. It says a great deal about different expectations or lack of them, between UK and the rest of Europe.
I joined Valdo and Ann-Lise for the culte de dimanche in the church I can see out of the lounge window, here in Baulmes. Each Sunday of the month, the service moves around the four churches Valdo looks after. For this Epiphany Sunday, the service was a Eucharist, attended by twenty people, all relaxed and very friendly. The hymns had classic tunes familiar to me from the hymnals of Britain. We stood in a circle around the small stone altar table in the lee of the pulpit (used less and less nowadays fewer attending worship, I was told), decked with white cloth and candles.
As the designated parish councillor for reading and assisting was absent, Ann-Lise stood in, reading with beautiful clarity that allowed me to enjoy hearing the Word in French without strain. I noticed that two communion cups with wine, plus a third with grape juice, were circulated at communion time, delivered in a relaxed and expert way into the hands of each communicant by Ann-Lise, in an appropriately homely way that cheered my heart. Valdo celebrated and preached with great warmth. There's nothing of the dour solemnity one associates with calvinism or puritanism about this 'reformed' worship - it's very much of the heart as well as the mind. The Temple is large, able to hold well over 500, so we were a small group, occupying just one small section on front benches. Yes, people do sit together!
After lunch Valdo and I went for an exploratory visit to the pistes above and behind Ste Croix, a ten minute 1,000ft ascent around hairpin bends, and then another ten minutes across to the ski area along the Franco-Suisse border. The snow covering is very thin and wet. Here and there it's melted away, the temperature is five degrees. Nevertheless, we were able to find a part of the domain, slightly higher up and in the forest, where we were able to ski 3-4 km before fine rain descended, driving us back to the car. The pistes were deserted. I don't suppose anyone thought it would be possible to ski today, but the conditions weren't impossible, as it turned out, and our persistence was partly rewarded.
We returned to Baulmes, and amused ourselves after supper by trying to resolve wireless security installation problems in a modem/router set up. Far more frustrating than the weather. By midnight, I had completed reading the second of the two books I bought for a tenner at the airport, both stories of adults who triumphed in life despite the evil done to them by abusive parents. Thought provoking stuff. What shall I read next, I wonder? It's so quiet here, with few distractions. It's a delightful retreat.