Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sunday at Romanmôtier

This morning, we made the half hour drive in bright sunshine over to Romanmôtier to attend worship in the 10-11th century Cluniac Abbey this morning. It's now the local reformed parish church, and serves as a centre for educational and spiritual activities of the église reformée of the Canton of Vaud. There's an ecumenical community of about fifteen, who, together with the pastor, meet for daily offices of prayer throughout the year, in a style influenced by Taizé. We've attended offices there on previously, but this was the first time for a Sunday Eucharist.

The classic simplicity of the church has been retained, with sparse furnishing and decoration, in the minimalist manner of contemporary monasticism, save the fading remnants of restored mediaeval wall frescoes and other painted embellishments. The pastor, dressed in alb and stole, was assisted by a young woman who read all three lessons and the intercessions. Members of the prayer community were dispersed among the congregation, rather than occupying their usual places in the choir. There were over sixty people present, and all gathered in a long oval the length of the (long) chancel, to stand for the Eucharist. A golden pain brioché the size of a large dinner-plate was used for communion, and two large pewter goblets served the wine (local pinot noir, I'd guess, rather than some standard vino sacro), with two earthenware goblets serving grape juice as an alternative. All very homely.

As we'd been invited to come up singing a hymn, with books in hand, there was nowhere convenient to put them down to receive communion, which was a bit awkward, but apart from that, the atmosphere was serene and thoughtful, with the sun streaming in from above for this celebration of the baptism of Christ,
(The Swiss reformed church now uses the international ecumenical three year lectionary). I appreciated the way in which the organist, playing on a fine modern instrument, sensitively accompanied the whole service, and not just the hymns we sang. After the blessing, the service concluded with Bach's D minor fugue, for which the congregation remained attentive to the end, before strolling out into the warm sunshine to greet each other and the Pastor in the open air. It was exceptional to be able to do this in mid-January, when normally people would hurry away, bracing themselves against the raw cold that persists in this secluded valley.

Once more, I enjoyed worshipping out of my habitual English tongue. Despite the infrequency of my use of French these days, it remains familiar and comprehensible enough for me to receive without the effort of having to translate mentally to make sure I've taken it in. I wish I could say the same about my comprehension of Welsh! The homily on the biblical theme of the day was straightforward and well delivered, though lacking in contemporary application, to my mind. It reminded me that I need to think carefully about this. Exhortation to prayer and godly life is a good thing, but even the faithful, always there to feed on the Word, need reminding of how this is to be made relevant to the everyday world.

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