Monday, January 11, 2010

Catch up time

After a good night's sleep and a lazy day, a train ride along the lake to Nyon. Here Philippe picked me up to take me to Vésenex just over the border in France voisine, for a weekend catching up with him and his wife Julia. She's voluntary priest and founding member of the Anglican community of La Cote, along the north side of Lac Léman, both sides of the border Franco - Swiss border. 

The suburban rural landscape in which their eighteenth century former farmhouse is located is covered in snow, still and quiet. Just right for a time of quiet conversation and reflection on the journey since I was last with them at Julia's priesting eighteen months ago. She's on leave at the moment, so on Sunday afternoon we celebrated the Eucharist together with another old friend, John Paul in the place we'd talked until late, two days running.

Then Jean Paul took me home with him, up to the Jura village of St George, 600 metres higher than the lake, altogether a 1000 metres above sea level, to spend an evening catching up and stay a night in their family home, a traditionally shaped wooden Swiss chalet perched up above the village looking south, over the lake towards the alpine region which is home to the famous Portes du Soleil ski domain, where I first learned ski alpin fifteen years ago. 

J-P, whose wife Sally was away, expertly prepared a fondue, to a local farmer's recipe. We talked, ate and drank until late. It was dark when we arrived, and misty when we left in the morning, so the inherent beauty of this place was concealed. I've stayed up there with J-P and Sally on several occasions over the years. It's both peaceful and inspiring. Not only the place, but also the people, as is also true of Julia and Philippe. We worked closely together in the early years of preparing the ground for the recent development of the La Cote pastorate. This is, in all honesty, the only exercise in 'church planting' I've ever been involved with. And it all grew out of lay initiative, with no more than a little support and encouragement from me.

The pastorate is now self supporting, and as its first phase of development and consolidation comes to an end, it can be regarded as a fully fledged chaplaincy with its own ministry and mission. I'm not sure of what's involved in any official change of status, and don't think I care much, as long as this enterprise in the Anglican spirit of pastoral care and service continues to flourish purposefully, and be valued as part of the anglophone life of this region, crossing as it does the boundaries of many nationalities. Those involved look to a future that continues to respond to the needs of the hosts of newcomers seeking a welcome and a means to feel at home from home - expatriates from many countries, plus second and third generations of English speaking settlers. 

J-P dropped me off at Gland train station for a ride back to Keith and Claudine's at Meyrin. The rest of the day was taken up by lunch with Laura, former church secretary, and tea with Gill, the widow of my much loved former church warden and friend Mike. It doesn't seem like nearly ten years since he died, and nine this month since we left Switzerland. Such a lot has happened since then. Geneva has changed, there are many new buildings. The already good public transport as got even better with the construction of more new tram lines. There are so many trams, buses and trains in every direction, and all are so well used, it's hard not to be jealous in comparing it with Cardiff public transport, which is modernising itself with such laborious effort and little tangible effect.

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