In Paris, United Church of Canada staff joined with representatives of the Protestant churches in France in a moment of silent prayer in remembrance of the victims of the attacks.
This week two General Council Ministries in French staff people are in Paris meeting with representatives of the Fédération Protestante de France and l’Église protestante unie de France. Their meetings are unrelated to the events in Paris this past weekend. Kristine Greenaway, the United Church’s Responsable for Ministries in French, wrote movingly about participating on Nov. 16 in a moment of silent prayer:
“At noon today in Paris, church employees gathered in the courtyard of the building that houses France’s Protestant church federation and largest Protestant church for a moment of silent prayer in remembrance of the victims of the attacks in the city on Nov. 13. Throughout Paris, crowds gathered at sites such as the Place de la République and the Eiffel Tower. At the same time, the city’s subway system came to a halt.
“Approximately 50 people filed out of the building to hear a brief message from François Clavairoly, President of the Fédération Protestante de France. Clavairoly spoke of the pain of those who have lost loved ones and of victims who are fighting for their lives in hospitals throughout the city. He asked those present not to withdraw in fear but to continue to live in faith and hope.
“Following a moment of silent prayer, the group joined in reading the Beatitudes. The verse ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted’ (Matthew 5:4) rang with particular poignancy through the cobblestone courtyard.
“Four military chaplains attended the ceremony, including Stéphane Rémy, the chief Protestant military chaplain. One of the chaplains told visitors from The United Church of Canada that she has been spending her days with the 30 families who are still waiting for news about family members who are missing. They have gathered at the Military College to wait together.
“Military chaplains are also visiting military and civilian hospitals where among the approximately 200 victims receiving treatment, 50 people are said to be fighting for their lives.
“The mood among the church workers gathered together for the moment of remembrance was subdued, but at the conclusion of the gathering, people returned to their offices determined to get on with their workday.
“Jane Stranz, responsible for ecumenical relations for the Fédération Protestante de France, spoke of the necessity for life to return to normal. If the city were to stop functioning and life be disrupted, it would be a victory for the attackers, she declared, and she followed her colleagues into the building to resume her scheduled meetings.”
On November 16, The United Church of Canada sent a letter of sympathy and solidarity to Laurent Schlumberger, President of the National Council of the United Protestant Church of France. In that letter Moderator Jordan Cantwell wrote:
“Our hearts are heavy as we listen to the news of so many tragic deaths in Paris on Friday. We mourn with you as you minister to those who have lost loved ones, and to those who struggle with anger and fear at experiencing such violence in their community.
“We are outraged that a distorted vision of religious zeal continues to destroy life and the relationships among peoples. We know that the people of France and all of Europe have been seeking ways to care for those seeking refuge and to welcome those concerned about climate change, and we pray that you will find strength to carry on this work in the midst of the pain and sorrow of these days. And we pray for a renewal of efforts to find paths of peace and justice that will end the insecurity and alienation at the roots of such violence.”
The Moderator’s message was received with gratitude. "It is good in these rough times to feel the bonds that unite us beyond borders through God’s love for the world," Schlumberger responded.